Hennepin County's sheriff used a face-to-face meeting with President Trump on Tuesday to underscore the toll drug overdoses are taking in Minnesota and to ask for help stopping the flow of opioid narcotics from Mexico.
Rich Stanek was in Washington for a meeting of the National Sheriffs Association. He was one of about a dozen sheriffs who met with President Trump at the White House.
Video of the meeting posted by C-SPAN shows Stanek (a little over eight minutes into the meeting) telling Trump that 144 people died from opioid overdoses in his county last year. Stanek adds that's a 31 percent increase over the previous year.
"We need help," Stanek told the president, saying: "80-plus percent of those drugs come from south of the border. Everybody knows it. I know you will do something about it."
Trump asks about refugees
President Trump assured Stanek that he will do something. "It's already being done .... And you do have a big problem," Trump said of opioids before shifting the subject. "You have a big problem with the refugees pouring in, don't you?" he asked.
"Yes, we do, sir," Stanek replied. "All we're asking is what you're doing, which is let the courts decide." Both men mentioned the importance of vetting those seeking entry to the U.S. Trump told Stanek "We're being very, very tough with the vetting – tougher than ever before."
County has new opioid prevention campaign
The numbers Stanek mentioned at the White House were fresh in his mind because they were just released last week. That's also when Stanek announced a new prevention campaign the sheriff's office is calling #NOverdose.
Opioids are a category of drugs that includes heroin. But many prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin are also opioids.
In recent years Mexican drug cartels have started making a more potent synthetic version of another opioid: fentanyl. They often lace other drugs with fentanyl, which stretches the cartels' profits but also makes the drugs unpredictably potent for users and contributes to overdoses, a DEA official told the New York Times last summer.
There's speculation that that combination is what led to Prince's accidental painkiller overdose last year.