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Franklin, Concord police say one-third of overdose calls are in public places 

Monitor staff
Published: 3/22/2019 4:19:29 PM

Franklin City Hall employees were concerned when they saw a young woman exhibiting erratic behavior walk into the building’s public restroom March 5. They grew more concerned when she did not come out after 30 minutes.

When police arrived at 1:30 p.m., they found 29-year-old Samantha Thompson semi-conscious in a locked stall next to a bag of what looked like heroin or fentanyl, Sgt. Dan Poirier said. A spoon rested on the paper dispenser beside her, and a pipe and a few syringes were placed on the floor, Poirier said.

“She looked like she was using serious drugs and succumbing to the drugs,” Franklin police Chief David Goldstein said.

Out of 45 overdose calls Franklin emergency responders answered in 2018, 18 were in public spaces, Poirier said. They have responded to calls at the library, in the public parks and restaurants, he said.

Concord has seen a similar trend – out of their 250 annual overdose calls, about a third are in public places, Concord Lt. Sean Ford said.

“It’s an incredibly sad situation,” Poirier said. “It opens up people’s eyes. It’s one thing to see a headline about someone overdosing in a public bathroom, but when you actually work in that public place, it really stares you in the face.”

Poirier said if any member of the public sees someone who might be overdosing, call police immediately. It could save that person’s life, he said.

Thompson was revived and transported to Franklin Regional Hospital. Police are discouraged from arresting people who have overdosed if they haven’t committed another crime, but Poirier said when Thompson started to regain consciousness, she lunged for the spoon and substances around her in an attempt to hide them from law enforcement. The bag ripped open, dropping powder across the bathroom floor. An outside cleaning company from Massachusetts worked on the bathroom in hazmat suits for a few hours to sanitize the space.

She was charged with attempting to falsify evidence and resisting arrest. Thompson was released on personal recognizance bail.

Poirier said the public’s exposure to harmful drugs, is an additional concern.

“There could have been a mother bringing in a child in there to change their diaper and heroin powder was left on the toilet paper dispenser,” he said. “That could be very dangerous.”

Ford said Concord police responded to Burlington Coat Factory in 2017 for a report of two people overdosing in the store’s bathroom, with syringes and fentanyl laid out on the baby changing station.

“It’s very concerning,” Ford said. “The non-drug addicted population is susceptible to collateral exposure and the effects of these drugs. It puts everybody at risk.”

Ford said people should be looking out for suspicious substances in public restrooms and on public transportation. If a person sees a substance they think might be drugs, they should call local police.

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)

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