By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — It happened again last night.
Police got a call around 9 p.m. from a woman who said her son was not breathing. When Patrol Officer David Rando arrived at the woman’s West Side home, he determined that the her son was conscious but had probably overdosed on heroin.
The 27-year-old man was taken to Winchester Hospital for treatment.
“Heroin is so commonly used today, no one should be surprised to find that even the people next door are using it,” said Police Lt. Scott Reboulet.
Director of the Wakefield Unified Prevention Coalition Catherine Dhingra agreed with Reboulet and, in fact, the two will be traveling to Washington, D.C. in early February, along with Board of Health member Laurel Gourville and a teacher from Wakefield Memorial High School to speak to lawmakers about best practices to continue the war against drug abuse.
Dhingra said this morning that she had just updated death records for Wakefield and the number of drug-related deaths had definitely climbed over the past 18 months, though she did not have an exact number. Most of the deaths involved people in their 20s and 30s.
“People who have died from drug overdoses live all over town, not just in one neighborhood,” said Dhingra. “This is not a problem found only in larger communities like Lawrence and Lowell. It’s right here in Wakefield and it’s killing people.”
Locally, Dhingra and police officers have combatted the scourge by equipping Action Action Ambulance with Narcan, a drug administered to counter the effects of heroin. WAKE-UP meetings are also held with members of the Board of Health and Police Department in an effort to head off the number of overdoses and drug use, in general.
In larger communities like Lynn police are holding summits with other law enforcement agencies to battle the problem.
Dhingra said that there is a lot of work being done on a regional level, including engaging pharmacies to promote the prescription drug take-back program at the Police Station and enlisting the help of doctors who prescribe opioid drugs. These doctors and dentists log into a statewide drug tracking system to monitor patients and if they seem to be going from doctor to doctor to get their drugs.
In 2015, the battle against drugs will continue and multi-pronged, ramped-up efforts are in the works.
This month, for instance, an “Above the Influence” campaign and contest will be held for students in grades seven and eight at the Galvin Middle School.
Other programs include primary drug prevention for younger children, education for parents that focuses on drug abuse, distribution of palm cards pointing to intervention and treatment options and the continued work of the Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team.
“We are also connecting to the broader issues concerning drug use, as well, including mental illness,” said Dhingra.
She added that area employers will be trained on how to reach out to employees they suspect of drug abuse and to keep a close watch on public restrooms where drug action is known to take place.
In another drug-related incident last night, Rando was on traffic patrol in the vicinity of North Avenue and Beacon Street prior to the medical emergency when he noticed that a front headlight was out on a gray GMC pick-up truck traveling along North Avenue.
Around 8:15 p.m., Rando activated his lights and stopped the driver, a 24-year-old man from Billerica, on North Avenue. When questioned, Rando said the driver appeared to be “nervous” and he smelled a strong odor of unburned marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. He inspected the interior and found a mason-type glass jar in the center console filled with marijuana. A smaller glass jar was inside the bigger jar and it also contained marijuana. When weighed, it was determined the amount of marijuana was 18 grams or just over half an ounce.
The driver reportedly told Rando he was coming from a friend’s home when he was stopped.
The suspect was issued a citation for possession of under an ounce of marijuana. A second citation was given to him for the headlight violation.
Police responded to a call about a vehicle break-in on Jefferson Road at 7:40 p.m. Nothing was stolen. Police are warning residents not to leave valuables in their vehicles and to keep them locked at all times. Jefferson Road is across from the Galvin Middle School and near Richardson Street.
In other police business on Tuesday:
• A minor collision was reported at 8:20 a.m. at the intersection of Main and Princess streets.
The Fire Department responded to 15 calls, 11 for medical aid yesterday.
A crew went to 11 Paul Ave. (Early Childhood Center) at 2:20 p.m. for a fire alarm caused by someone bumping into a pull station, 248 Albion St. at 6 p.m. for a fire alarm system malfunction, 222 Salem St. at 7:45 p.m. for a fire alarm caused by a faulty heating system and 9 Evans Pl. at 10 p.m. for a fire alarm system malfunction.