Ex-health workers say closing needle exchange fueled K2 overdoses

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — After weeks of back-to-back drug overdoses, nearly a dozen suspected drug pushers were just locked up by New Haven police.

“They developed these names and they ended up with eight or nine arrests,” said Ofc. David Hartman, a police spokesman.

All of the suspects behind bars are accused of flooding the Elm City with the synthetic marijuana known as “K2.”

“I can’t emphasize enough, it really messes you up,” said George Bucheli, a former New Haven outreach and prevention counselor who helped run the city’s needle exchange program. “Mentally, physically, even the twitching, not being able to move, not eating,” he continued.

Related Content: 8 arrested following string of New Haven K2 overdoses

Bucheli told News 8’s Mario Boone that many of the K2 overdoses could have been prevented if the New Haven Health Department had not abruptly shut down its needle exchange program in 2016.

“I know for a fact we would be able to do something,” Bucheli said.

Bucheli was part of an elite team of health workers roaming New Haven’s hardest-hit neighborhoods, doling out clean needles to drug addicts to fight the spread of hepatitis and HIV.

They were often the first to spot overdose trends and warn other addicts of a particularly dangerous batch of narcotics.

“We were seeing them everyday and the issue was, if we had found a bed and the place was willing to take them, even though it was K2. We could’ve made an impact. We could’ve cause we were there,” Bucheli said.

Related Content: New Haven sees 9 overdoses in 6 hours Thursday

He told us watching the recent overdoses splashed across News 8 sent his emotions on a roller coaster.

“It angers me, it saddens me, it infuriates me because I know we could’ve done something,” Bucheli continued.

A request for comment was not immediately returned by a New Haven spokesman.

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