ST. PAUL, Minn. – The fight against what officials are calling a heroin epidemic landed in the State Capitol on Tuesday. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and Senator Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Park) joined forces to push for new legislation.
Stanek wants his 340 deputies to be allowed to administer a first responder drug that can reverse or stop narcotics overdoses. The drug is called Narcan or the brand name Naloxone.
"It is regularly carried by paramedics on ambulances and in area emergency rooms, but, unfortunately, currently, Minnesota law does not allow for law enforcement to administer Naloxone," Stanek told reporters in a Capitol meeting room. "Firefighters can carry it only if they are trained as a paramedic."
Eaton said she intends to introduce legislation "as soon as possible" to expand the use of the drug. For Easton, the issue is personal.
"My daughter passed away in 2007 from heroin overdose," explained Eaton. "The first responders were police. They did not carry Narcan and it was a good 40 minutes before she received any."
Eaton said she was unaware that her daughter, Ariel Eaton-Wilson, 23, had been using heroin. Eaton-Wilson overdosed in a car in a fast-food outlet parking lot in Brooklyn Center. Eaton said a young man with her spent many minutes trying to hide drug paraphernalia and never called police. A police officer was in a car using the restaurant drive-through and notice the "commotion" in the car.
Eaton said she would like to see Narcan available to families of addicts and even the general public. She called Narcan "a really simple solution to a terrible problem."
"We are talking about our children," said Eaton. "We are talking about junior high and high school kids. We are not talking about the old bum in the gutter that you used to think of when you thought of the heroin addict."
Stanek said heroin overdose deaths in Hennepin County soared from six in 2008 to 48 (so far) in 2013.