Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says he will enter an alcohol treatment program on Monday, according to his health update that was released Friday afternoon.
Last week, Freeman announced he was going on medical leave to deal with health issues related to the "high stress" of his job.
Friday afternoon's statement from Freeman said,"With the love and support of my family, I am entering a well-respected treatment program beginning Monday. I am determined to reclaim my health and, barring any unforeseen issues, my goal is to return to work by no later than mid-June."
According to last week's news release, while Freeman is gone, chief deputies David Brown and Lolita Ulloa will take over day-to-day operations of the office.
Freeman's decision may change his life, but experts say it could also impact others who are struggling, saying it's a reminder of the prevalence of alcohol abuse, and an example of a visible, successful person addressing it.
“Anytime this comes into the spotlight, it brings it up again for people to start that process of, ‘Maybe now's the time,’ ‘What should I do?’ ‘Where can I get resources?’ ‘How do I start the process?’” said Brian Zirbes, Vice President of Operations for Northstar Behavioral Health, which offers inpatient and outpatient treatment programs specializing in substance dependence.
Experts say it starts by checking if you have insurance coverage, and calling your county human services office if you don't. Then---just like Freeman says he did---you need an assessment, which often gauges how much you're using a substance, and how it impacts your job, hobbies or relationships.
They say most people never take those first steps because of fear or embarrassment, saying 1 in 10 Minnesotans has a substance abuse disorder, yet only 10 percent of those get care.
“Tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans are not accessing treatment right now,” said Zirbes.
So many need help and so few get it, but they may be encouraged by seeing public figures make their problems public.