Overdoses in town, new calls for help

Marblehead Police have responded to eight drug overdoses so far this year, two of them fatal.

“Of the fatalities, one we believed to be opiates and the other cocaine,” Police Chief Dennis King told the Current.  

In 2022, police also responded to eight overdoses, including one fatality.

All but two of those overdoses were Marblehead residents, King said, and ranged in age.  Roughly two-thirds of victims were male, one-third female.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, opioid-related incidents among Marblehead residents jumped from nine in 2021 to 17 in 2022.

The Board of Health is now providing free Narcan and fentanyl test strips. Fentanyl is a deadly opioid that is sometimes added to marijuana and other drugs. The test strips can identify whether a drug is laced with fentanyl. Narcan is an opioid overdose treatment.

The Board of Health now makes fentanyl test strips and Narcan available for free to residents.

“There are people in Marblehead suffering from opiate addiction and other SUDs [Substance Abuse Disorders],” King said. “It affects everyone, regardless of economic status, race, age or gender. Programs like Narcan and fentanyl strip distribution can aid those in a crisis. It’s part of a total, holistic response the town needs to embrace.”

‘Anyone can overdose’

Board of Health member Tom McMahon is passionate about keeping Marbleheaders safe from fentanyl and overdoses. For him, it’s personal. 

“I’ve unfortunately had more than one friend die of an overdose,” McMahon told the Current. “One in particular hit me harder, though, and it was when I was about 25. He was Superman.”

McMahon said that friend, who lived in Marblehead, was healthy, fit and not a regular drug user.

“Anyone can overdose,” he said. “I was close to him and had no idea he was experimenting. From what I learned after, it was his second time trying Oxy that he got on the street. These drugs don’t care if you’re a one-time user or a daily user. The damage it did to his family and to our community when it happened still pains me to think about, and I see it in his mother every time I see her. Again, he was Superman, and it took him out.”

McMahon believes many people, especially parents, don’t realize how prevalent drug use is in town.

“And it’s not just young adults,” he said. “Even growing up, I saw some parents using some pretty heavy drugs. I still see people of all ages using to this day. Education is not the problem when it comes to adults. You can do your best to educate the youth, but adults know the risks, and that’s why we need fentanyl strips available to limit the damage.”

Police and more personal response

King says his officers do the best they can to help.

“MPD officers are trained in handling overdose calls and the follow-ups that are needed,” he said. “We work with agencies like the Essex County Outreach program and PAARI [Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative] to provide connections to resources that are vital for survival and success.”

King continued, “We are working on hiring a follow-up peer support specialist, but that hasn’t finalized. We have access to recovery coaches as well, if needed, and provide resources to individuals and families when appropriate. Our mental health clinician will also assist as needed.”

McMahon is asking for the community to step up and get involved.

“We need members from this town affected by tragedies to speak to the youth and show that it does happen here and show the pain,” he said. “It’s my goal to find enough people that would bravely step up into this role to make a difference.”

McMahon added, “So if you’re reading, and you think you’d be willing to be a part of this or would just even like to know a little more, please contact me.”

McMahon’s email is TomMcMahonBOH@gmail.com.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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