By Liz Collin

DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) — Northern Minnesota is getting federal help to fight the opioid epidemic. On Wednesday, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it’s expanding to Duluth.

WCCO found how high prescription rates have poisoned communities up north.

Duluth Police respond to at least a few opioid overdose calls every week. In the last few years, they’ve saved nearly 100 lives with Narcan, medicine that reduces the effects of an overdose.

Now, they hope a new partnership will help them save more people.

“The addiction is destroying lives. It is disrupting families, it drives up crime and it tears apart our community,” Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said.

It’s the same devastating scenes playing out in picturesque Duluth, where heroin and methamphetamine overdoses are at an all-time-high as police scramble to interrupt the supply.

Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge, Richard Salter blames the problem on high prescription rates in St. Louis County.

“Medicines are killing more people than street drugs,” Salter said.

Years later leading to the highest rates of overdose deaths in Minnesota.

“We will connect those dots all the way to a cartel,” Salter said.

Soon, they’ll have more help in the fight, four officers under the DEA dedicated to putting the often cross-country and global cases together.

“With DEA, a case worked in Seattle or Houston or San Antonio all that intelligence goes into a single database. We will take his phone, we will look at who he talks to, where he travels,” Salter said.

Just as officers did earlier this summer with two arrests and Duluth’s biggest drug bust in history, $350,000 worth of heroin.

A team approach to repairing an addiction with more resources before it’s too late.

“It takes all of us to prop our community up and get people well again,” Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said.

These new agents will work alongside officers in the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force just as soon as they are hired

Prosecutors are also focused on cracking down on these cases across the state. This year, the Minnesota’s U.S Attorney’s office has charged 103% more meth cases and 77% more heroin cases over all of last year.

Liz Collin