Drug deaths higher in Pepperell than in surrounding towns


PEPPERELL — Police Chief David Scott was surprised by the data in a color-coded map, which showed that the number of drug deaths in Pepperell between 2012 through April 2014 was much higher than in nearby towns.

“For our area, we were very high,” he said. According to the information supplied by the Middlesex District Attorney, Pepperell had five deaths during this time. In comparison, Townsend had one death and Groton had none.

Scott attended an information and training session in April on nasal Narcan when he saw the map. “We knew we were a bit higher than neighboring towns,” he said. They did not realize how much higher.

The town is working on the problem. The Board of Health recently received a grant to purchase supplies and training material so the Police Department can use the nasal Narcan, an antidote for drug overdoses, it already has.

Trainers are in place and the department is waiting for a memorandum of understanding from Dr. Scott Murray at Nashoba Valley Medical Center before police officers can take the training and administer the nasal drug.

Emergency medical personnel already carry and can use an intravenous form of Narcan.

In order to fight drug use, the department needs to attack on two fronts, education and enforcement, Scott said.

The department no longer has a D.A.R.E. officer. Two police positions were cut in 2009 and another two in 2014. The drug abuse resistance education officer, who would go into schools and work with students, was one of the eliminated positions.

Most departments the size of Pepperell’s have one full-time detective, Scott said. Due to personnel cuts, Pepperell’s one detective splits his time between detective work and going on patrol.

Prior to the cuts in 2009, Pepperell had 18 officers, including the chief.

“We have to cover the minimum shifts,” Scott said. As a result, officers are not always available for other work. The medical center, for example, had to postpone work that required a police detail because no one was available to work a traffic detail.

An override that includes funding to restore two of the positions at the department goes to town meeting on Sept. 2. If it passes there, the override will be on the ballot Sept. 9 when the state primary election is held. Funds for a new cruiser are also in the article.

In addition to being challenged by a reduced force, the department has been working from trailers since mold was discovered in the police station at the end of last year. A forced hot air heating system spread the mold through the ductwork.

Scott hopes to be back in the building in September.