ST. PAUL, Minn. - Just days before lawmakers gather in St. Paul for the 2018 legislative session Governor Dayton gathered a bipartisan coalition to unveil an aggressive list of proposals to address Minnesota's growing opioid epidemic.
The legislative proposals are based on a new report called 'The Minnesota Opioid Action Plan' outlining potential strategies to curb the tide of opioid-related deaths and abuse that are impacting communities from north to south. Among them are a bill that would require pharmaceutical companies who manufacture opioids to pay a penny per pill sold in Minnesota that would fund a a comprehensive prevention, treatment, and recovery effort that would curb opioid abuse and save lives. After implementation, Dayton's admiinstration estimates the Stewardship Program would raise approximately $20 million a year for treatment and recovery, prevention, and emergency response services in every corner of Minnesota. More information about the Opioid Stewardship Program can be found here.
“Every year, thousands of Minnesotans become addicted to opioids, and hundreds of them lose their lives due to their addictions,” said Governor Mark Dayton in a letter included in the Action Plan. “Our Administration has already taken aggressive steps to reduce the flow of illicit opioids, improve treatment options, and support the people and areas affected. But we must do far more to save lives and reduce the terrible harm to our communities. We must take decisive action in this Legislative Session to reduce abuses and to ensure that all Minnesotans suffering from these addictions receive the treatment and support they need.”
Among those to support the legislative plan was Republican Representative Dave Baker of Willmar, who lost a child to a heroin overdose in 2011. “I don’t want to see other families go through what my family went through when we lost our son to an opioid addiction,” Baker told reporters. “Working across partisan divides, we can continue addressing opioid abuse in our state and help prevent opioid-related deaths. I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the Legislature to combat Minnesota’s opioid abuse crisis this Session.”
The action plan outlines four key areas of action.
- Prevention – State government already is engaging health care providers to improve how opioids are prescribed and used. The State of Minnesota also is working to improve coordination and information sharing between stakeholders to maximize results. According to the recommendations in the Action Plan released today, the State of Minnesota would implement additional strategies to improve public understanding of the risks posed by opioids, facilitate safe disposal of medications, help young people avoid and recover from opioid abuse, and develop better electronic health record systems.
- Emergency Response – For several years, the State of Minnesota has focused on helping first responders and community members address opioid overdoses, such as by expanding access to Naloxone (known as Narcan). The Action Plan recommends increasing the amount of funding available to purchase Naloxone, which would help local emergency service providers immediately address overdose deaths.
- Treatment and Recovery – Under Governor Dayton’s leadership, the State of Minnesota has been working to modernize Minnesota’s substance use disorder treatment system. The system is moving away from a focus on responding to acute episodes, to a person-centered model of care with an emphasis on managing substance use disorder as a chronic disease. Under the Action Plan, Minnesota would strengthen this work by expanding medication-assisted treatment, providing better support for pregnant women, creating new tools for practitioners, and ensuring access to culturally supportive care.
- Law Enforcement – The State of Minnesota already has worked to improve collaboration between public safety officials and public health professionals to encourage people to seek treatment and reduce the flow of illicit opioids. The Action Plan recommends that current collaboration efforts be expanded, justice system-based opioid abuse treatment programs be strengthened, and a predictable, equitable funding source for drug courts be identified.
Opioid overdose deaths in Minnesota have risen dramatically in recent years, increasing 66 percent between 2010 and 2016. Prescription opioids continue to be the most common cause of opioid overdose deaths, but Heroin-involved overdose deaths and synthetic opioids deaths also have seen a significant increase.
Overdoses have been especially harmful in tribal communities and communities of color. According to 2015 data American Indians were five times more likely to die from a drug overdose than white Minnesotans, and African American were two times more likely to die from a drug overdose than white residents.