Roundtable focuses on heroin problem that could touch 'anybody's child'

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Last year, 56 people died from heroin overdoses in Hennepin County, the most ever recorded. Already this year, there have been four heroin-related deaths recorded in Minnesota's most populous county.

Prompted by the spike, the Pioneer Press reported on an emotional roundtable discussion about the drug that was held Sunday afternoon at the Hazelden Center for Youth and Families in Plymouth. In attendance were law enforcement officials, elected leaders, drug abuse experts and families.

Law enforcement officers brought samples of the drug to show its different forms and packaging. KSTP reported that Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek focused on ways to prevent abuse, including proper disposal of prescription medications and new laws, while U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar talked about her strategy to urge the Drug Enforcement Agency to focus on the jump in heroin use.

Stanek has previously noted the drug's spread, from cities to suburban and rural towns. At Saturday's meeting, he said growing heroin use is linked to prescription painkiller abuse – a belief repeated often by authorities; both are opiates, and addicts often turn to heroin on the street when they cannot obtain painkillers.

A report last month from MinnPost showed heroin in the Twin Cities is both cheap and powerful. According to the publication, law enforcement officials say most of it comes to the North Star state via Mexico, along Interstate 35 or through Chicago. The piece found that, of the cities with Mexican heroin being sold, Minneapolis featured both the highest purity and lowest cost.

DEA Special Assistant Dan Moren told MinnPost the cartels "likely identified a pre-existing market: prescription drug abusers who switch to heroin as a cheaper, more available alternative."

State Sen. Chris Eaton is calling for a new law that would give more first responders and police permission to administer an antidote to people overdosing on opiates. Currently, only medical personnel carry Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan. Eaton's 23-year-old daughter was found by police in a Brooklyn Center parking lot after a lethal 2007 overdose. The antidote was not administered for another 40 minutes, too late to save her life.

KARE reported that the mother of a Minnesota man who died of a drug overdose put a personal spin on the heroin scourge. Laura Moore spoke about her son Nick, who was completing his master's degree at the University of Minnesota when he died two years ago. She said the drug could touch "anybody's child."

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