The Pine County Board received its annual report from Dr. Quinn Piper, Chief Medical Examiner of the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, this week.
According to Dr. Piper, the medical examiner’s office investigated 207 deaths in 2022 in Pine County. 37 of those cases required additional work by the Medical Examiner's Office, which Dr. Piper said is lower than the previous year. Those cases broke down into one homicide, 15 accidental deaths, 11 natural deaths, nine suicides, and one tissue/bone review.
In the bone testing case, Dr. Piper said a resident had found bones. They were later deemed to be non-human.
The report stated that accidental deaths related to drug use were down — 12 in 2021 compared to three in 2022.
“You think that’s the availability of the naloxone?” County Board member Matt Ludwig asked.
“It certainly could be,” Dr. Piper said in response. “It could be many, many different factors, but that’s what I was thinking. Individuals have it (naloxone). I think first responders have it, so I think that seems to make a significant difference.”
Dr. Piper says she hopes education around fentanyl and what people may or may not be using is helping as well.
“2021 was a rough year all around, to be honest, for most of our counties,” said Dr. Piper.
The Midwest Medical Examiner's Office noted that the number of suicides in Pine County are up from 2021.
Board chair Steve Hallan asked, “Nine, is that high or low?”
Dr. Piper said it was significantly higher than the year prior, but she is hoping to receive more data within their new case management system for comparison.
“Before, we always had a five-year outlook, and so, we’ll just see how it goes. Sometimes there’s no identifiable reason specifically that an individual would do that (commit suicide). It's very personal and very varying among the individuals,” Dr. Piper said.
Kanabec County looks at next steps on marijuana legislation
The Kanabec County Board of Commissioners discussed what steps the county will take after Minnesota legislation legalizing recreational marijuana passed in May.
Kanabec County sheriff Brian Smith said an ordinance on THC edible products should be a priority.
According to Community Health Director Kathy Burski, a county moratorium in place on edibles will expire in September.
"When the Office of Cannabis Management opens, they're going to provide some direction, but that's not expected for another year, really," Burski said.
Burski also added that a licensing process similar to alcohol or tobacco would be beneficial to the county.
She added that a smaller number of issued licenses would ease the burden on the sheriff’s office and help with community health messaging.
"The messaging that goes out to our youth is is really where I come from," Burski said. "We want to not have it be the norm, from a public health perspective. We don't want it on every corner. We don't want big advertising. We want to minimize all of that, as much as we can."
A group including Burski and Smith will put together an ordinance draft and bring it back to the board at a later meeting.
Isanti utility extension project gets underway
The intersection of Eagle Street and Third Avenue was temporarily closed as work got underway on Isanti’s Third Avenue utility extension project on Thursday.
On Friday, July 7, Eagle Street will be shut down on the west side of Third Avenue to allow for the installation of sanitary force main.
Temporary road closures will follow for a couple of weeks as the impacted streets are repaved.
The utility extension is for the addition of the Isanti Railview North Industrial Park.
The construction schedule is subject to change based on weather and progress made.
Dairyland Power Cooperative receives grant dollars for rural broadband
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded a $14.89 million Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant to Dairyland Power Cooperative in Wisconsin to expand internet access in underserved rural communities.
Through this grant, 240 miles of Dairyland’s transmission network will be retrofitted with optical ground wire during its Tri-State Fiber Deployment Project.
Dairyland serves much of western Wisconsin, including Polk and Burnett Counties.