Breaking News
More () »

Hennepin County Sheriff's Office launches Focus on Fentanyl initiative

Sheriff Dawanna Witt says national opioid settlement funds are making it possible to immediately respond to the crisis.

HENNEPIN COUNTY, Minn. — Tabbatha Urbanski is approaching the anniversary of her son, Seth's, death. Seth thought he was buying Percocet to cope with depression and anxiety, she says.

"He didn't know at the time he was getting addicted to something far more powerful than Percocet. It was fentanyl," Urbanski said. "He took that whole pill. It did not even make it into his stomach before it took him. I lost my baby boy."

He was 17.

Whether oxycodone, Xanax, cocaine or meth, fentanyl is increasingly laced in street drugs, and in Hennepin Co. it's killing a person per day, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Thursday, Sheriff Dawanna Witt came together with Urbanski and other families to announce a new initiative meant to save lives.

"Our 'Focus on Fentanyl' initiative is about letting families know that our role in addressing the opioid crisis is not just about enforcement," Witt said. "It isn't about just putting people in jail or criminalizing addiction."

Using national opioid settlement funds, the county plans to focus on the following pillars over the next two years: prevention, response and treatment.

"It is about providing education, increasing the public's knowledge of the resources available to them and reducing the stigma around drug use," the sheriff said. "My family has been affected just this past spring."

At the same time, law enforcement is calling for third degree homicide charges for those dealing fentanyl. The agency says, just this year, deputies seized enough fentanyl to kill every person in the county.

On social media Thursday, the Sheriff's Office also posted a video highlighting Seth's story. To keep the fentanyl crisis in the forefront, Witt says there will be more videos of personal stories as well as more news conferences every couple of months.

In the meantime, parents like Michelle Loberg are already active in other awareness initiatives. After losing her child to a fentanyl overdose, Loberg serves on the Fentanyl Free Communities board and is working to get Narcan into all K-12 schools statewide.


Download the free KARE 11+ app for Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and other smart TV platforms to watch more from KARE 11 anytime! The KARE 11+ app includes live streams of all of KARE 11's newscasts. You'll also find on-demand replays of newscasts; the latest from KARE 11 Investigates, Breaking the News and the Land of 10,000 Stories; exclusive programs like Verify and HeartThreads; and Minnesota sports talk from our partners at Locked On Minnesota. 

Watch more local news:

Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities and across Minnesota in our YouTube playlist:

Before You Leave, Check This Out