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Bill would put heroin antidote in the hands of Minnesota first responders

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Following a similar initiative in Wisconsin, a bill will be presented to the Minnesota Legislature next session that would allow first responders to administer an antidote to combat a recent surge of heroin overdose deaths.

KSTP reports 48 people have died from heroin overdoses in Hennepin County so far this year. That's more than the number of heroin overdoses in both Hennepin and Ramsey counties combined in 2012, according to the Star Tribune.

In Anoka County, 21 people have died this year -- triple the number of heroin overdose deaths two years ago, KSTP says.

The recent wave of heroin deaths has prompted Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and state Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Park, to push for a law that will allow Minnesota law enforcement, firefighters and some members of the public to carry the drug naloxone, called Narcan, that can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose and possibly save a life.

Currently, state law only allows health care professionals to give Narcan to overdose victims. The proposal would allow first responders to administer the nasal version.

The law would also give amnesty to those who call for help at the scene of an overdose, the Star Tribune reports.

The daughter of Eaton and Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Willson died from a heroin overdose in 2007. FOX 9 reports 23-year-old Ariel Eaton-Willson went with a friend to buy heroin for $20 in the parking lot of a Burger King in Brooklyn Center.

FOX 9 says they shot up in the car and Eaton-Willson's friend got out to smoke a cigarette. He came back to find Eaton-Willson barely breathing. Instead of calling 911, he hid the drug evidence.

"I don't think he would have spent the time getting rid of all the paraphernalia if he knew he wasn't going to be prosecuted," Easton told FOX 9.

Young adults, ages 18 to 25, are the target market for heroin, which is becoming more and more available in suburban neighborhoods. Not only is it easy to find, authorities have also found Minnesota has some of the purest and cheapest heroin in the country — a lethal combination for young people.

Beginning Jan. 1, Wisconsin is launching a one-year pilot program to allow more than 50 agencies to carry and administer Narcan. The La Crosse Fire Department is on that list.

The Star Tribune reports similar initiatives in New York and Massachusetts have contributed to decreases in overdose deaths.

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