Firefighters, police, and medics were among an army of first responders on the New Haven Green last week after reports of people losing consciousness, vomiting, and falling to the ground started streaming in. Crews transported victims to the hospital over 100 times as state and local officials scrambled to figure out what was going on.
Paul Bass, editor of the New Haven Independent, followed the story closely and has written an in-depth article titled “What Really Happened On The Green.”
On what we know now
We know that a strand of the drug K2, which has been showing up periodically, came in a big batch last week and caused dozens of people to collapse, to have adverse reactions -- and at first, people weren't sure what was going on and it was like a Night of the Living Dead scene -- to have people walking around like zombies collapsing, coming back from the hospital because it wears off fast, and returning for more of the drug and collapsing again.
On the visit of President Trump’s nominee for “drug czar” Jim Carroll visiting the Green
That was hilarious to me. So I happened to be on the Green at the time. And the police chief, fire chief, and the drug czar and everybody else was around talking. And I was literally steps away with a guy who was smoking K2 and another guy who had smoked K2. When these overdoses happened -- just like when the drug czar visited, when everyone was collapsing last Wednesday and we had 77 in one day -- while it was happening, there were at times dozens of firefighters and cops and social workers and everybody around and it was still taking place. People coming out of the hospital and collapsing again.
On the impact this event had on emergency responders
They were going nonstop. The firefighters and the medics and the cops are working on this around the clock, double shifts. The fire chief told me he had to rotate people because he was worried about compassion fatigue. One guy came six times. Six times he was brought to the hospital for the overdose and came back to the Green and got high again and collapsed. So you don't know why these people are collapsing, what will help, and you're saving their lives, but it's continuing. It has a big toll on the emergency responders.
On what should be taken away from this situation
I think what we take away from it is that we spend a lot of time, not just on the New Haven Green but in America, walking past this separate world of an increasing number of addicts who are just in a lot of trouble and need help that they have to agree to take. And that we have to figure out how we're going to manage our public spaces for everyone's benefit, but also how we're going to address the root of the problem that can no longer be ignored.