Senator and Hennepin Co. Sheriff Fight Heroin Overdoses with Antidote

Updated: 12/10/2013 7:24 PM By: Todd Wilson

Photo: Photo: Hennepin County

An overdose epidemic is under way in the Twin Cities as more people die from heroin.

There were just eight heroin overdose deaths in Hennepin County in 2010. That number has climbed consistently every year since. So far, 48 people have died in 2013.

Senator Chris Eaton said she didn't believe what she heard from officers when her daughter, 23-year-old Ariel, overdosed on heroin. She said she told them her daughter would never use heroin.

Ariel had been shooting up with a friend in a car in a Burger King parking lot.

"And she went out to have a cigarette and came back and she wasn't responding," Eaton said. Ariel died from the heroin overdose.

The first few years after Ariel's death were excruciating.

"I was really struggling with that when I was so grateful to run into this issue to do this in the senate," said Eaton.

Eaton is the author of a bill to increase the availability of Narcan, an antidote for opiate overdose, including heroin, to first responders.

Narcan is a brand name of the drug called Naloxone, which is known as the “Heroin Overdose Antidote” because it reverses the effects of opiates. During a heroin overdose, opioids block too many receptors in the brain, which makes the person stop breathing. When the Naloxone goes in, it takes the place of the opioids so the person can breathe normally.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek supports the effort. "I want to make sure my deputies and other law enforcement officers are equipped with this life saving drug," he said.

According to a report last year by the Minnesota Department of Health last year, the metro has the highest purity heroin in the United States at 93.5 percent. Because of its potency and price, the number of heroin cases surpasses methamphetamine and cocaine cases combined.

All of Hennepin County's 340 sworn deputies are trained in basic medical care. The new bill would give each deputy multiple doses of either a nasal spray or injections.

"Law enforcement is about public safety and saving lives and with this, I can do both," Stanek said.

Senator Eaton said she went through a dark time in her life after the loss of her daughter. She hopes she can help others coping with heroin addiction and overdose.

"It's been helpful being in the Senate and being able to do things that I think make a difference, it's given me some purpose back," she said.

According to Sheriff Stanek, 16 states equip law enforcement with Narcan.

As for senator Eaton's bill, she is working on the wording and hopes to present it during the upcoming session.