- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 26, 2017

RED LAKE, Minn. (AP) - Tribal leaders of a northern Minnesota reservation have declared its heroin and opiate epidemic a public health emergency.

Red Lake Indian Reservation tribal leaders are seeking outside help to deal with the crisis and are considering banishing tribal members who are involved with dealing drugs, the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/2uBOrEa ) reported. They’ll discuss the option at a meeting Aug. 1.

“The attack by drugs is devastating to the health of our people,” said Tribal Council Chairman Darrell Seki. “Families are breaking.”

The band’s director of public safety and police chief, William Brunelle, says banishment would send a strong and immediate message to people involved with drugs.

“It affects all of us,” said Tribal Council Secretary Darwin Sumner. “I’m worried about our children and our future. . We’re seeing needles on the playgrounds of our elementary and middle-school children. There’s too much heroin, and we need to take measures to protect our people.”

Leaders said overdoses have increased significantly over the past few months due to an increase in heroin and fentanyl use.

Almost three dozen people have overdosed in the past six months, said Ryan Neadeau Sr., co-chief of Natives Against Heroin.

Reservation police have confiscated nearly 60 grams of drugs so far this year. Police seized a total of 70 grams of drugs in 2016.

“We’ve been making arrests, seizing drugs and taking money for years,” Brunelle said. “We need new ideas to treat the people who are addicted.”

About 500 people from Minnesota, Colorado, South Dakota and North Dakota participated in a 1-mile (1.61-kilometer) Walk Against Substance Abuse at Red Lake Reservation on Monday.

“The idea was to give those lost and sick and their families hope, courage and strength to say no to dope,” Neadeau said. “To put down drugs. That’s not our native tradition.”


Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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