Paramedic Peter Canning walks through Hartford’s Pope Park. He picks up empty heroin baggies as he passes by athletic fields, a public pool and a picnic pavilion where a few people appear to nod off.
The pavilion place is really the place to go,” Canning says. “The people are down there using right now, so we’ll leave them in peace.”
Canning became a paramedic in Hartford in 1995, and he says he’s seen it all.
“I responded to opioid overdoses, but I didn’t think anymore of them than I did the shootings or car accidents. It was part of the job,” Canning says.
He started to notice a disturbing trend about five years ago. He found overdose victims unresponsive in the bushes, port-o-potties and on the bench he sits down on. He started to feel like every call he responded to was an overdose. And it gave him an idea.
“I started just writing down the overdoses I did, how old the people were, their gender, how they got started, and then the heroin bags. I would write whether or not I saw heroin bags there,” Canning explains. “And I thought if I was keeping this information, which is really interesting, what if everybody was keeping this information?”