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Is heroin use a growing epidemic in our area?

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Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Heroin is crushing families and burdening law enforcement and some say addiction and heroin abuse are becoming an epidemic.

"I can't handle life any more. I've been wanting to get a bunch of heroin, and shoot it all at once, and just be done with everything,”

A haunting message Brian Raftevold received from his son Josh,

"I'm sorry dad, I know it can't be easy reading this. But I'm not planning on doing anything that's going to affect me forever,”

...weeks before the 19-year-old's heroin addiction spiraled out of control.

"It crushed me,” said Raftevold.

Josh took his own life just over a year ago.

"At 2:45 on February 15th last year, it changed my life forever,” said Raftevold.

Sadly, Josh's story isn't rare.

In the past decade in North Dakota, drug overdose deaths have more than tripled and in Minnesota, more people die of drug overdoses than from vehicle crashes.

In Fargo-Moorhead, some say heroin is becoming more readily available than most other street drugs.

"What I've been told is there was this massive load of it that came in last summer and it's been around ever since,” said Jeremy Kelly, founder of F-M Good Neighbor Project.

Seeing a need in the community, the Good Neighbor Project provides clean needles and life-saving drug Naloxone.

The Moorhead-based project offers training on how to administer the overdose antidote and collects used syringes to prevent the spread of disease.

It's hoping to take dangerous needles off the streets, so addicts can recover.

Last month, staff collected more than 900 dirty needles.

This month, they're on pace to amass nearly 1,000.

Moorhead law enforcement are on board with the harm-reduction strategy.

Police here say they've been dealing with what's become a thriving heroin industry.

"We see it be a business, and we see that there's a lot of money with it, it's organized, it's trafficked in. and unfortunately there's a heavy demand for it in the metro,” said Lt. Tory Jacobson.

And it's leading to other crimes.

This couple, convicted last year for robbing a half dozen metro stores, stealing money to fuel a heroin addiction.

Before his son, Raftevold battled heroin addiction, himself.

"For me, it only made me care about myself. I didn't care about anybody else. When I was married, I didn't care about my wife and I didn't care about my kids,” said Raftevold.

Now clean and still grappling with Josh's death, he's watching the drug grip others.

"I'm tired of losing people,” said Raftevold.

Many say painkiller abuse can lead to heroin use.

Locally, law enforcement accepts unused prescription medicine and some federal lawmakers are pushing for stricter opioid painkiller regulation to fight a national heroin epidemic.

Catherine Ross

Catherine joined the WDAY 6 News team as a reporter and photographer in April of 2014 and is honored to bring you stories from around the Red River Valley. She grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis and got her first taste of the news industry during a high school mentorship at Fox 9 in the Twin Cities. Catherine graduated from Emerson College in Boston where she participated in the student-run TV station WEBN and spent a semester in Washington, DC working at Voice of America. Those opportunities gave her a front-row seat to the 2012 Presidential election cycle, reporting at the Iowa Caucuses, Republican National Convention and President Obama’s second inauguration. Now happy to be back closer to family, Catherine enjoys exploring the nature and culture of the upper Midwest. She’s an avid runner, novice foodie and lifelong Twins fan. If you have any story ideas or just want to say hello, Catherine would love to hear from you!

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