By Rich Stanek
On July 31, at 6:30 pm, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with Bishop Richard D. Howell Jr. and Minneapolis faith leaders, will host a town hall meeting at Shiloh Temple International Ministries to have a discussion on heroin abuse. I want to thank Bishop Howell and the community of faith leaders for drawing attention a tough subject and for urging people to attend this meeting.
We have organized this meeting because we have a crisis on our hands. There are too many people dying, or coming within inches of death, due to overdose of heroin. In 2008, there were six heroin deaths in Hennepin County. In 2013, there were 56 people who died from a heroin overdose in Hennepin County.
These numbers do not describe the entire crisis. Many more people come dangerously close to death due to heroin. In Minnesota, emergency room visits tripled from 2004 to 2011 due to heroin.
I have been in law enforcement for 30 years now. I spent many years as a Minneapolis Police Officer prior to becoming sheriff. In all my years in this county, I have never seen the heroin problem like this. It is unprecedented and it demands our attention.
Every parent, grandparent and caring adult in our community has something in common. We all want the young people in our lives to make good choices, to succeed in school, to grow up healthy, and to succeed in life. I am the parent of two young adults. I have a son and a daughter who are college-age. I can relate to every parent who is overwhelmed. Every day there seems to be a new danger that threatens our young people.
At the Heroin Town Hall on July 31, we will spend time describing current threats of heroin, but we are also going to offer common-sense precautions that will allow us all to have a hand in prevention in our own community. Each and every heroin death is a preventable death.
People are not starting out using heroin; they are becoming addicted to opiate-based prescription drugs that might have originally been prescribed by a doctor for severe pain management after a knee surgery, for example. Once the prescription runs out, people are turning to heroin because the availability, purity, and price all make it attractive.
We have been working hard to raise public awareness of this epidemic. We have held several town hall meetings across the county. We have held numerous press conferences and we will even be at the State Fair this year to raise awareness of heroin and prescription drug abuse.
We were at the capitol this year and passed a law allowing our deputies to carry Narcan, an antidote that can be administered at the scene of an overdose to restore breathing. We know this new law will help save lives.
As a citizen, one of the easiest ways you can help prevent heroin abuse in your community is by disposing your unwanted prescription drugs at our six drop-off sites county wide, including two downtown Minneapolis and one at the Brookdale courts building. These drop-off boxes are free and easy to use; just drop in the prescription drugs like you would drop a letter in a mail box.
I hope you can attend the Town Hall meeting on July 31, 6:30 pm at Shiloh Temple and learn more about how to prevent heroin abuse in your community.
For additional information and resources, visit www.hennepinsheriff.org or call Sergeant Derwin Ellis at 612-348-3717.
Rich Stanek is the Hennepin County Sheriff.