Olmsted County Sheriff Calls for Overdose Reporting Law
Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News)- Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson is calling on state lawmakers to pass a law that would require hospitals to report receiving overdose victims.
During an interview on KROC-AM’s Rochester Today, Torgerson estimated Olmsted County had 47 deaths last year connected to either opioid or fentanyl overdose. “There weren’t 47 death investigations last year because we didn’t know about them in most cases. We didn’t know about them unless someone called us and said there was one. We did not get notified by the hospital because there’s no requirement like gunshot wounds to report there are overdose victims in the hospital,” Torgerson said.
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Torgerson said this year Olmsted County is pacing toward 60 overdose deaths. He cited the increased presence of fentanyl in other drugs as a possible cause for the projected uptick in fatal overdoses.
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“Fentanyl is mixed into all of that. Methamphetamine, it’s now dusted on top of marijuana. It’s everywhere. It is just flat-out Russian Roulette for everybody right now who may be addicted and using drugs,” said Torgerson.
The sheriff said in most cases law enforcement finds out about an overdose death if officers respond to the scene of an overdose or if a person connected to the victim reports it. A dealer who sells an overdose victim drugs can face murder charges, however evidence collection becomes difficult if a significant amount of time passes between the death and its reporting to law enforcement, Torgerson said.
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He says the law he’s calling for would mirror a law requiring hospitals to report receiving gunshot victims to local authorities. Torgerson said there have been instances in Rochester and across the country of overdose victims being dropped off on the curb of the emergency room and left alone until doctors arrive.
“We need to get serious about this,” said Torgerson. “I hope our legislators are willing to take this step and get something done this year because we need to do something.” He said HIPPA laws complicate possible overdose reporting requirements.
Olmsted County and the City of Rochester offer programs to help people combat drug addiction. He says the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office and Rochester Police Department won’t pursue drug possession charges if a person commits to seeking treatment.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug and/or alcohol dependence, help is available through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. To speak to someone on the phone, dial 1-800-622-HELP (1-800-622-4357) or send a text message to 1-800-487-4889.