The situation developed in the early hours of Wednesday, when it was reported that some 25 people had overdosed, presumably on K2, also known as synthetic marijuana, or spice, in the city's New Haven Green park within three hours of each other, according to local officials.
"We received multiple calls on the Green for persons experiencing overdose symptoms but also being passed out on the ground," New Haven Fire Chief John Alston Jr. told reporters.
Alston added that the calls were registered just after 8:00 a.m. (12:00 GMT) on Wednesday. The official pointed out that police, firefighters and medics had been strained due to the mass overdose at New Haven Green.
Rick Fontana, the director of the New Haven Office of Emergency Operations, told reporters that those who overdosed suffered from a "multitude of signs and symptoms ranging from vomiting, hallucinating, high blood pressure, shallow breathing, semi-conscious and unconscious states."
There have been no reported deaths, however, two people remain in critical condition with life-threatening symptoms, according to Fontana.
"We have seen now 71 patients transported [to hospitals], we had five refusals, those are people who weren’t in immediate need of care … This is an unprecedented number of overdoses in the city, especially considering that the vast majority had been concentrated right here on the Green," New Haven police spokesman David Hartman told reporters.
Police Make Arrests as Probe Is Underway
Hartman said the police were sure that the drugs had intentionally been handed out to the victims since the majority of those affected were homeless people. However, the authorities had no information oh whether it was a targeted incident or if it was related to terrorism, Hartman added.
The authorities believed that the overdose victims had taken the K2 drug, and samples of the substance were being analyzed, the police spokesman pointed out.
"The New Haven Police Department has made an arrest of a local man, believed to be connected to at least some of the overdoses," the statement, published on the official city website, read.
The statement noted that the identity of this man would not be disclosed until a victim positively identifies him.
However, the media reported, citing Hartman, that a total of three arrests had been made in connection with the case.
The official noted that this problem needed to be tackled since it would not go away.
"It's a nationwide problem. Let's address it that way. It's a nationwide problem that people are self-medicating for several different reasons," Alston told reporters during a briefing on the incident.
Preliminary estimates of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that almost 72,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States in 2017. This figure was a 10-per cent increase in comparison with the one recorded the previous year, and higher than the number of deaths caused by car crashes, gun violence and the HIV, according to the statistics. As a part of the fight against the drug overdosed US federal agencies have introduced a proposal to decrease the manufacturing of highly misused opioids by 10% next year.