With more and more fatalities each year, heroin overdose has become a statewide epidemic. Minnesota’s heroin-related deaths in 2013 almost doubled from 2011 and the upward trend continues.
Addressing this problem, Minnesota’s state policymakers created and passed life-saving legislation. Thanks to a law that takes effect this month, those who seek medical help for a person experiencing a drug overdose are immune from criminal charges, like possession or use of drugs. This protection encourages bystanders to call 911 and save a life, without fear of prosecution.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is the first department in Minnesota to implement the law’s second component which allows law enforcement to carry and administer an antidote for heroin overdose, starting August 1st.
Licensed physicians must authorize officers to use the drug, which can fully revive an overdose victim if it’s dispensed in time. Aiming to train at least 75 deputies, the Hennepin County program will cost about $12,000. The money will mainly come from the drug forfeiture and seizure fund, according to Sheriff Rich Stanek, quoted in a Minnesota Public Radio story.
Counties across the state are keeping an eye on the outcomes of Hennepin’s new policy to determine a course of action. But as departments delay medical authorization, officer training, and resource management, lives are at risk.
When police in Hennepin County (and hopefully the rest of Minnesota) implement specific techniques to save lives from heroin overdose, the whole population benefits from community-centered law enforcement. With more tools and training programs like this one, police could soon find methods to cope with other challenges, such as mental health, street harassment, or additional substance abuse issues.
Minnesota lawmakers made incredible progress with this legislation and Hennepin County is courageously adapting its law enforcement strategies to prioritize people’s needs and safety. Now, it is up to the rest of Minnesota’s communities to follow suit.