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In Manchester and Nashua, Fentanyl Death Toll Keeps Rising

Nashua and Manchester continue chasing a grim record as opioid-related overdose deaths continue to rise in the two cities. 

According to data released Thursday by ambulance company American Medical Response, there were 77 suspected opioid overdoses in Nashua and Manchester during September 2022 bringing the combined total for this year to 701.

And they warn there is no end in sight.

“Preliminary data show Nashua has experienced 33 suspected opioid-related deaths through September. That is 3 more deaths than during all of 2021,” said Chris Stawasz, Northeast Regional Director of Government Affairs for AMR. “Nashua remains on pace to have the highest number of suspected deaths from opioids in one year since the opioid epidemic began in 2015. Manchester is also still on pace to have the highest number of suspected opioid-related deaths in a one-year period since 2017.”

This year’s number of opioid-related overdose deaths is already close to last year’s totals. Manchester had more than 500 suspected overdoses in 2021, 30 percent more than the previous year, and Nashua had 250 suspected overdoses in 2021, which was 29 percent more than in 2020.

Stawasz said opioids like Fentanyl are not the only thing first responders are worried about. The growing prevalence of methamphetamines on New Hampshire streets is concerning, he said.

“Methamphetamine, which is not currently tracked and is not included in this report, continues to be seen mixed with opioids. Meth is a particularly dangerous drug for both users and first responders as it can cause extreme excited delirium and alarmingly unpredictable behavior in users,” Stawasz said.

Meth use has been linked to violent incidents in recent years, with several fatal police shootings involving people who were heavy meth users coming into conflict with police.

Both methamphetamine and fentanyl are coming over the Mexican border and making their way into New Hampshire, according to law enforcement. Mexican drug cartels are getting the necessary chemicals to make the deadly drugs from Chinese triads. The partnership extends to billions of dollars being laundered by the triads for the cartels, with the knowledge of China’s government.

The drugs continue to stream over the border, which has seen record numbers of people illegally crossing. The Border Patrol reports it apprehended 2 million people this year, the largest number of illegal crossings in history. That blows past last year’s figure of 1.7 million people coming over the border illegally, which was a record number at the time.

Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan received testimony on the need to secure the border from national law enforcement officials during a hearing earlier this year. Jon DeLena, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the New England Field Division for the DEA, testified regarding the danger posed by the cartels.

“The model of the drug cartels right now is simple. Relentless expansion and addiction. They simply don’t care if Americans die. They only want to reach more Americans in unprecedented ways. This is a moment in time, our moment where we have to do everything we can to reverse this deadly trend,” DeLena said.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the testimony offered by Mr. DeLena.

As Pols Debate Border Security, NH Opioid Deaths Climb

The rate of overdose deaths from the opioid epidemic continues to climb in Manchester and Nashua, with both cities approaching record deaths this year. And Republicans are pointing a finger at President Joe Biden’s border crisis.

According to Chris Stawasz with American Medical Response, first responders were called to 86 suspected opioid overdoses in Nashua and Manchester during July 2022, bringing this year’s total to 539. That is 99 more incidents than the same period last year, a 23 percent increase.

Nashua is on track to have the highest number of opioid deaths in a year since the start of the pandemic. Manchester is looking to break the record it set in 2017.

“Preliminary data shows Nashua has experienced 29 suspected opioid-related deaths through July. There were 30 suspected opioid-related deaths in Nashua during all of 2021. Nashua remains on pace to have the highest number of suspected deaths from opioids in one year since the opioid epidemic began in 2015. Manchester is still on pace to have the highest number of suspected opioid-related deaths in a one-year period since 2017,” Stawasz said.

There were 10 likely opioid-related deaths in July, eight in Manchester, and two in Nashua. Their causes are still pending verification from the Office of the New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner. 

Republicans note the surge in unlawful border crossings since Biden took office and the flood of fentanyl across the southern border.

So far this year, United States Customs and Border Patrol has seized about 133,000 pounds of methamphetamine at the border, compared to more than 8,000 pounds of fentanyl, and 50,000 pounds of cocaine.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Samantha Bullock says voters should hold elected Democrats like Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas to account.

“Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster have buried their heads in the sand to avoid addressing Democrats’ southern border crisis that’s allowing deadly drugs to destroy New Hampshire communities.”

A spokesperson for the House Republican Conference reiterated that point to the Washington Examiner.

“Joe Biden’s open-border policies have plunged our southern border into absolute chaos. It is a fact that Biden’s fentanyl crisis is directly a result of his border crisis, as the illegal drugs pour in over the wide open southern border,” the spokesperson said.

In New Hampshire’s two largest cities, Stawasz says first responders are dealing with people overdosing after they use drugs that they did not believe were opioids.

“AMR medics continue to see and listen to reports from suspected opioid OD patients who believed they were not specifically using opioids and were surprised that they overdosed on an opioid,” Stawasz said.

Stawasz told Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen during a July roundtable that dealers are putting potentially deadly doses of fentanyl into other drugs and selling them to unsuspecting users.

“I personally have experienced several occasions on a call when someone we’ve woken up from an opioid overdose will insist, ‘I was not using an opioid, I’m not an opioid user. I smoke marijuana. But I bought it from a different person.’ I think that’s contributing to an increased number of deaths,” Stawasz said.

July also saw an increase in the number of patients treated who reported or were suspected of consuming methamphetamine. Methamphetamine use numbers are not currently tracked and are not included in this report. Meth is a particularly dangerous drug for both users and first responders as it can cause extremely excited delirium and alarmingly unpredictable behavior in users.

Methamphetamine is seen by federal law enforcement as a growing problem in New Hampshire. It is coming into the United States in the same way as fentanyl, largely from Mexican cartels who smuggle the drugs over the border. 

 

Drugs From Mexico, Deaths in Manchester: NH’s Real Border Crisis

New Hampshire law enforcement is dealing with the one-two punch of fentanyl and methamphetamine, as opioid deaths continue to surge and methamphetamine fuels deadly violence. 

And the source of those drugs is 2,400 miles away at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Last month, Manchester and Nashua reported a combined 95 opioid-related overdoses, a 13 percent increase from December. Nine deaths are believed to be linked to these overdoses.

The figures from last year show a sharp rise in opioid overdoses and deaths, after an initial dip due to the 2020 COVID-19 related lockdowns.

November overdose totals in Manchester and Nashua were up 110 percent from the same time in 2020, according to American Medical Response regional director Chris Stawasz.

“I know there are a lot of competing priorities with COVID-19 and the variants that are out there, but this is, unfortunately, if not more deadly, as deadly as the COVID-19 crisis is,” Stawasz told WMUR.

Manchester had more than 500 suspected overdoses in 2021, 30 percent more than the previous, and Nashua had 250 suspected overdoses in 2021, which was 29 percent more than 2020.

Opioid fatalities are typically linked to fentanyl, the powerful synthetic drug being manufactured by Chinese syndicates and distributed by Mexican drug cartels. Those cartels continue to find ways to smuggle the drugs over the border, flooding American streets.

According to The Washington Post, The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Laredo field office alone seized 588 pounds of fentanyl during the 2021 fiscal year, an eleven-fold increase over the 50 pounds it snared in 2020.

United States Attorney for New Hampshire John Farley said that while fentanyl is still the state’s main drug problem, methamphetamine is making gains among Granite Staters as well. It is now the second most common drug on the streets. Again, methamphetamine is a product from the cartels, he said.

“What we’ve seen is a real growth in the Mexican cartels manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine,” Farley said. “They are able to produce a cheap and very pure form of methamphetamine, what people call crystal meth, and they are very aggressive in distributing that highly addictive drug.”

One main method of distributing those drugs is dark web marketplaces. According to The New York Times, dark web sites are accounting for more and more of the fentanyl traffic in the country.

Farley said local and federal law enforcement are seeing come up from the border, and then getting shipped to the east coast. Many times, dealers are using the dark web to buy and sell large quantities of the drugs. 

“Almost anyone who wants to find a connection can find a connection,” Farley said.

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella has said methamphetamine keeps popping up in investigations involving people shot by police officers. The last five complete investigations into fatal police shootings have found people with methamphetamine in their system who turned violent in confrontations with police, resulting in their deaths.

“Methamphetamine and fentanyl distribution continue to plague New Hampshire. As the Attorney General, I will continue to partner with federal and local law enforcement agencies to implement the most effective strategies to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs into New Hampshire,” Formella said in a statement. “It is only by this collaborative effort that law enforcement can marshal assets to protect not only our citizens but the  officers who work tirelessly to protect our state.”

Last year, Claremont’s Jeffry Ely, 40, was shot and killed during an armed standoff with New Hampshire State Police troopers. Ely had been suffering greater mental health problems as he increased his drug use, including methamphetamine, according to the shooting investigation. 

David Donovan, 35, was shot and killed by police in Meredith in November 2020 when he charged at police, armed with a knife and covered in blood from having just stabbed his mother’s boyfriend, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s report. Donovan’s methamphetamine use caused him to become violent, paranoid, and delusional in the months leading up to his fatal encounter with Meredith police.

In October of 2020, Ethan Freeman, 37, of Thornton, was shot and killed by Thornton Police Officer Matthew Yao when a naked and bleeding Freeman charged Yao during a confrontation. Freemen had a history of methamphetamine and other drug abuse, as well as a significant history of mental health issues.

In December 2020, Mark Clermont, a paranoid felon who was known to carry an assault-style rifle and wear a ballistic vest while hunting for alien spacecraft, was shot and killed by New Hampshire State Police Trooper Matthew Merrill during a gun battle Clermont had started. Clermont was known to use methamphetamines. Merrill suffered gunshot wounds during the incident. He survived.

Those drugs ending up in the hands of armed dealers and users are a real concern of law enforcement, Farley said.

“We’re seeing a lot more drug dealers who are armed,” he said. “When a methamphetamine dealer is armed, or is using, the public safety risk is substantial. The impacts that methamphetamine has on thought processes can really create a public safety risk.”