There are times when being a county commissioner is anything but encouraging and uplifting. Such was the case a couple of times recently… first at a meeting of the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force executive committee and a few days later when the Polk County Social Services Board met.

    There are times when being a county commissioner is anything but encouraging and uplifting. Such was the case a couple of times recently… first at a meeting of the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force executive committee and a few days later when the Polk County Social Services Board met.  

    At the Pine to Prairie meeting, East Grand Forks Police Chief Michael Hedlund, who as chair of the 8-county drug task force reported on the Violent Crimes Coordinating Council training event conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that he had attended.

    This is some of what he said:

    • Law enforcement is now dealing with 21 variations of fentanyl and that number is rising. The medical community knows very little about most of the variations since they are primarily analogs not used in the medical world.

    • Of the people entering drug treatment, meth is now the No. 1 reason. Marijuana had been No. 1 for years but that has now changed to meth.

    • Statewide, task force seizures of meth were up 483% from 2009 to 2016.

    • Most of the meth is coming from Mexico. There are few local labs. The cost of meth has decreased significantly.

    • Marijuana use is increasing with most of it coming from Colorado via mail and delivery services or by personal transport. This is not marijuana that was legally grown; it is black market marijuana.

    • Heroin seizures in Minnesota last year (totaling 17,000 grams) were double the number of the previous year.

    • Prescription drug overdoses have become the No. 1 cause of death in 17 states, surpassing car crashes. More people are dying from drug overdoses each year than died from homicide in the peak years of homicide death. The United States has 4.6% percent of the world population yet uses 80% of prescription opioids.

    • In 2016, the Pine to prairie Drug Task Force was able to make 271 arrests in the eight northwestern Minnesota counties that it serves.  That number of arrests was already exceeded in the first 9 months of 2017.

Child Protection unit

    Facts below are from a report by Molly Paulsrud, supervisor of the Child Protection Unit of Polk County Social Services. She started her presentation by noting that the days of dealing with messy homes and simple supervision reports for members of her unit are now LONG gone.

    • There has been a significant increase of mental health issues in parents. This has led to a corresponding increase in abuse and neglect of children.

    • Since Jan. 1, 29 reports of sexual abuse have been investigated. This includes an increase of children being the perpetrator of sexual abuse toward younger children.

    • Mentally ill and drug abusing parents are often unstable and unpredictable. Recently, when in the process of a child removal, a child protection service (CPS) worker was pushed against a wall by a parent. This occurred even when a law enforcement officer was present.

    • CPS and Family Based Service workers often enter homes alone. When they feel unsafe, they are to have a law enforcement or another worker with them. Workers have been targeted by clients and have had their properties damaged (tire slashing, car keyed).

    • After hours responses are made as needed 24/7/365. Since January, CPS workers have been called after hours by law enforcement 13 times. Seven of those calls were handled appropriately by a phone call/consultation. The other six required workers to respond in person to make safety plans with families, child placements or arrange for and attend forensic interviews for child sexual abuse victims.

Tip of the iceberg

    The above is a sampling of how drug abuse is affecting lives. The impact of meth addictions, especially, has made people crazy. Morals have been trashed. The numbers and problems mentioned above represent only the tip of the iceberg. Drug use is at the base of virtually all criminal and social service issues.

    Thoughts expressed in this column are those of the author and are not necessarily a reflection of the opinions of the other members of the Polk County Board of Commissioners.