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Tainted Heroin Causes 18 Overdoses In New London, Conn.

Davis Dunavin

Doctors at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London, Connecticut say a batch of tainted heroin caused 18 overdoses and one death in the past week.

When Tammy Sisco found out her daughter overdosed on Thursday, she rushed to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. The emergency room treated seven overdose patients that day, which the hospital said was unprecedented because they rarely treat more than one a day.

“The ER was crazy. They had stretchers in the hallways, people everywhere. And my focus was solely on my daughter,” she said.

Sisco worked her way through and found her daughter in a hospital bed.

“She was curled up in a ball with the blankets pulled up over her head. I pulled the blankets down and she said, 'mom, I’m sorry. I screwed up,'" Sisco said. "And I just looked at her and I said, I love you, and I’m just happy you’re alive. And I hugged her. That’s all you can do.”

Sisco wonders if there’s anything else she can do. Three of her five children deal with heroin addiction. Sisco describes her family as normal, suburban, and middle-class. She says their situation isn’t unusual.

“It knows no socioeconomic barriers. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or you’re poor," she said. "It doesn’t matter how old you are, what race you are, gender.”

Doctors at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital say they treated about 70 overdoses in 2014. That number climbed to about 100 last year. The city of New London says police are investigating the heroin supply that caused the 11 overdoses in the past week. Steve Fields, New London's chief administrative officer, said police have two priorities.

“A priority to locate this stuff and get it off the streets immediately, and two, find out who’s bringing it in,” he said.

One of the overdoses happened near the house of Dorothy Ames. She said her neighborhood has a reputation for drugs. The park across the street is littered with beer bottles and cigarette butts, and that’s not all.

As Ames walked through the park, she pointed to a small, rolled-up piece of wax paper in the grass.

“That’s called a bindle," she said. "There was heroin in that, and after they took the heroin out they licked it and chucked it.”

Ames is sort of a one-woman neighborhood watch around here. She’s got the police’s anonymous tip line on speed dial. She walks the streets looking for people struggling with addiction. When she finds them, she’ll help them get treatment if they want it.

“I try not to be critical," she said. "I try to love the people that I love and be there for the people that are hurting. Heroin is killing people. There’s people surrounding those heroin addicts that are hurting.”

Ames said when she looks for people struggling with addiction she’s looking for her son. The last time she heard from him, he was on the streets and struggling with heroin addiction. She said she thinks he’s still out there somewhere.

“Every once in a while, I’ll catch wind that somebody saw him or somebody heard him," she said. "I’m not sure. I pray for him every day.”

And now, there’s also a supply of tainted heroin out there. Ames says she hopes she finds him before it does.

“The two options for him right now are to get arrested and end up being forced to dry out, or dying,” she said.

In the meantime, she said even if she can only reach out to one person dealing with addiction and get them help, it’s worth it.

“And if we all reached out and saved one person…It would be great,” she said.