Duluth police see spike in opioid overdoses

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: May 06, 2020 06:40 PM

During the City of Duluth online update Wednesday, the Duluth Police department shared that they've seen an overall decrease in crime, but have seen a spike in opioid overdoses.


Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said the city had 22 opioid overdoses in April, 13 in March, 25 in February, and 13 in January.

Tusken said this spike is concerning, but not unusual. They have seen numbers change over the years.

Duluth Police typically see about 14 opioid overdoses a month. Tusken said they are looking at ways to intervene and keep the community safe. He says the trends go up and down according to several factors like intervention, whats going on in the community and in people's lives, and source of supply and what is in that supply. Tusken said they often times see fentanyl is directly responsible for overdoses they see involving opioids.

He also said it's a community effort to make sure our friends and loved ones have the help and support they need to overcome addiction.

"We can’t just do it on our own we are relying on our partners who are working in treatment and are working with our educators. Also doing education and prevention to keep people from getting into addictive behaviors" said Tusken.

Recovery Alliance Duluth says the current situation we are facing with the health pandemic doesn't help either, with people feeling more isolated, experiencing financial burdens, and uncertainty.

Recovery Alliance Duluth executive director Beth Elstad said they do know there's an increase in overdoses and in people using detox services. She says now more than ever its important to stay connected and support our loved ones who may be struggling with addiction and substance abuse.

"We have a community that does a great job at treatment. We have excellent providers in our community and we're able to really network together and we work together very well," said Elstad.

Many families have lost loved ones from addiction. Ryan Koski of Superior lost his nephew from a heroine overdose last Saturday. Christopher Hoeffling was 27-years-old and recently celebrated his birthday on April 13.

"He was in a outpatient program that was shut down because of the COVID and then stimulus checks came in and kind of ramped up a lot of money for people. He was on probation and wasn't able to meet with his probation agent because of the pandemic that's going on,' said Koski.

As Koski grieves the loss of his nephew, he says it is important to give our loved ones the support and help they need.

"I just want to raise awareness for somebody out there struggling that there is help, you just need to reach out. Don't wait until it's too late, your life matters," said Koski.

"We're absolutely willing to meet you where you're at and have those conversations to connect you with whatever it is that you feel you need," said Elstad.

Recovery Alliance Duluth can be reached via email at, also on Facebook and by calling their 24/7 phone line at 218-576-6005.


Alejandra Palacios

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