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Ashland County has a rash of overdose deaths

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A perplexing problem of prescription drug overdose deaths is alarming law enforcement officers in far northern Wisconsin.

Ashland County Sheriff John Kovach says prescription pain killer overdoses have killed four people in the last six months in his rural county. He says it's the top priority for the Chequamagon Bay Drug Task Force. But so far, there are no solutions. He says the county has averaged about two overdose deaths a year and he calls four deaths in six months "unprecedented."

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Kovach says lethal concoctions of oxycontin, hydrocodone and other pain killers have killed 17 people in Ashland County in the past five years. In neighboring Bayfield County, Red Cliff Tribal Police Chief Charlie Bresette says prescription drug overdoses have accelerated in the past two years. He says teenagers think because the drugs are prescribed by a doctor, it's safe. Bresette says prescription drug parties are the "new, in thing" for kids in different parts of the country, where they dump their parents' medicine in a bowl and take handfuls of pills.

Both say a prescription drug monitoring program is needed. The Attorney General's office says Wisconsin is one of only 10 states without a prescription drug registry. A bill has been proposed in the State Assembly.

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