St. Louis County Designated High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area

HIDTA Designation means substantial funding boost, which authorities say they need.

DULUTH, Minn.- The Duluth Police Department and St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office announced the county has officially been designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area by the White House.

It means the county receives substantial additional funding, at a time when authorities say they need it.

“Extra resources are gonna provide extra dividends,” said Commander of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, Lt. Jeff Kazel.

Officials began working to get the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas or HIDTA Designation by the National Drug Control Policy in 2015.

The county is now one of seven in Minnesota with that distinction, where the opioid epidemic has claimed six lives in October alone.

That, according to authorities, is what the extra money is going to go help combat.

“It is supplemental funding we’re gonna have for the operations side of law enforcement in this area so roughly $60,000 will be for operations, $20,000 for supplies, $10,000 for services and then there’s a travel budget for $10,000.” Kazel said.

Authorities say this designation has been a long time goal.

“2015 we start working on getting a HIDTA designation for St. Louis County,” Duluth P0lice Chief Mike Tusken said. “So that’s, when Lt. Kazel is saying this has been years in progress, it has been years in progress.”

And not a moment too soon, as previous funding for combatting opioids has been reduced going into the next fiscal year.

“We’re strapped for budgets, ok? Our budget for our original grant from the state was cut by $10,000,” said Lt. Kazel. “So getting this at this time was pretty good for us.”

More initiatives can now be submitted by the county to do more with the designation, which Duluth Police are already looking at.

“There’s an opportunity with this HIDTA designation to also obtain funding for programs that will do prevention which is one of the areas that I think we lack in this city,” Tusken said.

Officials say this all goes to help combat a problem that has reached a level many of them haven’t seen in their time serving in law enforcement.

“It’s an overwhelming task,” said Kazel. “We had 6 overdose deaths in October alone. And we’re going into the 4th quarter which statistically is normally the worst quarter for overdose deaths.”

After last week’s education programs at Denfeld and East High Schools, Kazel said he’s also planning on writing an education initiative.

He hopes to get officers to more of the 35 high schools in the area to help educate kids about the dangers of opioids.

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