Narcan

A University of Minnesota student who asked MPR News not to use his name displays his heroin tools, including a vial of naloxone, also known as Narcan, in May 2012. (Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News 2012)

Minneapolis police say they’ve seen a record-setting number of drug overdoses in recent days, a disturbing trend that Rice County hasn’t encountered.

But that could quickly change, depending on where the drugs are coming from, said Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn. Local addicts often get their supply from The Cities, and with the short drive from the metro, it’s not a stretch that Rice County could easily find itself in a similar situation.

The Minneapolis Police Department on Thursday reported 50 overdoses — including one suspected fatal overdose — in the city for the week running from May 28 to Monday. That’s a record number of overdoses for a single week in Minneapolis.

Officers responded to an additional 15 overdoses on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In a news release, police said investigators “have detected multiple types of drugs contributing to this spike in call volume … including counterfeit oxycontin, potent heroin and additional unknown substances.”

“It is nearly impossible to attribute the entirety of this spike to just one source, and all illicit drugs bought on the street should be considered dangerous and have the potential to contain powerful opiates such as fentanyl or carfentanil.”

Northfield Police Chief Monte Nelson agreed, saying the spate of overdoses serves as a reminder for him and his officers that when they’re speaking to someone — whether they’re struggling with addiction or it’s a member of the public — that they discuss the likelihood illegal drugs are being cut with something else.

“There’s a high potential they’re going to contain another substance,” he said. “It’s so prolific.”

Statewide, there have been 163 overdoses reported in the last two weeks, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Drew Evans, superintendent of the BCA, said 14 of the overdoses were fatal; in the same time period, there were 47 incidents where Narcan was administered.

The numbers include reports from 85 law enforcement and other agencies that report overdoses to the state. Evans said the reports are “not a complete picture.”

Dunn said law enforcement haven’t dealt with any recent overdoses, noting that area hospitals could have encountered some without his knowledge. Still others could have been treated by individuals who had a supply of the anti-opioid naloxone on hand.

Naloxone, known also by the brand name Narcan, can be obtained at several area pharmacies without a prescription. Law enforcement and emergency personnel in Rice County also carry Naloxone.

Deadly spike

Minnesota U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald said the surge in overdoses reflects the increased flow of drugs into Minnesota.

The alert from Minneapolis police comes a day after authorities in the eastern Twin Cities metro area reported a spike in overdoses. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that four people had died in the past two weeks of suspected overdoses, while Narcan was used four times during the same time period to save people from an overdose.

St. Paul police said Wednesday that they had seen at least five suspected heroin overdoses in the previous 36 hours.

And six people were hospitalized last Saturday after apparently accidentally overdosing on an unknown substance in South St. Paul.

In Minneapolis, police said a majority of the overdoses occurred in the East Phillips neighborhood, but there were overdoses reports from all parts of the city. The suspected overdose fatality occurred in the 2200 block of Third Avenue South.

“The MPD has increased patrols in the high overdose areas and is continuing our ongoing partnership with the City of Minneapolis Health Department and the state of Minnesota Health Department in raising awareness to drug overdoses,” police said. “MPD officers are equipped with Narcan and have administered it when applicable.”

Police asked that residents call 911 if they or someone they know is experiencing an overdose, administer Narcan if it is available, and share information about the spike in overdoses with anyone they know who may use illegal drugs.

Authorities also issued a reminder about state law known as Steve’s Law “protects people from being charged or prosecuted if they act in good faith while seeking medical treatment for another person experiencing a drug-related overdose.”

James Carroll, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said during his visit to Minnesota he believes such reports are critical to solve the addiction crisis. Carroll met with U.S. Attorney MacDonald and Minnesota law enforcement officials Thursday to discuss efforts to help people struggling with addiction.

“Here they’re sending out alerts that this is happening,” said Carroll. “By drawing attention to it, we’re hopefully bringing more people into treatment and making sure parents are talking to their kids about this.”

Rice County’s Dunn echoed those comments, urging addicts to seek help from Public Health, Social Services or a drug treatment facility “so they can turn their lives around.”

MPR News reporter Alisa Roth and Faribault Daily News Managing Editor Suzanne Rook contributed to this story.

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Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy

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