NEW ULM, Minn. -- The deadly consequences of opioid abuse continue to dominate the national headlines, but locally, an old narcotic foe continues to haunt law enforcement.

New Ulm Police Department Cmdr. Dave Borchert said they are seeing a serious increase of meth usage in the area. As they battle the issue, they are bringing in experts from every aspect of drug addiction to deal with the matter. 

"The RED initiative is, it stands for Regional Evaluation for Diversion, " said Borchert.

" It's a collaborative effort to try to address this problem with mental illness and with chemical dependency, and trying to find the best option for again sometimes for jail diversion." 

Experts are seeing an unusual jump in drug use among those with mental health issues. Officers are teaming up with multiple agencies, to take on the issue, including New Ulm Medical Center Addiction Manager Marie Larsen.

Larsen said the meth increase is not the community's only worry. 

" It's no longer the marijuana and alcohol that are the big problems, those are there but the bigger issues that people are coming into adolescent treatment for are the harder drugs, the methamphetamine and the opiate use."

The increase of meth in the area did not begin overnight. Officials believe recently released prisoners from prior drug charges, almost a decade ago, are now out and learning new ways to manufacture meth.

Recently the Brown-Lyon-Redwood-Renville Drug Task Force ( BLRR)  closed several long investigations. The work ended with 31 arrests nearly $20,000 worth of seized narcotics, and six children removed from the home, and placed with social services.

However, along with the drug crimes, came violent crimes. New Ulm Senior Investigator Jeff Hohensee said the amount of felony and gross misdemeanor cases might surprise you. 

"85 percent of the cases that we deal with have some type of narcotics nexus," said Hohensee.

Borchert said he appreciated the work of the Drug Task Force. 

"It's maybe a window into the issue that we're dealing with and certainly we depend on the Drug Task Force far as providing some expertise," said Borchert.  

" And they demonstrated that they're able to do that."

Earlier this year the Brown County Sheriff's Office received padding in two of their jail cells, so the mentally ill wouldn't injure themselves in holding, but soon found that was not enough.

Cpl. Keith Anderson said their main resource right now is the New Ulm Medical Center.

" They have behavioral health unit on the same floor they have the chemical dependency unit," said Anderson. "And so if we can get them there, you know then the hospital can help them better than we can obviously."

The group is set on continue to fight this issue. Larsen said they ask for family members and friends, and ultimately the entire community, to show compassion for those suffering from these illnesses.

"Nobody chooses this in their life, nobody wants this in their life," said Larsen. " Our patients are sick, and they struggle the same way someone with a different medical condition struggles."

Anderson said officers will take a course tied to the Barbara Schneider Foundation, to learn how to better de-escalate situations with mentally ill individuals experiencing a crisis, a move he knows will only provide benefits. 

--KEYC News 12