Heroin Use on the Rise in Minnesota Suburbs

Updated: 11/08/2013 7:46 AM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough

Heroin is driving teens to extremes and suburban families to the brink.

Heroin is strong, it's cheap and it's everywhere -- whether you live in Shakopee, Hudson or Anoka County. The drug is dangerous and it's become increasingly deadly. 

The funeral for another young adult, Robert McCullough, was held Monday. He's the most recent victim of heroin in Anoka County.

Parents are saying enough is enough. They held a community-wide meeting with St. Francis School District Officials and law enforcement to a launch a drug awareness campaign.

Jackie Mayer is a mother, "I can hardly even say the word, it's so...it makes me sick."

Yet she musters the courage to utter the word "heroin." She's telling anyone who'll listen how the street drug nearly stole her son's life.

"My kid is not going to go out this way, he's not and I refuse to let this happen, I am not going to lose him to this drug, I am not," Mayer said.

She was blindsided. She had no idea, Jimmy, a popular graduate and hockey player at St. Francis High School, dabbled with heroin. 

He overdosed in their family's East Bethel home four months ago. "When I saw the needle there I couldn't believe it; they were almost going to have to take me away," Mayer said.

Doctors told her Jimmy was minutes away from death. His parents got him to the hospital just in time.

"Wow, thankful to be alive, I didn't think it would happen to me," Jimmy Mayer said.

He's not hiding his habit anymore. He openly admits July wasn't the only time he did heroin, "like every day, every other day... the feeling you get from it, kept me coming back."

It's that heroin high that hooks people, mainly 18 to 25-year-olds according to Minnesota state records.

At Unity Hospital in Fridley, the number of patients who have overdosed on heroin has doubled in a decade.

"I've personally seen more men than women come in, it doesn't discriminate," according to Dr. Susan Hafferman. 

Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart says, "we're experiencing a challenge in the suburbs because people don't want to admit it happens to them, in their community, in schools, to their kids, that's part of the problem."

The statistics are startling. Hennepin County leads the metro in heroin deaths with 43 so far this year. That's twice as many as 2011. 

Anoka is a close second. There have been 21 deaths this year, which is triple the number of deaths two years ago.

The Mayers are sharing what happened for the sake of their family and yours, "don't think my son or child is too good for this, that's what my parents thought and I almost died," said Jimmy Mayer.

A report by the MN Department of Health last year, says the metro has the highest purity in the United States at 93.5 percent. Because of its potency and price, the number of heroin cases surpass methamphetamine and cocaine cases, combined.

If you or someone you know has a problem and needs help, we've posted resources here.