Alison Cunningham, CEO, on New Haven Green Overdose Crisis

A suspected bad batch of K2 sent crews racing all day Wednesday to treat dozens of overdose victims, most of them on the Green, in one of the busiest and most intense episodes of what has become a daily drama in New Haven.


The first reports of people collapsing on the Green came in around 8:15 a.m. Within four hours, firefighters, cops and AMR ambulance crews had transported people 22 times to the hospital for treatment. At least two were repeat customers: One man overdosed three times in six hours, officials said.


— New Haven Independent, August 16, 2018

Dear friends of Columbus House,


By today, that toll has risen to over 70 people who have been affected by a bad batch of K2 being distributed (given away and sold) on the New Haven Green. K2 is a synthetic cannabinoid and is illegal in CT. Typical reactions are sluggishness, paranoia/anxiety, hallucinations, combativeness and increased blood pressure/rapid heart rate. This particular batch has caused convulsive like seizures and collapse. Thankfully, no one died as a result of the batch of K2 going around this week.


Drug traffic is not new to downtown New Haven. The Green, especially near the bus hub, is known for drug use and drug dealing. And while the New Haven Police Department is doing what it can to stop it, the dealers continue to prey upon our residents, especially the most vulnerable.


The misconception about this activity on the Green is that it is “those homeless people,” when in fact, we know from our Outreach and Engagement (O&E) efforts that the majority of those “hanging out” are not experiencing homelessness. The Green is a stopping point for people who are selling as well as those who are looking to purchase illicit drugs.


In the past few days, our O&E staff, Case Managers and Directors have been on the Green, talking with our clients who are there, checking in to make sure they are safe. Many of those clients responded with how frightened they were to see this going on all around them. Our staff was there to provide support and help for those seeking a safe place to get away from the chaos. 


Columbus House was among other agencies who responded to this crisis — Connecticut Mental Health Center, Hill Health Center, Yale New Haven Hospital, Liberty Community Services and others, in addition to the City’s emergency response teams. In the aftermath, I hope that we can all come together again to work on solutions to the crisis of drug trafficking on the downtown Green.


Before, during and after this crisis, Columbus House supports people with issues of substance use by providing shelter, transportation to treatment programs, and community connections that assist them with their own personal recovery. At Recovery House, 17 men (including seven Veterans) are provided with emergency shelter while awaiting placement in sober housing and treatment programs. Through our Road to Recovery service, we provide transportation for people across the state who are entering treatment programs. Sojourners Place provides a safe haven for women who were homeless and have dual-diagnosis such as substance abuse coupled with mental illness. And our O&E team seeks out those experiencing homelessness throughout New Haven and Middlesex County to get them off the streets and on the path to safe permanent housing.


With your commitment, we will continue to serve women, Veterans, and other vulnerable members of our communities. We are committed to supporting those who are ready to embrace recovery, and to our mission of serving people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by providing shelter, housing and fostering their personal growth and independence.


Thank you for your continuing support of Columbus House and our vulnerable neighbors.



Alison Cunningham

Chief Executive Officer



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