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95 People Overdosed on K2 in New Haven, Connecticut This Week (UPDATED)

Officials say it’s still too early to confirm the substances the victims used, but medical experts suspect K2 is involved.

Adam Drury

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At Least 25 People Overdosed on K2 in New Haven, Connecticut This Morning
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Updated (8/16/2018 2:30 Pacific Standard Time)

The casualty toll from this week’s epidemic of K2 overdoses has climbed to nearly 100, with the latest reports saying 95 people have received treatment for a range of serious reactions including respiratory failure and loss of consciousness. As of this afternoon, most of the overdose patients have been discharged from the hospital. There were 19 recorded overdoses today, as opposed to the 75 recorded on Wednesday. So far, there have been no fatalities.

Police have arrested three men they allege are connected to distributing the K2 that caused the rash of overdoses. All three suspects were arraigned in state court this afternoon. John Parker, a 53-year old man, and another unnamed male joined Felix Melendez, 37, who police arrested on Wednesday.

Police say Melendez had K2 on his person at the time of his arrest and 30 bags of the drug at his residence. Courts charged Melendez with violating his probation, but a charge has not been brought for the K2 case yet, according to his lawyer. Melendez was arrested back in May for dealing K2 on the New Haven Green. He faces a 5-year prison sentence for these charges. The judge set Melendez’ bond at $300,000, based on his four prior failures to appear in court.

John Parker, a third suspect, had bail set at $75,000. Police charged Parker for possession of drugs with the intent to sell after finding 30 bags of K2 in his hotel room. Witnesses told police that Parker often sells bags of K2 for $3 or $5. Parker’s lawyer, however, says police don’t have evidence that his client’s K2 is the same substance that caused the overdose outbreak.

New Haven’s public health alert remains in effect. And New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell says his officers believe there’s still more of the dangerous batch of K2 out in the community. But officers are optimistic they’ve correctly identified the source.

Updated (8/15/2018 3:45 Pacific Standard Time)

Police Arrest Man In Possible Connection To K2 Overdoses in New Haven

The overdose count is up to 39 in New Haven now, on what officials increasingly believe is K2 laced with Fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid. Late this afternoon, New Haven police arrested 34-year old Felix Melendez, a man they say is a “person of interest” in their investigation.

Police are still trying to identify the source of the bad batch of K2 that caused a string of dozens of overdoses today. At the moment, firefighters and officers are stationed at the New Haven Green trying to deter people from purchasing the drug.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Anthony Campbell says officers and detectives are working to get at the heart of the problem and make arrests. So far, Melendez is their only one.

Investigators say they believe Melendez, a parolee Chief Campbell said his officers know, is connected to at least some of the overdoses. Police found Melendez in possession of narcotics during his arrest. Officials have not yet confirmed whether he is the source of the K2.

Earlier:

What began this morning as an outbreak of 15 synthetic cannabinoid overdoses on the New Haven Green in Connecticut has ballooned to a situation involving 25 individuals and counting. The situation is escalating, and emergency crews and officials from New Haven’s fire, medical, and police departments had to cut their press conference with local reporters short as calls kept coming in. This is a developing story, but here’s what we know so far.

911 calls reporting drug overdoses began trickling into New Haven’s Fire and EMS Departments late last night. By 8 am this morning, emergency responders had 15 sick individuals on their hands. Some people had passed out, others were vomiting and experiencing severe nausea. New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said that the overdose victims were many different ages.

To deal with that many overdoses, multiple fire departments became involved. Ambulance drivers described passing new overdose cases as they were leaving the scene to transport others to the hospital. During the press conference, Chief Alston praised the coordination with hospitals and the efficiency with which crews executed what became a challenging logistical operation.

The overdose cases strained the resources of New Haven’s emergency responders. Crews had to arrive, resuscitate and transfer people faster than normal, just to have enough ambulances available to deal with the incoming cases.

And the fire still hasn’t burned itself out. New calls continue to come in reporting drug overdoses, and emergency responders, police and other New Haven officials are still at the Green. They say that so far there have been no deaths. Some of the overdose victims are in critical condition, however.

New Haven Officials Suspect K2 Is Causing Overdoses

Right now, New Haven EMS and medical officials cannot confirm what substance more than 20 people overdosed on in New Haven over the last 24 hours. But Chief Medical Expert Dr. Sandy Bogucki suspects the substance is K2.

Dr. Bogucki described K2 as a synthetic cannabinoid related to marijuana and made informally with a cocktail of chemicals and frequently laced with other drugs. People on the New Haven Green told emergency responders that they think the K2 was laced with PCP.

But overdose reactions also suggest the presence of an opioid. Officials aren’t even certain that everyone who overdosed used the same drug. Some people were unconscious or extremely lethargic while others were agitated and experiencing respiratory distress.

First responders gave the overdose victims an emergency dose of Narcan. Narcan is an FDA-approved nasal spray of the drug naloxone, which is an emergency treatment for known or suspected opioid overdose. On the site, crews told reporters that the Narcan had little effect on the sick individuals. At the hospital, however, the patients received higher, repeated doses of Narcan, which produced clinical improvements for some.

New Haven Grapples With Another K2 Epidemic

Today’s incident in the New Haven Green marks the second time just this summer that New Haven has dealt with a serious K2 epidemic. As recently as July 4, High Times reported on 14 synthetic cannabis overdoses split across two clusters of calls. 11 of those overdoses took place on the New Haven Green.

At this morning’s press conference, reporters pressed officials to explain what they were doing to address the K2 problem. Police have staged a constant presence around the Green, yet overdoses continue to occur. So far, police have made just a couple of arrests, though it’s unclear if these are in connection with the K2 overdoses.

Fire Chief John Alston was quick to frame the problem as a nationwide crisis, not confined to New Haven. Alston also mentioned that his department had worked with a Yale Presidential Fellow who studied synthetic cannabinoids and proposed ways to address it. But before Alston could provide details about those efforts, officials’ attention turned to a new round of calls just coming in. Check back as we update you on this ongoing situation.

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