Spotlight On the Opioid Epidemic In St. Louis County

In 2016, an average of 116 people died every day in the U.S. from opioid related drug overdoses, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DULUTH, Minn. – A woman whose son told her I just don’t want to die, but I can’t stop using.

Those are some of the personal stories shared during a round table on the opioid epidemic led by St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber.

He wanted to bring experts together who can help determine where federal funding could go for expanded treatment efforts.

He says the county needs more treatment beds.

“We have to make sure these people are given the resources and treatment necessary to get back into being productive citizens in our society,” said Stauber.

In 2016, an average of 116 people died every day in the U.S. from opioid related drug overdoses, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Stauber is aware of this severe opioid crisis specifically here in St. Louis County and this all comes at a cost.

“The $4 billion that was allocated in the omnibus bill to support the opioid prevention and treatment, that we have the opportunity to bring some right here in the Northland,” said Stauber.

Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) made the trip from Oregon to be a part of the conversation.

He authored a SUPPORT bill also known as Substance Use–Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities.

There were a few things that stuck out to him like women reluctant to seek treatment because they’re afraid their kids will be taken away.

He says another barrier is prior authorization for medication.

“That you have to get a sign off from the insurance company before you can begin providing the basic treatment someone needs to get off their addiction,” said Walden. “While there’s obvious reason for that it seems to be an unnecessary impediment in some emergency cases.”

Afterward there was a tour of Clear Path Clinic, a six–bed co–ed facility.

Staff say they aren’t the answer to everything but it’s a start.

“There are so many people out there who are struggling and need more access to treatment. we need to get them in and started on medication through our pathfinder,” said Clear Path Clinic Clinical Supervisor Randi Shea.

Earlier this year the Duluth Police Department received a donation of Narcan kits and the county has a drug prescription monitoring program.

The theme of this meeting was collaboration, something Congressman Walden says he will take back to Congress.

“You just keep hearing the problem and you just keep trying to legislate and fix them,” said Walden.

Addresing the issue of opioids has many layers and prevention is a big part of it.

Overall these experts want to make sure that when someone wants treatment they have a place to go to and they can get the help they need.

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