Duluth Hits New Record With Opioid Deaths; Police Working On Treatment Efforts

DULUTH, Minn. — Duluth Police say the city had its highest number of deaths from opioid overdoses in 2020, ever since they began tracking the numbers back in 2013.

20 people died from suspected overdoses, with some deaths still needing to be confirmed with toxicology reports.

Duluth had a total of 213 overdoses in 2020, which is actually more than double the number the city was at just two years ago.

A Duluth police lieutenant says the pandemic and isolation made the situation worse.

He also added that a lot of the heroin in the city contains fentanyl, which is deadly in tiny doses and is mixed into drugs because it is cheap and potent.

The police department received a grant worth almost $900,000 last year to create the Lake Superior Diversion and Substance Use Response Team to tackle the addiction problems in the city.

What this means is that the police department is hiring more trained counselors and specialists who help addicts get into treatment.

“As a police department, we have this stigma of being the people that have always gone out and arrested our way out of problems, and all we do is put people in jail, and that’s not true,” Lt. Jeff Kazel with the Duluth Police Department said. “We’ve got so many more things that we can do and we’ve found that we’re more successful…if we’re using these tools like having a peer recovery specialist.”

You can contact the Duluth Police Department’s Opioid Response Technician at 218-391-9639 for help with drug addiction, whether it is needed for yourself or someone you know.

Lt. Kazel added that Narcan has saved many lives in the city since officers were trained to carry it a few years ago.

In 2020, Duluth police used it on people having overdoses 64 times.

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