NEW BEDFORD - Law enforcement representatives and other organizations are stepping up efforts in response to an uptick in fatal drug overdoses in New Bedford. Just this month in the city, at least six people have died as a result of suspected opioid overdoses, with many more non-fatal overdoses.

New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro tells WBSM News he believes the reason for the increased deaths related to drug use is due to a higher of presence of fentanyl in street drugs like heroin. Cordeiro says the fentanyl supply is working its way into cities like New Bedford from Mexico.

"Most, or a good portion, of that supply is coming from south of the border, passing through Mexico and other transient ports in the country," said Cordeiro. "But that's where a good portion of that is coming from."

Chief Cordeiro says the increased presence in fentanyl puts users at a higher risk of overdosing, since the drug is more powerful and more addictive than just heroin itself. That hasn't slowed down efforts to combat the issue, however. Cordeiro says when there's a spike in drug overdoses, there's a spike in response, as well.

"We've amped our opioid overdose response to a 24 hour response. What that means is a police officer, a chaplain, and a recovery coach respond to the individual's house (within 24 hours of an overdose) to offer services to that individual and the family, as well."

Representatives from Dartmouth and Fairhaven have joined the Greater New Bedford Opioid Task Force, too, as drug addiction does not discriminate based on class, community, or upbringing.

Cordeiro adds that a new pilot program, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion or LEAD, will be announced over the next few weeks in New Bedford. The program gets individuals arrested for drug possession or other drug-related crimes into a diversion program instead of through the arraignment and prosecution process.

The City's police department is also working with a licensed clinical social worker from Northstar Learning Centers who's primary focus is getting help for teens who show signs of being at risk for future drug-related behavior.

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