Anoka County fighting heroin abuse with community forums

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In response to the growing problem of use, abuse and overdoses, Anoka County law enforcement officials plan three community forums to spread the word about the dangers of heroin. The forums will also address the increasing use of opiates and prescription painkillers. Law enforcement says the number of deaths due to heroin overdoses in the county has tripled in the last two years.

The Associated Press reported that Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart said that the potency of heroin found in the county is high, and it's easily accessible. He wants parents and others in the community to work with law enforcement to get drugs off the street. The first forum is Jan. 28 at Eagle Brook Church in Lino Lakes. Additional forums are on Feb. 6 at Lord of Life Church in Ramsey and on Feb. 13 at Eagle Brook Church in Spring Lake Park. Each will run from 7 to 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, WCCO reports that the legislature will take up action designed to reduce drug-related deaths when it returns to St. Paul in February. Senator Chris Eaton of Brooklyn Park plans to introduce "Steve's Law," named for Steve Rummler, who died three years ago after a heroin overdose. He battled a prescription drug addiction for years following a back injury. His former fiancé, Lexi Reed Holtum, is working with Eaton on a bill that would allow first responders – including police officers and sheriff’s deputies – to carry naloxone, an antidote for an opiate overdose.

In 2007, Sen. Eaton's 23-year-old daughter Ariel died of a heroin overdose. “She was way too young,” Eaton said. “In my daughter’s case, the first one on the scene was a police officer who did not have naloxone.”

Eaton believes her daughter might have had a chance to survive if a law like the one proposed had been in place. In addition to adding first responders to this list, the bill would provide access to the antidote to workers at halfway houses and parents with children who struggle with addiction.

Current law allows paramedics to carry the opiate antidote. Firefighters in LaCrosse, Wisconsin are seeking permission to carry naloxone; they say they often arrive at a scene before paramedics. Since 2009, the department has seen a 53 percent jump in the number of drug overdoses.

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