Dubuque law enforcement says opioid related calls continue to rise

Family members and loved ones took the stage at Grand River Conference Center to share their stories of how opioids tore their families a part.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:40 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Dubuque County Law enforcement and substance abuse advocate groups highlighted the need for education on opioids in Dubuque Thursday.

Family members and loved ones took the stage at the Grand River Conference Center to share this story of how opioid tore their families apart.

“Our oldest son Seth, at the age of 23, was found dead in a hotel in Waterloo,” said Jeff Johnston.

Seth passed away in October 2016. Johnston said Seth struggled with addiction since the age of 16 and used opioids to self-medicate his mental health issues. It was then that Johnston started Living Undeterred. The organization focuses on discussions with young people about the dangers of alcohol and drugs as well as mental health.

It’s stories like Johnston’s that Dubuque County law enforcement wants people to hear because the number of calls from opioid addictions continues to rise. Since 2016, 43 people have died due to opioids.

“It’s either staying steady year after year or slowly increasing,” said Dubuque Police Lieutenant Brendan Welsh. “Now, with the introduction of fentanyl and how many different types of counterfeit drugs, it’s becoming more and more dangerous.”

Walsh said this is a message they want high school and college-age kids to hear so their families don’t have to go through what Johnston’s family has endured. It’s pain Jeff said never goes away.

“It’s hard,” he said. “I cried 5 times on the way up here with my son.”