Investigators are looking into a series of heroin-related overdoses that occurred in Williston over the course of six days, reports the Forum News Service.
One man is dead and eight others were treated for opioid overdoses. On Saturday between 1 and 9 p.m. first responders were dispatched to five different locations where they found four men, aged 28 to 31, and a woman, 45, who had overdosed. On Friday and Thursday of last week, two 25-year-old men were treated for the same condition.
Also, last Monday, a 32-year-old overdosed on heroin at a hotel. The next day, a different man, age 30, died of an overdose in a home. As reported by the FNS, authorities have not commented on whether or not the incidents are related, and remain unsure if the death was an accident or not.
According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year, 2014 saw a record number of drug overdose related deaths. The report used data taken from death certificates and found that 47,000 people died from overdoses in 2014, with the leading cause attributed to heroin and prescription pain medications.
Although the increased rates are not out of the norm, Sgt. Det. Amy Nickoloff with the Williston Police Department told the FNS, “We’ve never had those high of numbers that close together.” The investigation into the incidents is being led by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Northwest Narcotics Task Force.
Since the beginning of the oil boom, western North Dakota’s health and legal resources have been stretched thin due to caseloads growing exponentially alongside the population. Last year, ND lawmakers took a tour of the oil patch and heard testimony from those working on the front lines of the area’s health and legal systems. Although the energy market has slowed, Northwest District Judge Robin Schmidt told KX News, “I can unequivocally say they are not here for the court system.”
She commented, “A large portion of our problem is drug and mental health related so if we can get a drug court going, we can hopefully get a handle on some of this and actually start solving the problem instead of just putting a Band-Aid on it.”