Opioid crisis has reached South Dakota, officials say

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - After President Trump declared the opioid crisis "a national emergency" Thursday, South Dakota officials say that heroin and fentanyl have entered communities across the state.

"Heroin, quite frankly, leads our overdose deaths in the state," said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead. "It leads the overdose deaths here in Minnehaha County. Nine people overdosed and died last year and sometimes its prescription, sometimes its fentanyl."

While the opioid crisis hasn't hit South Dakotaas hard as it's hit other states, officials say, the crisis is here and now, even teens are being exposed to it.

"We really have surprisingly seen this summer more of our youth saying 'I've tried heroin, I've been at a party where heroin is being used," said Darcy Jensen, executive director at Prairie View Prevention Services. "We're seeing our youth saying that they've had interactions with someone or have tried heroin and that's pretty scary."

It's a growing concern for Atty. Gen. Marty Jackley too, who recently joined other Attorneys General in the national investigation into multiple prescription drug companies.

"Listening to my fellow Attorney Generals [sic] especially in Ohio and Michigan-- places that have been hit hard already -- it's coming this way," Jackley said.

A recent case in Chamberlain where 20,000 fentanyl pills were seized -- sealed the deal for him wanting to join the investigation.

"That was a signal and just looking at the fact that we had 51 overdose deaths last year in South Dakota," Jackley said. "Those are affecting families and communities, it's important."

And officials all agree, there's a way to put an end to the abuse before it gets worse.

"I think we still go back to prevention and knowing what my child is doing who they're with, where they're at and really having those conversations about what drug abuse looks like," Jensen said.

"They are so addictive and so harmful and we as a state need to do everything we can in our state and in our schools helping our parents and educators get that message out," Jackley said.

"One of the biggest things I'm looking for in the president's declaration of an emergency would be in those areas of prevention and treatment those need to be enhanced," said Milstead.

It's not only a public health crisis, but it's also a danger to law enforcement. Across the country, multiple police officers have been exposed to fentanyl and have needed to be treated with Nalaxone, or Narcan, as a result of unintended exposure.

Milstead said all law enforcement in Minnehaha County now carries Narcan not only for treating the public, but also in the event that a law enforcement officer needs emergency treatment for that type of exposure.

Sioux Falls Police Department Capt. Loren McManus was not available for an interview on Monday but said that they've also seen an increase in opiate-related crimes.

He said in 2015, the SFPD Narcotics division seized about one-quarter ounce of heroin and last year, they seized six ounces. He said they also saw an increase in dosage units -- or number of pills -- seized for both Oxycondone and Hydrocodone in 2016. Numbers for 2017 are not yet available.

McManus said SFPD has not had any encounters with fentanyl yet, but Milstead said his deputies in the county have.

Atty. Gen. Jackley encourages residents to take part in the No Meth Ever campaign, as well as Project Stand Up -- which allows you to text anonymously. To participate, text "DRUGS" to 82257, to report drug use or distribution to law enforcement. Jackley said so far more than a hundred reports have been made.