Last week, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office announced a yearlong, countywide drug prevention campaign called “#NOverdose.” The campaign is a response to the high number of opioid-related deaths in Hennepin County in 2016.

Preliminary statistics show there were 144 opioid-related deaths in Hennepin County during 2016, a 31-percent increase from the year before. In Eden Prairie there have been eight overdose deaths since 2011. An additional six people overdosed but survived.

In a high-profile case in Eden Prairie in April 2016, a man was found slumped over in his car in the Costco parking lot. Investigators determined he had used heroin laced with fentanyl which caused his death. Four other people in Minnesota died after taking heroin from the same dealer as the man who died in Eden Prairie. The heroin dealer in all of those cases, Beverly Burrell, is now facing five murder charges.

As part of the campaign, the Sheriff’s Office is building a coalition of school districts, law enforcement agencies, elected officials, community members and community organizations that can assist with educating parents and youth about current drug dangers and trends.

In Eden Prairie we are attacking the opioid problem in several ways. First, we are educating kids about the dangers of opioids through the CounterAct program, where our school liaison officers teach 700 elementary school students each year, and through high school health classes where students are visited by an officer and HCMC paramedic.

Second, we started a program in 2014 to give away home medication disposal bags to residents so they can remove and safely discard unused medications from their homes. We also encourage residents to secure their current medications, in particular from curious teenagers.

Third, all of our officers began carrying naloxone in 2015. Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose and has the ability to save lives. In addition, the EPPD has an officer who serves full-time on the Southwest Hennepin Drug Task Force which works to combat drug crimes in Eden Prairie, Edina, Minnetonka, Hopkins and St. Louis Park.

We are looking forward to working with the Sheriff’s Office and our Eden Prairie community partners to continue our fight against this deadly epidemic.