Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.
After repeated efforts by many, Goodhue County secured a four-year, $499,469 federal grant on Sept. 26 to establish a treatment court.
During the March 29 public forum "Needles and Pills" at the Red Wing Public Library, the community was invited to hear experts discuss substance abuse issues in Goodhue County.
Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman said that narcotics arrests have increased dramatically over five years, with numbers ranging from 240, 274 and 220 from 2013-2015. In 2016 numbers skyrocketed to 469 arrests. In 2017 there were 532.
Goodhue County Judge Douglas Bayley, who was described by Goodhue County Commissioner Paul Drotos as the individual who spearheaded the drug court project, bluntly stated that combating drug abuse takes a three-pronged approach-education, enforcement and treatment.
The court will help with that, taking non-violent offenders and giving them a second chance.
During a Cannon Falls Area Triad meeting in June, Goodhue County Drug Task Force Investigator Jonathan Huneke said that while fentanyl is increasing the area, meth is likely "95 percent" of the cases that he deals with. He said that in 2015 the Southeast Minnesota Violent Crime Enforcement Team seized 155 grams of meth and then 163 grams in 2016.
Huneke said those numbers were considered high. Then in 2017, the team seized 1,091 grams. Huneke said he thinks they will continue to see numbers increase.
The Goodhue County Treatment Court grant will include drug testing and outpatient treatment.
The Drug Alcohol Abuse Normative Evaluation Systems or DAANES report showed that 439 local residents sought treatment for chemical dependency in 2017, a five-year high going back to 2013.
A treatment court will benefit the citizens of Goodhue County greatly, officials said, with agencies working diligently to make sure the program gets off the ground in 2019 and becomes a mainstay in the county.