Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Uptick in drug overdose fatalities

'Gross and terrible epidemic' prompts closer investigation


November 15, 2018

There has been an unusual number of drug overdose fatalities on reservations, reported Tony Bastien, investigator for the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office at the Nov. 7 meeting of the Carlton County TRIAD and Concerned Elders group at the Fond du Lac Tribal Center.

“There is a lot of opiates, heroin and pain killers on the reservations,” said Bastien. “The State of Minnesota found that counties with reservations had an unusually high number of overdoses ­— terrible numbers — of fatalities. That opened up funding for investigations.”

Bastien explained that the investigations lead to suppliers of the drugs.

“All of the law enforcement agencies assist in tracking down the suppliers,” he said. “There are drug suppliers in Chicago that sell to suppliers in Duluth. Those suppliers sell illegal drugs to buyers on the Fond du Lac Reservation, Cloquet, Esko and in Moose Lake. It’s a gross and terrible epidemic. We see actual evil in the machine. Property crimes are connected to the use of illegal drugs. The addicts will do anything to get their fix. We are trying to do the best that we can.”

Sheriff Kelly Lake added that they get tips about which house is a drug house. People may wonder why law enforcement isn’t doing anything about it.

“It takes a while to build up enough information for a solid case,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t want you to call. We have to put the pieces together. Each piece builds a stronger case. Please call us with pieces of information.”

The Fond du Lac Police Chief, Herb Fineday, told the group that his department is a member of the Anti-heroin Task Force, as are many other law enforcement agencies in the area.

Fineday talked about a trailer that has been set up to look like a teen’s bedroom. Parents and grandparents can go into the trailer and see where teens hide the drugs.

Lake said the trailer can be brought to the tribal center for the May meeting of the TRIAD and Elder Concerns groups so they can learn what to look for.

Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm pointed out that once someone is hooked on drugs he or she will do anything to get high.

“They steal medications from cancer patients,” he added. “If your pills in the bottle are lower than they should be, let us know.”

“We know of one Personal Care Attendant who was in a position to steal pills for her boyfriend,” said Bastien.

In answer to questions from members of the Elder Concerns group, the symptoms of drug use to watch for were described.

“People on heroin are lethargic and appear tired,” said Bastien.

“That is called ‘being on the nod,’” added Fineday. “They might be under the influence of an opioid. Tweaking is twitching and grinding teeth. Those are symptoms of someone withdrawing from meth.”

“They also pick on the sores on their arms and face,” said Bogenholm. “That’s sad to see. Continued use could result in mental illness. Mental illness goes hand in hand with illegal drug use. The brain doesn’t work like it used to.”

Bogenholm added that there aren’t very many places to bring people with mental illness. They often have to bring them as far as Fargo, North Dakota.

“People who sell illegal drugs need to be held accountable, need to be in prison,” said Bastien. “The judges are aware of it.”

The discussion turned to the use of Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of drug overdoses.

“We carry Narcan to counteract overdoses,” said Fineday. “People can also get it at pharmacies.”

“All of our officers and ambulances carry Narcan,” Lake said. “They all have been trained in how to use it. They might have the injectable dose, where Narcan for use by (lay-)people comes in a nasal spray.”

“People build up a tolerance to heroin,” added Bastien. “They need more and more to get the same high. Some heroin has been cut with fentanyl. People who use drugs aren’t aware that fentanyl is in it. As soon as they inject it, they know if fentanyl is in it. The user gets an amazing high and wants to get that amazing high again without dying.

“Carfentanil (a very potent tranquilizer used on elephants) is coming up here. That’s really nasty. If a group of three people is using heroin and they are together, one can give Narcan to another if the one overdoes. But if one who has used heroin wakes up and feels sick, that means he is coming down from heroin. If no one is there, he dies.”

Bogenholm said Narcan wears off faster than heroin.

“We’ve had to give several doses of Narcan before the person came around,” added Lake. “The user needs to seek medical attention after Narcan is used.”

Bastien said suppliers can be charged with third degree homicide if a user dies whom he had supplied.

“That gives those suppliers a healthy dose of consequences,” he said.

The use of methadone as an antidote was discussed.

“If it is administered and closely followed by a doctor who knows how to use it, it is effective for some people,” said Lake. “The purpose of methadone is not to keep a person on it for life.”

“We don’t have any methadone clinics in this area,” said Bastien.

Lake spoke about the Correctional Action Team that goes out in the community. Fineday said that they hope to get a Mobile Crisis Team for the reservation community. It could cover a 40-mile radius, including Moose Lake.

The next meeting of the Carlton County TRIAD was set for Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 10 a.m. at a location to be announced.


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