In the past 18 to 24 months, five or six young people from New Canaan overdosed and died from heroin, says Town Council Member E. Roger Williams.
The deaths occurred almost entirely outside of town, after the young people had entered their 20s and had moved to places like Wilton, Norwalk and Stamford, Williams said — but he said the introduction into substance abuse tended to happen when the young people were teenagers growing up in this town.
“In the last year and a half, we’ve had six of our children die,” Williams said at a Town Council meeting on Wednesday. After the meeting he amended that statement — he meant to say five or six young adults, and the deaths may have started as much as two years ago, he said.
He was reluctant to provide any details, citing the embarassment and concerns of the grieving families, but he said the source of his information was a reliable person in the community who had kept count of the deaths.
Williams spoke immediately after hearing a brief report from fellow Town Council Member Penny Young, chairman of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee, that town officials and local groups were working in a revived “New Canaan Coalition” to focus on helping the town’s youth.
Healthy living has become a focus of the group’s concerns, Young said, and that included the intention of reducing substance abuse.
“Out of concern for our community members, we want to be out ahead with solutions to the challenge of substance abuse,” Young said after the meeting.
“They’re all within 10 years of leaving home,” Williams sad after the meeting, referring to the young people who overdosed and died. “If it was some disease, we’d be going crazy in this town trying to find out how to stop it. It’s as big a problem in this town as an epidemic.”
Council Member Sven Englund said the problem begins in New Canaan: “It begins where they socialize, which is the schools.”
People in town need to recognize the problem, despite the understandable embarrassment and concern of families who have children with addiction problems, he said. “If we keep hiding it in a corner, pretending it doesn’t happen, these families are going to pay a steep price.”
In March of last year Newcanaanite.com published a three-part series of articles about the heroin problem in New Canaan (links below). The first words in the article: “No one died from a heroin overdose in town in 2013, data from state officials tells us, yet the drug for many reasons has become increasingly prevalent in recent years—in New Canaan and most everywhere else around here, officials say.”
Jacqueline D’Louhy, assistant director of youth services with the town’s Department of Human Services said at the time: “New Canaan does not have a death from heroin per se, but we have gotten close. There have been kids, college age or high school age, that have gotten close” to fatal overdoses.
On Wednesday night, Williams said, “There’s a lot of near misses” in terms of deaths from heroin use in New Canaan itself. “We owe it to these families to do something.”
As the Town Council, he said, “the highest legislative body in town, it’s time for us to make it our business, and to make sure those who do have the responsibility (for combatting drug abuse in town) are doing everything they can.”
See NewCanaanite.com’s March 2014 series “Heroin and New Canaan”: