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Cedar Rapids Heroin Overdoses "Incredible"

Christopher Hawkins/flickr
Poppy Field

A federal prosecutor for Iowa’s Northern Judicial District briefed an advisory group in Des Moines today on the growing problem of heroin addiction, especially in eastern Iowa.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Chatham addressed the Iowa Drug Policy Advisory Council.    

Chatham prosecutes drug crimes, including dozens of heroin cases which have grown as users move from prescription meds to heroin.     

He says says heroin on the streets is getting more and more potent.

“We had an agent in charge who came from down close to the border,” Chatham says, “who was shocked to see we had 30 percent purity in Iowa.” 

Chatham says dealers are meeting growing demand with the purer product.  

Cedar Rapids Police created a new position of heroin coordinator.   He says overdose reports soared in the first three months of this year. 

“There were 40 overdose-related calls for service,” Chatham says.  “I don’t know if you have a sense of that but that is an incredible number.” 

Chatham says an especially powerful variant known as fentanyl started showing up in Cedar Rapids at about the same time.

A Des Moines police officer told the council that heroin cases used to be rare and now they happen weekly.  

Officials say beds for critical detox are scarce.  

Chatham says there’s a waiting list for a Heroin-Opiate Summit at the University of Iowa College of Public Health next month.

An official with the Iowa Department of Public Health said it’s likely there will be legislation introduced next year dealing with a powerful antidote to heroin overdose known as Narcan.