Editor's note: This is an introduction to an ongoing series on opioid overdoses in the Northland.
The call goes out over the police scanner: Possible heroin overdose in the men's bathroom at a downtown sandwich shop.
Before a reporter could run the two blocks to witness the scene, two police cruisers, a fire truck and an ambulance are already there. A man is being walked to the back of the ambulance. Police are questioning witnesses.
"Did they have agonal breathing?"
The manager wasn't sure.
"It sounded like they were snoring."
That's the sound of the human body beginning the slide into oblivion.
Overdoses are just one part of the ongoing opioid crisis in the Northland. But as the Duluth Police Department noted grimly in January, overdoses had already killed at least five people this year.
The News Tribune will be taking an in-depth look at overdoses over the next several months to explore the pain of our community - families, friends and neighbors - and highlight the search for solutions.
There can be no turning away when people are slumped over steering wheels or curled up on the floors of public restrooms. This is a problem hidden in plain view.