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Minnesota takes key steps in fight against opiate abuse

Comprehensive statewide strategy marks a successful first year

February 20, 2014

Katie Mintz

PDF version of news release

Efforts to curb a wave of prescription drug abuse and addiction to other opiates marked the first full year of the Minnesota State Substance Abuse Strategy. Minnesota met the strategy’s immediate goals to increase education for physicians and other front-line professionals about treatments for opioid dependence, how abuse of opioid-based prescription drugs can lead to addiction to other opiates like heroin and how to reverse an opiate overdose.

As described in Minnesota State Substance Abuse Strategy: First Year Report, 2013 also brought laws tightening regulations around methadone treatment centers, three new drug courts, stronger DWI sanctions and other changes in state laws and policies that align with the strategy. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Twin Cities Public Television advanced public awareness of the issue by producing “Heroin at Home,” a three- part documentary available on the tpt and DHS websites.

 “Substance abuse and its effects on health, public safety, families and the workplace are among the most critical issues facing Minnesota,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.  “We launched the strategy in late 2012 with the goal of addressing this issue in the most comprehensive way.  We are gaining momentum but much work remains in 2014.”

DHS developed the strategy with the state departments of Public Safety, Corrections, Health and Education as well as the judicial branch, the Minnesota National Guard and the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. Participation has expanded to include the Department of Labor and Industry, the Minnesota Prevention Resource Center, the Hennepin Regional Poison Center and the University of Minnesota/Boynton Health Service.

“Prevention, early identification, and treatment of substance abuse are difficult tasks that require the cooperation of many partners, from schools and health care organizations to law enforcement and the correctional system,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “I’m pleased that over the last year we’ve been able to develop a multi-prong approach with many new partners to address the problems caused by alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. I’m confident that these efforts will help reduce the pain and suffering created by these substances and help improve the health of all Minnesotans.”

Areas of focus for 2014 will include:

  • Continuing to reduce prescription drug abuse, in part by strengthening the Prescription Monitoring Program, which detects diversion, abuse and misuse of prescription medicines classified as controlled substances.
  • Legislation that would increase, beyond medical professionals, access to the opiate reversal agent naloxone. Some opiate overdose deaths could be prevented by administration of naloxone in a timely manner coupled with emergency services.
  • New legislation and public awareness efforts to combat use of synthetic drugs, which has been on the rise in some parts of Minnesota and has resulted in deaths.
  • Efforts to increase access to drug courts, which have lowered re-offense rates and had other positive benefits for participants.

“Law enforcement agencies across the state know firsthand the damage substance abuse causes in our communities,” said Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “The only way to fight substance abuse is with a unified and coordinated approach that includes education, enforcement and treatment.”

More information is available in the first-year report.

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