Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office announces year-long drug prevention campaign

16426014_10155060233907783_9051450608286012804_nThe Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has announced a year-long, county-wide drug prevention campaign called “#NOverdose.”

The campaign is a response to crisis-level number of opioid related deaths in 2016 in the county.

“Every one of the opioid related deaths last year could have been prevented,” said Sheriff Rich Stanek. “We can’t arrest our way out of this epidemic, which is why we’re focusing on county-wide prevention.”

As part of the campaign, the sheriff’s office is building a coalition of school districts, law enforcement agencies, elected officials, community members and community organizations that can assist with educating parents and youth about current drug dangers and trends.

In 2016, there were 144 opioid related deaths in the county, a 31 percent increase from 2015. During the past five years, there were nearly 600 opioid related deaths in the county, and the deceased ranged in age from 16 to 98.

Colleen Ronnei, whose son Luke, 20, died a year ago due to heroin said: “Heroin is an equal opportunity killer, chances are you or someone you know has already been affected by it.”

“It’s important for stories like Luke’s to be told, and I commend Colleen for being a warrior in this fight against opioids,” said U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger.

The campaign will focus on education for parents through several school sponsored events such as town hall meetings. Several high schools have already agreed to host a prevention event.

“In the schools and in the community we have to continue to talk about this issue,” said Holly Magdanz of the Hopkins School District. “We can not pretend it is not a problem.”

The sheriff’s office will work with cities throughout the county to increase the number of medicine collection options for county residents. Currently there are nine medicine collection boxes in the county, and the sheriff’s office collected and destroyed more than 22,000 pounds of household medication during 2016.

“This is not just a big city problem,” said Eden Prairie Police Chief James DeMann, “Prevention is key, I ask everyone to get rid of old medications and properly secure current medications to prevent prescription drug abuse.”

“Every doctor in the state needs to be aware of this issue, to be educated, and be ready to intervene,” said Dr. Charlie Reznikoff of the Hennepin County Medical Center.

The recent High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area designation by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy will allow the sheriff’s office to apply for special drug prevention grants.

-Compiled by Paige Kieffer. Contact her at [email protected]