ST. PAUL — From Methamphetamine to prescription pills, drugs are being seized at an alarming rate in Minnesota. Illicit drug use threatens the safety and health of communities across the state as lives are lost and families destroyed by their use and abuse.
In 2016, Violent Crime Enforcement Teams (VCETs) seized a record 488 pounds of meth off the streets, a 484 percent increase since meth seizures was at its lowest levels in 2009 (83 pounds). Prescription pill seizures, which includes opioids, increased by 231 percent in 2016 over the previous year.
“The rate at which drugs are being seized around the state should concern every Minnesotan,” said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “Law enforcement can’t win this battle alone. We need parents, educators and the peers of those who take drugs to say enough is enough. Together we can save lives.”
Drug Seizures on the Rise
VCETs, which are partially funded by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), are multijurisdictional task forces that investigate narcotics, gangs, and violent crime. VCETs have increased their presence across the state in recent years in an effort to identify major drug traffickers, focusing on high-level dealers and suppliers.
VCET Drug Seizures
|Hashish or Marijuana Wax (Pounds)
Who’s Supplying the Drugs?
While enforcement, legislation and education have all played a key role in reducing meth labs from 410 in 2003 to 13 last year, meth continues to flow into Minnesota, primarily from Mexico.
Other drugs, such as fentanyl products, are coming from China and the vast majority of heroin is also making its way to Minnesota from Mexico.
The VCETs partner with state and federal agencies across the country to stem the flow of drugs into Minnesota.
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA): Drug Evidence Submissions up Nearly 50 Percent
BCA special agents spent more than 28,000 hours working narcotics cases in 2016 – seizing more than 360 pounds of meth, nearly 230 pounds of marijuana, and more than 110 pounds of cocaine.
The BCA laboratory saw evidence submissions containing fentanyl increase from a total of 14 in 2014 and 2015, to 75 in 2016. One 2016 case contained more than 2.7 liters of fentanyl. Just 2 mg can be deadly.
“With the number of drug cases and drug evidence testing submissions on the rise, we need to work together to investigate, gather information and provide education if we are to fight – and win – this battle against drug use in Minnesota,” said Drew Evans, superintendent of the BCA. “We’re actively working with local law enforcement agencies across the state to identify and investigate illegal drug activity.”
Department of Human Services (DHS): Treatment for Methamphetamine Reaches Record Levels
DHS data shows that treatment admissions for methamphetamine had peaked in 2005 at 6,703 admissions to treatment, before declining. However, starting in 2010, methamphetamine admissions began to rise, and in 2016, Minnesota had 11,555 treatment admissions for methamphetamine use, more than any other drug, including opioids or marijuana, and 72 percent over its peak in 2005.
DHS is also working hard to address the issue, through proposed drug treatment reforms that get people into treatment quicker, strengthen services and provide early intervention and comprehensive supportive services.
“What we are seeing in the data is alarming. Methamphetamine use is now second only to alcohol for treatment admissions in Minnesota," said Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper. "The good news is: treatment works. By strengthening and improving our treatment system, more people will get the help they need when they need it.”
Minnesota Department of Health (MDH): Overdose Deaths on the Rise
Minnesota drug overdose deaths are more than four times as high than in the year 2000, when there were 129 drug overdose deaths. In 2015, more than half of the drug-related deaths were related to prescription medications rather than illegal street drugs. The leading drugs associated with deaths were opioid pain relievers (221) followed by heroin (114), stimulants such as methamphetamines (83), benzodiazepines (71) and cocaine (41). Minnesota has seen rising death rates related to all of these drug categories over the past five years, except for cocaine deaths, which have stayed at around 30 to 40 deaths a year since 2011.
“To get to the root causes of drug addiction and overdoses, we must redouble our efforts and implement a comprehensive public health approach involving communities, health care providers and law enforcement,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger.
Governor’s Proposals to Combat Illegal Drugs, Improve Treatment
Governor Dayton is proposing several initiatives and investments to help crack down on illegal drug activity and improve substance abuse treatment in Minnesota.
- Governor Dayton’s budget proposes an ambitious plan to redesign the continuum of care for substance abuse disorder. Approximately 1 in 10 Minnesotans live with a substance use disorder but only about 10 percent of those who need treatment receive it in a given year. Timely access to a comprehensive assessment followed by receiving the right services can literally mean the difference between life and death. The governor’s proposal will streamline the process for accessing treatment and expand the continuum of care by adding care coordination, peer support services and withdrawal management to the list of benefits covered by Medical Assistance.
- The Governor’s budget includes an additional $1 million per year to expand funding for VCETs, based on recommendations made by the Violent Crime Coordinating Council. VCETs currently serve 70 counties, but the need is in all 87 counties. The increased funding would provide additional resources to the teams comprised of local, state and tribal entities..
- Governor Dayton recommends increasing BCA funding to provide four additional narcotics special agents, a drug chemistry forensic scientist, and a criminal intelligence analyst to support a drug monitoring initiative. The additional staff would address significant increases in drug activity and would provide more resources to support local law enforcement statewide on complex narcotics investigations.
About the Office of Justice Programs
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides leadership and resources to reduce crime, improve the functioning of the criminal justice system and assist crime victims. To accomplish this, OJP administers grants; provides training and technical assistance; provides research and data; works to protect crime victims’ rights; and provides reparations benefits to victims of violent crime.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.