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'Addiction is still running rampant' In a 93 page affidavit submitted by Drug Enforcement Administration special agents that contained transcripts of recorded conversations among five high level dealers, two spoke about why business has been "slow." "What happened is that over, up here, 180 people died of overdoses in three months, so people are scared," Felix Melendez, one dealer, was recorded saying on May 7. But there were others who, despite all that, wanted to start dealing again, he said. "They're the ones I have hope for," Melendez said. Vasquez, Santana Dones, Lugo and Melendez were also charged with using a "telecommunication facility in furtherance of a narcotics trafficking offense." They received these charges Aug. District Court. The suspects met in locations throughout Worcester County, including places many likely wouldn't expect: a Dunkin' Donuts, Best Buy at the Greendale Mall in Worcester, a Bertucci's restaurant at the Solomon Pond Mall in Marlboro. At such locations they made deals, and big ones, according to the affidavit. In one instance, the affidavit describes a sale of 125 grams of heroin for $7,875. In other conversations, there were offers to sell kilograms of cocaine for somewhere between $36,000 and $40,000, according to the affidavit. And there was talk about whether a 2008 BMW would be enough for someone who owed money to Vasquez for "La Morena," Spanish for "brunette," which here means heroin. Suppliers, agents believe, came from places like the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico, the affidavit said. When asked about the arrest and the aftermath, Leominster Police Chief Bob Healey noted that dealers, once off the street, do tend to get replaced. There are always people willing to come in, he said. And it doesn't stop, he said. "These drug dealers (have) paper routes," he said. "It's just a bad situation. "Of course, we need to go after these big drug dealers, these traffickers," he said, adding that, locally, departments have to focus on street level dealers. But the important thing, Healey said, is getting people treatment. "I think a lot of chiefs would agree with that," he said. "We have a lot of people that need help, and they need continuing treatment." If anything, the focus should be there, because treating people and getting them off drugs would limit the demand side and further damage the trade, he said. Such programs and initiatives are in the public eye. Recently, state Sen. Jen Flanagan and the Massachusetts Senate Special Committee on Opioid Addiction Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Options proposed recommendations that included screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment to the list of screenings conducted by schools and allowing individuals to include in their medical records binding directives to practitioners to not prescribe opiates in non emergency situations. She called the recommendations "the next phase" of combating opioid addiction. "Addiction is still running rampant," she said. "We're all trying to combat this. We each have tools in our toolbox, given whatever level of government we're in."

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