Camden officials mobilize to prevent heroin overdoses

Camden, N.J., authorities are trying to prevent a repeat of a 2006 disaster in which more than 50 people died of heroin overdoses in the region.

In the last few days, heroin sold under the names “Hellfire,” “Hellraiser,” and “Pure Hell” has sent a dozen people to the hospital.

Camden Police Chief John Scott Thomson says the drugs are being sold in the North Camden and Whitman Park areas.

“The majority of the folks who are overdosing are not city residents. The vast majority of our heroin purchasers are people from the suburbs coming into the city to purchase the drug,” he said.

Officials say the heroin may be laced with a substance that’s typically used to treat patients with severe pain.

The Camden Area Health Education Center’s Deputy Director Ellen Marshall is warning drug users.

“At our needle exchange we provide information on overdose prevention,” Marshall said. “We also have a nurse practitioner on site who will do wound care and work to check veins and help people understand how to protect their veins.”

Oscar Hernandez is with My Brother’s Keeper, a recovery ministry that’s been working in Camden for more than 20 years. His group is also alerting addicts,

“People are scared but yet they’re sick. Thank God no one has died,” Hernandez said. “Once the word gets out into the street, it travels very fast, that we know, and that users are going to stay aware from that particular brand or they will be more cautious.”

Users didn’t stay away back in 2006. Police advertised the location where the dangerous drug was being sold. Instead of deterring people, drug users flocked there.

Kristin Nicely Colangelo is with the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey.

“It was all around Camden and Philly,” said Kristin Nicely Colangelo of the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey. “There were over almost 100 non-fatal overdoses. There was a misunderstanding that this meant that the heroin was more pure and with more pure heroin you can use less to get the same high and not become dope sick. So this is a draw.”

Things got so bad in 2006, some residents even called on police to set up blockades–to keep suburban drug users from coming to Camden to get their fix.

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