Nationally, overdose deaths reached a record level of 72,000 in 2017, according to a recent federal report. Three of the people who overdosed died after taking cocaine that had been laced with fentanyl, over a dozen others were hospitalized.
"Bodies are literally dropping all around me from suspected drug overdoses", said Mario Boone, a TV journalist at the park.
Synthetic opiates like fentanyl, which is 30-50 times more potent than heroin, are extremely risky, with high risks of overdose and death. He said at first, the drug Nalaxone - used to treat narcotic overdoses - appeared not to work, but later took effect when higher doses were administered. No deaths were reported but two people are seriously ill, authorities said.
In New Haven, Fire Chief John Alston Jr told reporters the opiate problem is a far-reaching one.
At one point Wednesday shouts interrupted a news conference with the fire chief to alert authorities to another overdose.
Three arrests have been made in the case, Hartman said, but officials can not say for certain if all three arrested or just one of them are directly responsible for the overdoses.
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Fentanyl is approved as an anaesthetic and for pain relief, but its high profit margin for traffickers has made it a key drug in the United States opioid crisis. "It brought out Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven Police Department, Fire Department, [American Medical Response]".
"We hope this is coming to an end, but it's too early to tell".
"This was a particularly odd, rare occasion where (there was) call after call for man down, obviously with symptoms of some kind of overdose, and at the time of getting that patient packaged and transported to the hospital, we'd see another immediately fall down, right there", Jones said. The problem is widespread and considered by the Department of Health and Human Services a national public health emergency.
"We know that it is a chronic relapsing disease", Harp said.
A similar mass overdose occurred on New Haven Green just one month ago, on July 4, when more than a dozen people fell sick from synthetic marijuana.
First responders scrambled all day Wednesday to handle almost 80 overdoses caused by what officials believe to be synthetic marijuana, which is commonly called K2.
The state Senate Republican leader, Len Fasano, of North Haven, criticized New Haven officials on Thursday for not addressing drug use on the Green - a claim the mayor disputed.