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Norwich alderman presents findings on 2017 fatal overdose victims

October 3, 2018

Norwich — Alderman Samuel Browning met with the Heroin Task Force on Tuesday to share what he learned over the last six months about the 33 city residents who died by overdose in 2017.

Browning said he volunteered 150 hours analyzing death certificates and meeting with family members to learn why Norwich had more than twice as many fatal overdoses as surrounding towns last year.

The information he gathered wasn’t complete — it depended largely on whether family members participated and if they had the answers to his questions — but two key findings were that the average resident had struggled with addiction for 7.4 years and many began using as teenagers.

Also notable to Browning was that 17 of the deceased weren’t born in Norwich, and just 10 had lived in the city for more than 10 years.

“That’s a strong part of it,” Browning said. “I think we had a higher transient population who died in 2017 than in other years.”

While 19 people fatally overdosed in Norwich in the first half of 2017, state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner data show, eight did in the first half of 2018 — a number officials hope signifies a downward trend.

Among Browning’s other findings: Just two of those who fatally overdosed in Norwich last year had college degrees, 19 had criminal convictions, 13 were employed or had been recently, 16 were unemployed for various reasons and 30 had more than one drug in their system.

Christine Goracy, who coordinates the city’s Partnership for Success grant and sits on the Heroin Task Force, said she wasn’t surprised by the information but still found it useful.

She said Browning “gathered a lot of information that we have not had, and he validated or confirmed the people we were already trying to reach.”

With the help of its 20,000 to fund Reliance Health Inc.’s recovery coach for another six months.

The coach, who can help up to 30 people at a time, connects residents with treatment and then continues to work with them, offering access to basic needs, advice and/or friendship.

He also said the city should consider an ordinance like the one New London passed this summer, which added sober homes to the list of places needing licenses and annual inspections.

Browning said one of the 33 city residents who died last year was visiting a friend in a sober house when it happened. He believes an ordinance could stop state and federal dollars from going toward badly run sober houses.

“Taxpayers didn’t pay a dime for this” study, Browning said. “If the institutions involved tell me they thought this was valuable, then I would consider doing it again.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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