Two brothers were found dead of suspected drug overdoses inside a Ward Street house in Burlington's Old North End this morning, and city police said reports of drug overdoses are sharply up this year.
Police and firefighters arrived at 54 Ward Street at approximately 8:55 a.m. in response to a call from family members. Dennis Thibault, 34, of Westford and Sean Thibault, 32, of Burlington were declared dead at the scene. Autopsies will be done, but preliminary indications suggest they overdosed.
In a press release, police noted "an alarming increase in the number of reported overdoses year to date." As of June 12, 30 overdoses have been reported to Burlington police. In all of 2014, 37 overdose were reported, and in 2013, 34 overdoses were reported.
Chief Mike Schirling, who pointed out that some overdoses go unreported, suggested the increased prevalence of fentanyl in heroin packages has contributed to the increase. He said toxicology reports will determine whether fentanyl was a factor in the Thibaults' deaths.
Schirling also noted that police had been to the house twice previously for overdose calls.
And on December 4, police searched the house in an investigation into heroin dealing in Burlington's Old North End after neighbors raised concerns. John E. Nolan, who police said was "attempting to flush evidence" as they entered, was charged with possession and sale of heroin. The search turned up 50 bags of heroin.
Citing conversations with neighbors who had apparently identified 54 Ward Street as a "drug house," WCAX's Jennifer Costa asked Schirling, "How are they able to continue operating if so many people in the area know they are drug houses?"
"It's a great question," he responded, noting that neighbors played a role leading up to the December arrest. "This is an instance that, despite the best efforts of the investigators in concert with the neighborhood, we were unable to stem the tide of opiates going into the houses."
The chief also called for expanding treatment capacity for opiate addicts.