This week, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bipartisan bill that takes the state’s first steps toward tackling the opioid epidemic ravaging Minnesota, and more acutely Greater Minnesota.
The bill creates higher registration fees on opioid manufacturers, which is expected to raise about $21 million annually, to fund prevention strategies, intervention, treatment and recovery. Some of those funds will also go to counties to reimburse them for increasing child protection costs, while also funding treatment for the state’s tribal communities.
A 19-person advisory committee will be formed to look at the outcomes already in the state and determine gaps in services to see where resources are needed.
This is a great first step for Minnesota in targeting the drug issues that threaten our families and friends. With the opioid epidemic centered around the greed of drug companies acting with reckless abandonment to drive sales and profit, they made themselves an easy target for states to go after. And go after they did.
During the signing ceremony, Walz said implementation will be key to the effectiveness of the bill. He’s right. But the lawmakers involved in getting it this far will be critical in also pushing for further action if needed to curb the illegal sales, overprescribing and more associated with the onset of this epidemic.
They will also be a needed force when Minnesota aims to crack down on the rise of methamphetamine in the state and the region. With so much local, regional and national attention on opioids, meth overdoses have risen steadily.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed by lawmakers, who acknowledge the easier path to regulate prescription drugs, but that doesn’t make the need for action any less crucial. Promising for the future of opioid and meth related action in the state, whatever that may ultimately be, is the presence and impact of St. Louis County lawmakers who helped push through this legislation, fronted by Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, and signed onto by Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora.
Their involvement was encouraging for our region.
St. Louis County has some of the highest rates for meth and opioid related deaths and overdoses in Minnesota — a ground zero of sorts for the issues that have followed, including a shortage of treatment facilities, outsized out-of-home placements numbers and ballooning county budgets to account for it all.
The work done locally and by the county and drug task forces, at times, has only kept their heads above water. Hopefully, this bill can help ease those shortages and being to drive in to the deeper issues that lead to drug abuse.
The opioid bill is one step to curbing this scourge on society. The next will be determined on how much appetite our state government has to continue recognizing and addressing the situation before it gets too late.