Duluth Councilor Pushes Awareness as Heroin Use Surges
Posted at: 10/28/2013 10:53 PM
| Updated at: 10/28/2013 11:25 PM
By: Alan Hoglund
Drug users and their families shared stories of how heroin has impacted them in Monday night's city council meeting.
"My son is 20 and he has been using opiates since he was 16," Jodine Blegen told councilors.
Blegen spoke following a presentation from Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay about how heroin has made a comeback. Councilor Jay Fosle called Ramsay to speak as a way to raise awareness of the drug problem in the Twin Ports.
Blegen said her son started with prescription pills, but when they got to expensive he moved on to heroin. "He started out smoking it, now he injects it."
According to Ramsay, these stories are not uncommon in Duluth. "A 17-year-old young lady has jaw surgery, has some pain gets an opiate prescription drug takes it over a six week period and gets ill when she tries to get off it. She gets her hands on some more of it. She gets through a couple more weeks. Then someone introduces her to heroin."
While painkillers are still being prescribed, Ramsay said the supply has been significantly reduced in recent years. One factor was a 27 person bust in 2011. But police said that decrease just made the demand for heroin surge.
For example, Ramsay said heroin seizures and purchases as part of investigations jumped from 24 in the third quarter of 2011 to 702 in the third quarter of 2013.
For Blegen, her son's drug use has turned him into someone she doesn't know anymore. "He has stolen anything that isn't bolted down, burglarized our home stealing jewelry, rare coins, TVs, computers..."
Ramsay said at least 90 percent of street robberies in Duluth are related to drugs. "Whether it's someone who owes money or knows someone that has some extra cash," he said.
The chief said there are concerns about whether police are doing enough, but he said yes. Last week Duluth police arrested five people for heroin-related crimes.
It's not clear yet what the council can or will do next. While Councilor Linda Krug mentioned starting a task force, no solid proposals have been made.