Taunton marked a grim milestone Wednesday, as the number of heroin overdoses reported in the city since January surpassed 100 for the first time, a health official said.
Authorities went to two units in the same apartment building within an hour Wednesday morning to assist two women who had overdosed, said Jennifer Bastille, a Safe Neighborhood adviser at the city’s Department of Human Services. Those incidents brought the overdose toll to 101 since the beginning of 2014, she said.
Bastille added that both women had overdosed before.
“It’s frustrating, and it’s sad,” said Mayor Tom Hoye. “Nobody sets out to be a drug addict. It’s unfortunate that it’s happening.”
The latest overdoses occurred after 12 others had been reported in Taunton between Friday and Tuesday, including that of one man who overdosed twice during that period, Bastille said. There have been seven suspected heroin deaths in the city so far this year.
‘It’s fair to say that 99 percent of what’s triggering these overdoses is the fentanyl. The fentanyl stops you from breathing.’Jennifer Bastille, Taunton health official
Bastille blamed the overdoses on heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic painkiller.
“It’s fair to say that 99 percent of what’s triggering these overdoses is the fentanyl,” she said. “The fentanyl stops you from breathing.”
Cities and towns across Massachusetts are facing an uptick in heroin overdoses. At least 185 people died of suspected overdoses between Nov. 1 and Feb. 24, according to a state tally.
Bristol County, which includes Taunton, had 34 suspected heroin deaths during that time.
Rescuers in New Bedford, another community in Bristol County, have administered the drug Narcan to reverse opiate overdoses 89 times during January and February, said Mark McGraw, director of Emergency Medical Services in New Bedford.
In all of last year, the drug was used 289 times to reverse opiate overdoses in New Bedford, McGraw said.
“It’s alarming,” he said.
Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said his office has convened a task force to address the problem.
“There appears to be a higher concentration of this problem in the Taunton-Brockton area,” Sutter said in a statement. “As the district attorney in Bristol County, naturally this concerns me greatly.”
Police in the Taunton area arrested four people on heroin-related charges late last week, but substance abusers were still able to find the narcotic, officials said.
“We did have a good amount of heroin taken off the streets, but clearly it’s still out there,” Bastille said.
On Friday, police seized 36 grams of heroin, 129 grams of cocaine, and $4,700 in cash during a search of a Taunton apartment, Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for Sutter, said.
Robert Cananzey, 28, was charged with trafficking in heroin and cocaine and ordered held on $50,000 bail, officials said.
His defense lawyer, Kenneth Fredette, said Cananzey did not enter a plea. He declined to comment further.
The same day, police arrested two people after they found small amounts of heroin and cocaine, baggies, scales, cutting agents, and drug ledgers at a home in Taunton, Miliote said.
Mark Mayers, 38, was charged with heroin and cocaine-related offenses, police records show. Meredith Kirby, 29, was charged with drug possession and being present where heroin is kept, police said.
Messages left for their lawyers were not returned.
In addition, State Police arrested Brockton resident Derick Lorenzi after seizing 31 grams of heroin during a traffic stop Thursday night in Raynham, Miliote said. Lorenzi’s lawyer, Daniel Rich, said he could not comment because he had met only briefly with Lorenzi.