(Please note - this transcript was copied from an electronic captioning service. We apologize for any errors, spelling, grammatical, or otherwise.)
Good evening, welcome to point of view, I’m Chris Berg, thanks for joining us on this Monday evening. We start tonight with some shocking facts about the opioid crisis in our community. According to the CDC, centers for disease control, 52,000 people died in the u. S. Die to drug overdoses in 2015, and two-thirds of those overdose deaths were opioid related. To put that in context that is more drug overdose death in a single period than any other period in the u. S. History. That's how serious this problem is we face as a nation right now. Unfortunately our area in the valley, we're not immune to this problem. Many of us know someone, family or friends, suffering from this addiction. Here's an interesting fact. According to the local coroner's office, we had 31 overdose deaths in our metro area in 2016 alone. 70% of those were opioid related. Here's the shocker. That's three times more overdose deaths than what we had in 2015. On top of that, there were 51 overdose deaths in grand forks in 2014. So the obvious question is, what are we doing as a community to keep our kids and our community safe? Many of you may remember it was May 2 of last year our community held our first community forum, called eyes wide open in west Fargo to talk about this opioid fentanyl problem. Our attorney for the state of North Dakota, Chris Myers, participated in that. She joins us tonight. Mr. Myers, thanks for coming back to the show.
Obviously it's been in your preview, many people talking about it. What are some of the good things that have happened over the past 12 months, but also three times more deaths than 2015? What are we not doing to save 31 lives?
As to your first question, the good thing we are doing are the community forums, getting the message to the community about these dangerous substances. Over the past year there have been eyes opened up to this issue for sure and it is being talked about a lot more than it was a year ago. In addition to that, on the enforcement side, we targeted fentanyl traffickers locally and we had some success over the last year, indicting about 14 fentanyl traffickers in the Fargo-Moorhead area, working with federal, state, local law enforcement. That's some of the successes.
But as we have heard, unfortunately almost on a weekly basis, we are hearing about overdoses continuing. So we still have our work cut out for us, not only on the education side, informing the community and getting the word to especially our young people, but also on the enforcement side. Because there are still people dying in our community and we need to continue our efforts
What's this mean? I don't think we're going to arrest our way out of the problem. What's the missing element?
I don't think you can point to one specific element that is missing. As we've said for the past year, this has to be a multifaceted community approach. One thing that resonated over the ten community forums that we were part of -- I’m not alone, there's a lot of great people working on this issue in our community for sure. The thing that's resonated is there needs to be more treatment available, the treatment has to be successful, affordable, and longer, as it relates to opioids. That's one thing that has resonated. I know the commission sponsored by local mares mayors, is one that they're taking to policy makers. The treatment, prevention, education enforcement are all parts of the strategy, and we knew at the outset last year that this is not an issue we can solve overnight. We're in it for the long hall. This has entrenched itself in our community, in our nation and will not be something we can solve overnight.
Let's start with this, one of the things that is most concerning for parents out there watching, if you think back to the situation that happened up in grand forks, the gentleman bought $1. 5 million of fentanyl and heroin over the dark net from china. First off, what is the dark net and how accessible is heroin and fentanyl to the average Joe to have it put in their mailbox.
I'm not going to talk about that case specifically because it's still pending, but I can talk about access to controlled substances, including fentanyl. With technology comes danger in certain senses, whether it's marketing of human trafficking victims or child pornography or controlled substances like fentanyl. Kids can access the internet or dark net through the use of a cell phone with the right pass codes and sponsorship. That's troubling.
What is that? If I get my phone, how do I get on --
It's simply a different route to an underground network, and so it's just like the regular internet, except you have to get special access to it. Once you do that, there are certain levels of anonymity built into the dark net.
So essentially I can have heroin or fentanyl switched to my front door and people won't know who I am.
We might know who you are depending on our investigation. But that's true and that's the scary part. A lot of young kids are using these substances, they want them, and most of our kids in middle school have cell phones. And so we would encourage and have been encouraging parents to monitor their children's cell phone use. Technology has a lot of good things associated with it, all the local area school kids have laptops. But with that, it has internet access. So you have to be vigilant about it, because the dangers are out there.
As a parent, that freaks me out. We need to have you out, our technology expert out. Hey what you're saying is if you know what you're doing, you can find out about your kids being on the dark internet.
Yeah, that's a question for our technology person, but there are people that can answer that.
Your job is to go out there and convict. Yesterday Secretary Kelly was on the meet the press and he said something I thought was pretty eye opening about the drug problem in America. I want to play it for you and give you a chance to respond.
John F. Kelly:
The solution is not arresting a lot of users. The solution is a comprehensive drug remand program in the United States that involves every man and woman of good will and then rehabilitation and then law enforcement.
So with all due respect, you're on the bottom of that list. He's saying drug use is the problem, law enforcement is the tertiary item.
This has to be a multifaceted approach and they all have to be done at the same time. They can't be won after the area, that's what he was saying. We have to reduce the demand for these drugs and education and prevention is part of that strategy. But at the same time we use the enforcement throng on the drug traffickers bringing these drugs to our community. Then add in the treatment component for those already addicted.
I think that's what he was saying, this has to be a global approach, multifaceted and that's what we've been talking about the last year in our community. As I’ve seen, you and other media in this community have been great in helping us get this message where it needs to be to the community members and those kids and parents. It's been very helpful to us to get the word out.
Chris Myers, thanks for your time, we appreciate it, look ford to having you back. Unfortunately this conversation is over today, so we'll talk to you soon.