Authorities investigate wave of Anoka, Minnesota heroin overdoses

Published 10/24 2016 05:17AM

Updated 10/24 2016 05:20AM

C: WCCO/Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Anoka County authorities are investigating what they call an “alarming” wave of heroin overdoses from this weekend.

Six people, who authorities say did not know each other, overdosed in Anoka County on Saturday from heroin. Two of them died.

On Friday, police found three people unconscious at the Mall of America from apparent drug overdoses. Investigators are trying to determine if the overdoses are related to one source.

Randy Anderson of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation has counseled people dealing with addiction for more than a decade.

“Addiction doesn’t care what religion you are, it doesn’t care how much money you have, it doesn’t care what neighborhood you live in,” Anderson said.

The people who overdosed in Anoka County were all in their 20s, according to the sheriff’s office. The six cases happened over the course of 12 hours, shocking drug abuse experts and law enforcement across Minnesota.

“We haven’t seen something like this yet in our state as far back as I can remember,” Anderson said.

Commander Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office said first responders were able to give the people who survived Naloxone, a medication designed to block the effects of opioids in overdose.

The medication has the brand name Narcan. Anderson teaches everyday people how to use the medication at trainings that are open to the public.

“We basically walk you through what an opioid overdose looks like,” Anderson said.

The Steve Rummler Hope Foundation is named after a man whose story started with a legal prescription for pain. Anderson says it’s a story that is becoming more common among Minnesotans.

“Steve had been prescribed pain medication for a back injury and it progressed to where he could no longer get pain medication so he went and got heroin for the first time and overdosed and died,” Anderson said.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reports drug overdose deaths jumped 11 percent from 2014 to 2015.

“We don’t believe we’ve even seen the plateau yet of this,” Anderson said of the overdose death rates. Anderson also expressed concern that more addicts would hear of the overdoses and try to come to the area to get more drugs.

“The sad thing is as an addict when you hear of overdoses, they almost flock to the area because they believe there is a good drug there where they can get a smaller amount and feel the same effects,” Anderson said.

The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office says it would ask for third-degree murder charges if investigators find the supplier of the drugs that led to the lethal overdoses. Sommer also said at least one of the families of one of the people who died from a weekend overdose had no idea the man had problems with drugs.

Sommer said it is not uncommon for family members not to be aware of a loved one’s addiction problems or experimentation with drugs.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.