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State law enforcement: Heroin overdoes on the rise

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji is at the epicenter of a deadly heroin wave responsible for seven deaths and more than a dozen non-fatal overdoses in north-central Minnesota in recent weeks -- evidence of an epidemic that law enforcement say has been intensif...

BEMIDJI - Bemidji is at the epicenter of a deadly heroin wave responsible for seven deaths and more than a dozen non-fatal overdoses in north-central Minnesota in recent weeks - evidence of an epidemic that law enforcement say has been intensifying over the past few years.
And now a new batch, possibly laced with a narcotic, is being blamed for making an already dangerous drug even more volatile. It was the impetus for a press conference with state and local law enforcement Wednesday in Bemidji as they try to address a problem that is seemingly boundless.
“Drugs are killing people across our communities, and it’s one of the biggest burdens on society, on our adults and especially on our children,” said Brian Marquart, statewide drug and gang coordinator for the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs.
Law enforcement agencies also are reporting suspected overdoses in Hibbing, Virginia, Detroit Lakes, Cass Lake, Dilworth, Marble and Mille Lacs County.
“We’re seeing heroin overdoses in very small towns and very rural places, and we’re seeing overdoses in downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your walk of life or where you live.”
Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp called it a “terrible epidemic that has struck the Beltrami County area and the region.”
Since Feb. 27, in Bemidji and its outskirts, at least two people have died and at least three have been hospitalized after overdosing on heroin.
At least three more have died recently in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
And over the past several days, seven people have been arrested for bringing heroin to northern Minnesota or its borders, including a Bemidji man who was caught Monday during a traffic stop in Itasca County.
This year, the state’s Violent Crime Enforcement Teams have recovered 18 pounds of heroin, representing 82,000 doses and more than $1 million of product. The haul removed from the streets has already eclipsed the total from last year, and is a pound away from becoming the highest total over the past five years.
Minnesota traditionally has some of the purest heroin in the country. The batch that is causing so much destruction is primarily brown heroin, which tends to originate in large cities such as Detroit or Chicago. Law enforcement have hypothesized this new batch is laced with a narcotic similar to morphine, which would make the heroin stronger and its effects unpredictable.
“You don’t know from one day to the next what the potency is going to be,” said James Madigan, community outreach representative for the Central Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge center, a faith-based recovery program in Brainerd. “One day you can do this much and be fine, and the next day you do the same amount ... and you end up overdosing.”
Madigan said signs of heroin use include dark rings around the eyes, pale skin, and markings at injection sites along the arms--and users often wear long sleeves to hide their needle marks.
He said young people make up a disproportionately high number of his clients.

Related Topics: CRIMEPOLICE
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