DES MOINES, Iowa — A growing trend is becoming disturbingly normal for police.
“It’s scary but it is nothing new. We’ve been hearing that over time across the nation people are lacing heroin and other narcotics with fentanyl,” said Des Moines Police Department Sergeant Paul Parizek.
The lengths police say that Waukee couple Jake Stratton and Britteny Ballinger went to early Sunday with their three-month-old child in the vehicle shows how addicting it is. “When the officers got there she was actually slumped over on top of that infant in a position where if it had gone on any longer and somebody’s body shifted, that infant could have suffocated,” said Parizek.
Around 1:00 am Sunday with both Ballinger and Stratton overdosed in a vehicle at 12th and Woodland officers had to break the window just to get a response from Stratton. Narcan was needed for Ballinger who was hospitalized. Parizek said, “Over time and conversations with him they determined that he was under the influence of a narcotic and it sounds like heroin.”
Police say users of fentanyl-laced heroin in Iowa aren’t finding it by mistake. “One of the things we are hearing from folks that we are arresting is that they are actively seeking out heroin that is laced with fentanyl because they’ve been addicted for so long that they are looking for that higher high,” said Parizek.
The Iowa Department of Public Health estimates that fentanyl deaths rose from 31% of all overdoses in 2016 to 87% in 2021. Thanks to her care at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines Ballinger did not become another statistic but police say even jail time can’t remedy the alarming trend. Parizek said, “We need to have the resources to help treat them. We can do our job all day long and take people to jail we are good at that but that is not going to solve the problem.”
The US Drug Enforcement Agency says fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine. Just 2 milligrams could be deadly. Parizek said, “You are talking about a guy in his basement who’s using a dirty spoon to figure out how much fentanyl he’s gonna put in your heroin.”
It’s so addictive and lucrative for sellers that police are pleading for community help. “Focus on our kids and young adults and get them out of that addiction cycle and even the adults. Also, put a lot of effort into the prevention piece,” said Parizek.
Police say the baby was uninjured. Ballinger has been charged with possession of a controlled substance while Stratton has been charged with an OWI. Both are charged with neglect of a dependent person.