As part of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Opioid Prevention Day June 14, Sheriff Rich Stanek and Mayor Jeff Lunde visited the Brooklyn Park Walgreens at Brooklyn Boulevard and Zane Avenue to address the opioid epidemic and highlight the store’s safe medication disposal container.
The container allows individuals to safely dispose of unwanted medication, rather than leave it in their homes. Since 2012, the sheriff’s office has collected and disposed of approximately 100,000 pounds of unwanted medication.
“Last year, in Hennepin County alone, we saw a 39 percent increase in opioid-related deaths—153 people lost their lives in this county, every single one tragic, every single one of them preventable,” Stanek said. “When they’re used for the right reason, not a problem. When they get misused or diverted, is where we run into all kinds of problems,” he said.
Current statistics for 2017 indicate a 10-15 percent increase in opioid-related deaths over 2016, according to Stanek. From 2015 to 2016, there was a 39 percent increase in opioid-related deaths, Stanek said.
“I don’t believe this epidemic is going away any time soon,” he said.
Increased efforts towards preventing opioid misuse are needed, Stanek said.
“As this opioid epidemic continues to grow, we’re going to need to continue to find additional prevention options,” he said. “We’re really good at the enforcement side. We’re not so good at prevention and intervention, so we rely on our secondary partners.”
Parent participation, along with help from civic groups, the education community and the private sector are critical in preventing opioid addiction, Stanek said.
“It is a shared responsibility, not just with us here but also people at home. Take care of these drugs, make sure they’re going where they’re supposed to be,” Lunde said. “People never want to believe that somehow their kids or their kids’ friends may go into a medicine cabinet, certainly not grandma … but that’s where this stuff starts.
“It’s not going to make a difference unless people at home start to educate themselves,” Lunde added. “The drugs aren’t going to magically arrive from grandma’s house to this container.”
The visit came after the sheriff’s office began its summer warrant sweep, part of the county’s #NOverdose initiative. Stanek said 80 deputies and local law enforcement officers served warrants related to narcotics trafficking.
Walgreens has installed 12 of these safe medication disposal kiosks across in Minnesota and more than 600 across the country.
The county also has 11 medication drop-off locations in cities across the county, primarily at law enforcement and library locations.