When it comes to the troubles created by the opioid crisis, Yarmouth is probably no worse off than other towns on Cape Cod and throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with what’s going on.
Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson, joined by other members of his department, gave the selectmen an update Tuesday evening on the scope of the problem in town, the police department’s successes and its frustrations.
Frederickson estimated there is a $22 million annual economy in opioid trafficking in Yarmouth alone. He made his estimate based on the typical price a user pays daily to support his addiction. Frederickson said 3 percent of the local population is addicted.
Selectman Norman Holcomb estimated that the $22 million figure equals the annual income of 360 Yarmouth families. He asked where users get the money they need for drugs.
Frederickson said some users travel off-Cape and buy opioids in bulk, then re-sell some of them on the Cape to support their habits. He said despite the epidemic, break-ins in Yarmouth have declined over three years, contrary to the traditional scenario in which drug users break into homes to steal in order to support their addiction. Frederickson speculation that to some extent, computer crime and prostitution have replaced breaking-and-entering as the crime that supports drug addiction.
Frederickson said so far this year, police have made more arrests related to fentanyl than heroin.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that can be legitimately prescribed to treat severe chronic pain.
They have charged seven people with possession of fentanyl and 13 with distributing the drug, opposed to five charged with possession of heroin and 6 charged with distribution of heroin.
Last weekend, the Yarmouth police and fire departments were called to a West Yarmouth home where a man was unconscious after smoking marijuana believed to be laced with fentanyl. It took two doses of the drug Narcan to revive him.
In recent years, law enforcement officials have seen a surge in clandestinely produced fentanyl being mixed with heroin or other drugs to give it a powerful — and increasingly deadly — boost in potency.
Inevitably, the discussion Tuesday night came around to the cost associated with the opioid epidemic. In response to a question from Selectman Mark Forest, Frederickson could not put a specific number on how much police resources are expended on opioid-related issues, but he acknowledged that it is significant.
Forest suggested a regional summit meeting, “To focus on where we can do things collectively.” He said federal and state funding is available that might help law enforcement and rehabilitation efforts.
“I believe that as a region we have an opportunity to speak with one voice and speak powerfully,” Forest said.
Frederickson agreed, but added a word of caution.
“People need to be genuine when they come to the table,” he said.
The police chief said his department could use another drug investigation detective and a victim services position and could do better with rehabilitation referrals and sharing information on overdoses with other police departments.
Still, the department’s work was praised.
“I’m amazed at how often other communities get kudos for doing things you started some time ago,” Forest said.
This article was first published on http://barnstable.wickedlocal.com/news/20170812/yarmouth-deals-with-fentanyl-crisis