Burlington ER sees 9 heroin overdoses in 1 day - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington ER sees 9 heroin overdoses in 1 day

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BURLINGTON, Vt. - Nine heroin overdoses in 24 hours had Fletcher Allen Health Care raising a red flag. 

Fletcher Allen says the number of overdoses they saw Tuesday is what they usually see in 2-3 months and they believe each case stemmed from an altered batch of heroin that could have easily led to multiple deaths. 

"All these patients had used what they felt was their normal amount but were having life-threatening side effects, so we wanted to let the public know that the supply had somehow been altered," said Dr. Stephen Leffler of Fletcher Allen Health Care.

There were no deaths and only one person had to actually be admitted for further care.

The hospital also reported there was no apparent connection between the cases. They came from different Chittenden County communities such as Williston, Winooski, Colchester and South Burlington.

We contacted investigators in those communities to see what they are doing to find the source of the drug in question. Winooski and Colchester police did not get back to WCAX News, but South Burlington and Williston said they are not actively pursuing it because they didn't get specific information about the cases so there's little for police to go on.

Leffler says they are not required by law to notify local police and cannot reveal any patient information under HIPPA, but put out a general alert Tuesday out of concern for public safety.

"We let them know this was going on, but once again it was coming from multiple towns so it didn't hit a trigger in any one town to say, wow there's something really unusual going on here; it was widespread," said Leffler.

There is no official protocol or system in place for public health entities to follow in situations like Tuesday's overdose surge.

But Bob Bick, the director of mental health and substance abuse services for the HowardCenter thinks there should be.

"When it occurs, I think all levels of the public health system, which includes the prevention side, law enforcement side, the treatment side and the medical side need to be pulled into the process quickly so that we can intervene with the clients we work with," said Bick.

He says Fletcher Allen did the right thing getting the word out through the media quickly to warn drug users in the community, but he also thinks in the future that the lines of communication need to be opened further to help target the source of the problem.

"Based on what seems to have happened yesterday, we didn’t do such a great job but we've learned from the experience, so we have looked at the situation, I think all segments of the system have examined what happened yesterday, the hospital, the treatment community, the recovery community, the law enforcement community and now we'll do better the next time," said Bick.

State police told WCAX News that these incidents happened in local police jurisdictions, but the Vermont Drug Task force is working closely with these agencies to identify the source of the heroin associated with Tuesday's incidents. 

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Fletcher Allen ER sees surge in heroin overdoses
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