LITCHFIELD — Police believe that just one source of heroin may be responsible for four overdose deaths in the past two weeks.

The deaths were reported in Litchfield, Sharon, New Hartford and Canaan. The names of those who died were not released by police due to the ongoing investigation.

“It’s very unusual to have so many deaths in such close proximity to each other,” said Trooper Kelly Grant, a spokeswoman for the department. “All of the deaths occurred in the same area during the course of about nine days.”

One batch of heroin may be involved in the deaths, but investigators are still awaiting toxicology results from the victims’ blood to determine what else may have been mixed with the drug, State Police reported last week.

Paraphernalia consistent with heroin use was found near each of the victims, police said.

Substance abuse professionals said it’s likely the heroin may have been cut with fentanyl — a potentially fatal substance that has been mixed with heroin by dealers to increase its potency. Fentanyl-laced heroin has been cited in numerous overdose deaths in the state in recent years.

Former Bethel resident Paul Mignani pleaded guilty to federal charges last year after authorities said he supplied fentanyl-laced heroin to two women who died after overdosing on the drug.

Police said a 54-year-old Bethel woman died of an overdose in July 2016, shortly after taking a combination of heroin, fentanyl and cocaine that Mignani had given her. Police also found a 25-year-old women who died of a drug overdose at Mignani’s home in December 2016.

Drug related deaths have more than tripled during the past five years alone as the opioid epidemic has taken hold in the state.

There were 1,083 overdose deaths reported last year, according to the state medical examiners office, while there were 355 overdose deaths reported in 2012.

“Unfortunately the numbers just keep going up,” said Allison Fulton, executive director of the Housatonic Valley Coalition against Substance Abuse. “We can no longer sit around and wait for someone at the state or national level to solve this problem. We have to organize grassroots efforts at the local level.”

Everyone touched by the opioid epidemic, including educators, law enforcement personnel, parents and former addicts themselves all need to come together to address the crisis, she said.

“This is an epidemic that has touched almost everyone,” she said.

Fulton added that officials also need to address the lack of mental health services available for those facing addiction.

“People aren’t getting the appropriate level of care they need to fight this addiction,” she said. ”You can’t let someone just leave the emergency room without having a next step in place. It’s very hard to find care for young people.”

Fulton said she and several other advocates have recently created a committee where they will look to examine the mental health resources that are available in the community and where gaps may exist in the services.

dperrefort@newstimes.com

More Information

Overdose deaths

More than tripled over the last 5 years in the state

2012: 355

2017: 1,083