By Jewel Pickert, Hastings
When mayors get together they typically talk about "nuts and bolts" like infrastructure and budgets, not opioid abuse. Yet, opioid abuse affects so many cities, even our beloved Hastings.
Hastings Police Department doesn't track opiate-related incidents separately. Instead they track overall drug activity. Based on their reported calls for service featuring drug activity to total calls for service, in 2015, 33 percent of total calls pertained to drug activity. In 2016, it was 32 percent. For 2017, 44 percent. The 2018 figure is 47 percent at the time of this writing.
Of the total Hastings police case files created from 2015-2018, there was only one case of suicide by overdose. During that same time period, there were a total of 12 attempted suicides by overdose.
With these smaller numbers, you might think there's nothing to worry about. For others, one overdose is one too many.
Usually, we look at drug issues through a law enforcement lens. I wondered how Mayor Hicks viewed this issue.
He gave me some oft-heard comments like opioid abusers don't necessarily intend to get addicted in the first place. They just need prescription medication for their pain. Then they crave opioids later on.
He believes this issue is multi-dimensional. It involves treatment, as well as criminal and cultural dimensions.
While those elements might provide part of the solution, I found out that our mayor may have some hidden answers of his own. Hidden because he discounts their importance.
I don't, however.
Consider this: Mayor Hicks has never experimented with illegal drugs. He takes prescribed medication as directed. In fact, once when he took medication for back pain, he didn't like how he felt and quit taking the medicine.
I asked him why he was never tempted. He replied he had no interest in abusing drugs whatsoever, didn't even think about it. It just didn't make any sense to him.
Instead, he was high on life. He played sports, sang in the choir, debated, and concentrated on getting good grades. He was simply comfortable with who he was.
It didn't hurt that he knew better than to test his parents. He knew they would have been a force to be reckoned with.
He doesn't want us to ever give up helping people, though. He thinks we have a responsibility to reach out to those in need.
Indeed, the United Way has a program called Helping Kids Succeed — The Hastings Way for those interested in making vital connections.
If you're addicted and wondering why, Henry Kranzler, director of the Center for the Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania had this to say in the Aug. 19 Star Tribune: "Certainly more than half the risk [for opioid abuse] is genetic."
Perhaps Mayor Hicks wasn't tempted because he has the right kind of genes. Or, perhaps it's because he has always been high on life.
Maybe there's a lesson in there for us to stay active and to stay connected with those we care about.
As always, I will strive to add a dose of realism, while putting some worth in your while.