Sheriff calls for overdose reporting law

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(ABC 6 News) – Amid a growing opioid crisis around the country and in our community, local law enforcement are proposing a new law that might help solve the problem.

Olmsted County saw 47 overdose deaths last year, according to Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson. This year he anticipates around 60.

Torgerson is a longstanding member of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, and right now, he says he is working on a proposal aimed at getting more drugs off the streets.

The bill would require hospitals to report overdoses to law enforcement. Right now, there is nothing like that required. Torgerson says his office has an incomplete picture of overdoses in our area.

“The only way we get to know about it is if we actually go to the scene, and now we’re part of it,” he said.

But to figure out who is selling these illegal drugs, Torgerson says he has to get to victims that survive.

“Most every one of those could be a crime.”

Senator Carla Nelson says lawmakers will likely hold hearings about the dangers of fentanyl next session.

“We have to get to the dealers that are bringing this poison into our communities, getting it to our kids,” she said of the crisis.

Her concern with Torgerson’s proposal is that she doesn’t want the promise of a law enforcement investigation to deter people from going to the hospital when they overdose.

“I think the big concern is we do not want to criminalize the victim,” she said.

Torgerson says that wouldn’t happen. And as Clmsted County approaches 60 overdose deaths, he says something has to be done.

“If we had 60 people getting killed by gunshots, we’d be up in arms. But we don’t get that same reaction when it’s an overdose because people see addiction as a personal problem. When somebody’s delivering those drugs. Somebody else is behind this,” Torgerson said.