Pubdate: Thu, 17 Mar 2016
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2016 Star Tribune
Author: Matt McKinney


Officials Ask Public to Identify Dealers, Users As Wave Hits Northern Minn.

A wave of heroin overdose deaths and hospitalizations across northern 
Minnesota prompted an urgent plea from authorities Wednesday for the 
public's help in identifying dealers and users in an effort to 
prevent further tragedies.

Seven people have died and more than a dozen have been hospitalized 
in the past few weeks after ingesting heroin that in many cases was 
made even deadlier by the presence of added narcotics such as 
morphine and fentanyl, authorities said at Wednesday's news 
conference in Bemidji, Minn.

"We're here today because people are dying, and we need your help to 
try and stop it," said BCA special agent in charge Sue Burggraf.

Just in northern Minnesota, heroin overdoses have been reported so 
far this year in Hibbing, Virginia, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Cass 
Lake, Dillworth, Marble, Beltrami County and Mille Lacs County.

Heroin's spread in Minnesota has affected people of all ages and from 
all economic backgrounds, Brian Marquart, statewide drug and gang 
coordinator at the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) said at 
the news conference.

"It's not confined to any major metropolitan area," he said.

The number of Minnesotans seeking treatment for heroin addiction has 
steadily risen since 2007, from 1,850 that year to 5,142 in 2013, 
according to statistics from the state Department of Human Services. 
Heroin addiction was spread broadly across gender, race and age groups.

Heroin seizures statewide are up 125 percent since 2011, according to the DPS.

In 2015, 18 pounds of heroin, or enough for about 82,000 doses, were 
seized in Minnesota, officials said.

Nationwide, rural areas have seen a higher rate of heroin overdose 
deaths than urban areas for the past 10 years, according to federal 
statistics. In Minnesota, some of the highest rates of people seeking 
treatment for opioid addiction have been in St. Louis and Carlton 
counties; Cass and Mahnomen counties in north central Minnesota, and 
Redwood County in southwestern Minnesota.

Speaking at Wednesday's news conference, Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp

Sue Burggraf of the BCA asked that anyone with information call (218) 
333-9111 and ask for the drug task force.

"We need tips on dealers," he said.

Some dealers responsible for the latest wave of overdose deaths have 
been identified, he added.

On Monday, four people arrested Sunday in Fargo, N.D., were charged 
with possession of heroin in connection with an outbreak of drug 
overdoses in Fargo and Moorhead, including a death on Saturday.

Jerrell Washington, 24, and Reginald Washington, 24, of Fargo, and 
Heather Michelle Rouzier, 30, of Columbia Heights, were charged with 
possession of heroin with intent to deliver or manufacture. Marcel 
Washington, 25, of Fargo, was charged with possession of drug 
paraphernalia, possession of marijuana and giving false information 
to law enforcement.

Some of the suspects have ties to the Twin Cities, authorities said.

Burggraf, of the BCA, said overdose deaths often are now being 
treated as homicide investigations.

"When we find those drug dealers, we intend to charge them with 
third-degree murder," she said.

Mower County charges

In southern Minnesota's Mower County, a heroin death resulted in such 
charges this week. Ryan A. Anderson, 23, of Austin, was charged with 
third-degree murder in the December death of Tyler Burkey, 23.

Police called to Burkey's Austin home found his lifeless body 
straddling the bathroom and the hall, with a hypodermic needle lying 
nearby. An autopsy determined he died from a heroin overdose; it is 
not known if the heroin he ingested was laced with other substances.

Text messages between Anderson and Burkey revealed they had arranged 
a heroin transaction.

Anderson was arrested on March 3 at his grandmother's home in the 
1800 block of 3rd Avenue NE., where he also lived and where she has 
been caring for small children for more than 30 years.

Children were being cared for in the home at the time of the arrest, 
authorities said.

Help for users

There was one shred of good news shared Wednesday. Some overdose 
victims have been saved by an injection of Narcan, an antidote 
increasingly carried by police officers.

Collin Brunelle, an investigator for the Red Lake Police Department, 
said Narcan has been used 19 times this year on the reservation.

"We haven't had a death in a year from a heroin overdose," he said.

James Madigan, a community liaison for Minnesota Adult and Teen 
Challenge, said half of the people in that program for heroin 
treatment started their addiction with prescription pain medications.

The pain pills eventually become too hard to find, and they're 
expensive, so users turn to heroin, he said.

Heroin users sometimes can be spotted because they have dark circles 
under their eyes, appear pale and generally unhealthy, and may wear 
long sleeves, even in hot weather, to hide needle marks, Madigan said.

Staff writers Karen Zamora and Paul Walsh also contributed to this report.
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