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  • Writer's pictureCaity Koz

Manchester Outlines Support Plan After Yesterday's Drug Bust

Earlier today, Mayor Joyce Craig, Lieutenant Matthew Barter, Public Health Director Anna Thomas, and Hope Recovery Center Director Keith Howard discussed the immediate outreach efforts that will be taken in response to the major drug trafficking investigation announced yesterday.

Yesterday, 22 people were charged in the bust of a major drug trafficking ring led by Juan Ramon Soto Baez and his associates, drastically reducing the regular supply of fentanyl and crack cocaine in Manchester.

Major Craig noted that this “Represents one the largest drug trafficking busts in the city’s history” and that the city will “see a significant reduction in the amount of drugs on our streets.”

However, Lieutenant Barter shared that in working with other communities where there has been a change in supply, they have learned that it often leads to an initial spike of increased overdoses. This is often because users become used to the consistency of dosage from their usual dealer. When that is cut off, they have no way of knowing how they will react to a supply from a different dealer.

Keith Howard explained that while all of this focus is on the supply side, his focus is on the demand because “as long as there is a demand, people will step in to supply.”

The city outlined the proactive and preventative measures they are taking to support users and combat the possible increased overdoses:

  • Emergency services are monitoring overdoses in real-time and communicating with partners such as CMC Healthcare for Homeless, Doorways, Waypoint, Families in Transition, and the Hope Recovery Center to provide additional support.

  • Geographically mapping incidents so that hotspots can be identified and additional support can be focused on those areas.

  • Building out an additional rapid response team with 13 new members, currently being onboarded and receiving training from the CDC.

  • Focusing on harm and stigma reduction for users and compassion fatigue for emergency workers.

  • Increased messaging and appeals to users to seek help and to report overdoses when they occur, even if Narcan is administered.

Before and after the press conference, Keith Howard handed out Narcan to anyone who was not currently carrying any and ensured that everyone knew how to use it. Narcan is an easily administered medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose with no additional side effects - so no one can be harmed if Narcan is unnecessarily administered.

At the heart of today’s discussion though was a plea for anyone who is currently struggling to seek help. Director Anna Thomas shared “Call 211 - we cannot emphasize that enough. Seek help if you are ready, or just get more info if not. This is the most important take-home message.”

Keith Howard pointedly shared “Everyone will find recovery and recovery for possible. [But,] people who are dead don’t recover. Some people's lives are so bleak they need drugs just to get up the courage to live, [but] we have more than 1,000 people a week coming to Hope for recovery meetings.”

In short, the goal is for “every drug user in the city to find recovery, but they have to be alive to find that.” And, the first step to recovery is creating that person-to-person connection that can be found at one of many centers including Doorway and the Hope Recovery Center.

As Howard conveyed through a Johann Hari quote - “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but human connection.”

If you are struggling with a drug problem, call 211 or visit the Hope Center or Doorway.

If someone you love is struggling, share this information with them.

We will continue to update on the effects of this effort as more information becomes available over the coming weeks and months.

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