Last weekend, a local 17-year-old white male died from a suspected drug overdose. Out of respect to friends and family, The Rockaway Times is withholding the young man’s name, and the names of the victims to follow. At 7:15 a.m. on Sunday, October 1, the young man was found unconscious at a residential location in Rockaway Park. EMS responded and administered two doses of anti-overdose serum, naloxone and the victim was taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. The young man was pronounced dead on arrival at 9:20 a.m. The victim’s girlfriend reportedly told police that her boyfriend had consumed a quantity of Xanax and methadone. Another friend said he had also smoked marijuana.
Just 10 hours later, on the other end of the peninsula, a 37-year-old white male was found unconscious due to a suspected overdose in a Mott Avenue restaurant in Far Rockaway at around 5 p.m. Fortunately for him, the ending wasn’t grim. When patrol officers from the 101st precinct administered naloxone, the victim regained consciousness. He was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital by EMS. The victim had no paraphernalia on him, but admitted to injecting heroin he had purchased in a clear plastic bag with no markings on it.
October has just started, yet the latest police reports, sent to The Rockaway Times by a source that wished to remain anonymous, come as no surprise following the events of last month. In the month of September alone, across the city, the NYPD reported more than 145 overdose responses, including more than 12 fatalities. And some of those took place in Rockaway.
On Tuesday, September 26, at 9:30 a.m., a 21-year-old man was found by patrols from the 100th Precinct, face up in the bathroom of a chain restaurant on Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway Beach. EMS arrived and administered Narcan to the victim. He came to and was taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital for treatment. No paraphernalia was found on the scene, but it is believed he had done heroin.
The brand of heroin in the incident above was unknown. But this incident came just a little more than a week after Chief Robert Boyce, Chief of Detectives for the NYPD, tweeted a warning to the Rockaway community, about a particularly dangerous brand of heroin laced with the opioid pain medication, Fentanyl, that was circulating around the neighborhood. On Monday, September 18, Chief Boyce wrote on Twitter, “#CommunityAlert: There were four overdoses last week in the #Rockaways using heroin stamped 8888 containing Fentanyl. Any info call #800577TIPS.” Those four cases involved men, ranging from 23 to 71 years old.
Two of those overdoses took place that past Friday, September 15. That day, at St. John’s Hospital, hospital staff found a 43-year-old man unconscious in a bathroom. The man was given Narcan and he regained consciousness. He later admitted to shooting up half a bag of heroin. That heroin, which was found by police at the scene, turned out to be the brand in the “8888”-stamped glassine envelopes.
That night, at a residential address on Almeda Avenue in Arverne, a mother found her 23-year-old son unconscious on the bathroom floor. Cops responded and administered naloxone. The young man regained consciousness. He was taken to St. John’s Hospital to be treated. Police had recovered a spoon at the scene, as well as five bags of heroin with the number “8888” stamped on them.
Police were also probing another incident for the “8888” connection, which took place on Sunday, September 17. At 6:30 a.m., a mother found her 25-year-old son unconscious in bed at a Rockaway Park residence on Rockaway Beach Boulevard. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The family said the young man had a history of heroin use. Police found 11 blue glassine envelopes in his right, front pocket, but they did not contain the “8888” stamp.
Drug overdose continues to be a major problem across the country, the state, the city, the borough, and Rockaway. According to the New York State Department of Health County Opioid report, published in July 2017, the amount of drug overdose responses had almost doubled from 2015 to 2016. In 2015, the number of outpatient emergency department visits for opioid overdoses (including heroin) in Queens was 168 in Queens and 1,025 across New York City. In 2016, the number in Queens was 313, and 1,754 in New York City. According to the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner and the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, in 2016, 1,374 people died from overdose deaths across NYC, more than any other year on record. More New Yorkers died from heroin and opioid overdoses in 2016 than from car accidents, homicides, and suicides combined.
The NYPD has been doing what it can to combat overdoses. They have been making progress towards stopping illegal drug distribution at the source. Most recently, investigations led the NYPD to recover 213 pounds of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine at an apartment building in Kew Gardens on August 1. A few weeks later, on September 5, 55 pounds of heroin and fentanyl were recovered from a vehicle in the Bronx.
As for the case of tracking down the local source of the “8888” brand of heroin laced with fentanyl, NYPD’s Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI) told The Rockaway Times that, “the investigation is ongoing.” Anyone with information is urged to call 800-577-TIPS.
According to DCPI, the NYPD investigates each reported overdose and more than 17,000 uniformed members of the service have been trained in the use of naloxone.
Police aren’t the only ones that can be prepared. In March, Dr. Janie Simmons, a local resident, a medical anthropologist and the Principal Investigator for the National Development and Research Institutes, helped bring her program, GetNaloxoneNow, to the Rockaway area. Through the program, Simmons helps educate people about naloxone, which counteracts overdoses, and supplies the serum to workshop participants for free. A grant from the Fund for Public Health in New York, in conjunction with the NYC Department of Health, allowed her to run the program locally as a pilot for four months. Having successfully trained more than 450 Rockaway and Broad Channel residents and providing more than 370 of them with naloxone, the program was a success and was allowed to continue.
On Thursday, October 5, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., there will be a RockawayGetsNaloxone Open House at the RISE Center at 58-03 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Guests will get free training on how to prevent, recognize and respond to an overdose emergency, obtain naloxone for free, and will be better prepared to save a life.