As overdoses increase, one community is taking preventable measures

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The CDC reported close to a 30 percent increase of drug overdose-related deaths throughout the country in 2020.

Last year was a tough year on people in general but especially those struggling with addiction.

While there’s no exact reason for the increase in overdoses last year, officials say everyone’s story is different.

“You know I can’t sit here and say there’s one reason over another on why we’re having more overdoses,” explained Lieutenant Patrick Haug, a Supervisor in Investigation for Mandan Police Department.

“With the shutdowns and everything, a lot of our clients didn’t have access to the supplies they need. Whether it’s injection drug use equipment or the naloxone kits. So I think that has contributed to the increase in overdose along with the mental health aspect,” Jenn Pelster, the Mandan Good Neighbor project coordinator, said.

Lieutenant Haug says last year the department saw around 37 overdoses and this year they have already seen 27, which raises some concerns being that it is only July.

He said the three most common drugs causing overdoses are meth, heroin, and fentanyl.

“They’ll lace fentanyl with the heroin to make it a little bit more powerful. But unfortunately, fentanyl is so dangerous,” he explained. You just need microscopic amounts of fentanyl and you can go into an overdose.”

As a way to drive down deaths, each patrol officer is equipped with Narcan, also known as Naloxone, to use when responding to an overdose call.

He says sometimes they have had to administer three or four doses to one person.

“There’s not much we can do other than potentially CPR. You know those type of life-saving measures. Where the Narcan, even we’ve had calls there basically not breathing and we’ve given them Narcan and it’s brought them back,” explained Haug.

Harm reduction programs like the Mandan Good Neighbor Project say they are here to give not only the tools to people battling addiction but also to those in the community.

They say in 2020 they provided a little over 300 Narcan kits.

“Now that people know that we’re to help them. We’re here to be their support system. We don’t provide just Naloxone kits and education to our participants, we actually provide it for anyone in the community,” Pelster said. “So if a family member or a friend wants the training. Wants access to those naloxone kits. We will provide those free of charge.”

Come August, the Mandan Good Neighbor Project will be expanding its services to Beulah, as they realize there is a need for a harm reduction program in Mercer County.

Pelster said they have created a partnership to provide resources for people seeking help with addiction.

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