Heroin: An epidemic, part one - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

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Heroin: An epidemic, part one

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Heroin abuse - it's hard not to hear about it in Western Massachusetts.

The problem that some would like to shrug off as an urban issue is plaguing every corner of our region.

CBS 3 went to the heart of this problem, speaking with police, residents and the governor himself to get some insight on the crisis here.

Interstate 91 has taken on a terrible reputation, supplying a booming business that's becoming both deadly and destructive for Western Massachusetts. Now it's called the heroin highway and it has blindsided a Franklin County town.

"It's come up so quickly, we weren't aware of it up until a few months ago and it's all around us," said Mindy Nadolski of Greenfield.

Nadolski is a mother, who works at a restaurant in town, and she's right: the cheap drug is everywhere.

"We see it up the highway when you have 91, you've got MassPike, you've got Route 2 all kind of ending right around here, I don't think you can tell exactly where it's coming from," said Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh. 

Haigh is as fed up as anyone with what seems to be a never-ending cycle of addiction, fueled by great demand and a readily accessible supply.

"We're getting more overdoses than we've ever had, we've had four deaths this year," he said. 

It's not just overdoses. Heroin's effects are chewing away at most other elements of society, and some around town say just Greenfield's reputation alone is enough to hurt their means of making a living.

"We really don't want this image. The image we want for Greenfield is that it is a nice place that people can walk freely," Madan Ratorhn who owns a restaurant called the Clay Oven downtown.

The faces of addiction are everywhere here in Greenfield. Police sometimes find themselves arresting the same people over and over again on heroin charges.

"You can put people in handcuffs all day, but if in the end you're not actually helping them with their problem, with their addiction, or with their desire for that, the handcuffs aren't a deterrent," Haigh said. "The governor's office has recognized the struggle that we are going to be having and I mean we're trying to get ahead of it as best we can."

The epidemic has caught the attention of Gov. Deval Patrick.

"People are dying," Patrick said. 

CBS 3 spoke exclusively with the governor to get answers about where Western Massachusetts goes from here.

We found out that some of the $20 million in state funding being dedicated to heroin and opiate addiction will go straight to Franklin County in the form of detox beds.

"One of the things we've been interested in is trying to make a broader range of treatments available to people alongside methadone," Patrick said. 

For Haigh it's a glimmer of hope for his community.

"We need to have something here local, that's when someone's ready to get help, we need to have the ability to give them that help," he said. 

For Nadolski, it's a step toward getting the city she loves back.

"I just hope that the community doesn't get too out of control in reaction to it, but that we address it with compassion and caring," she said. 

To learn more about lowering the heroin demand, Tuesday night's continuation of our look into the world of heroin abuse continues in Hampden County where Holyoke police officers are trying to fight that demand with every arrest, and every person sent to treatment.

Insight into their struggle begins Tuesday night on CBS 3 Springfield news at 11.

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