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Opiates still a problem for us

Drug overdose and related deaths continue to occur within our community.

At a recent meeting, U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Chris Myers indicated the trafficking and use of opioid drugs is a serious problem that must be addressed or the community will be faced with the potential loss of a whole generation. Law enforcement, healthcare professionals and addiction service providers echoed Myers assessment. Therefore, the question becomes what can be done to engage the community and find solutions to the opioid drug crisis and addiction treatment.

One such effort is the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Addiction, which is a joint effort from the mayors of West Fargo, Fargo, Moorhead, Horace and Dilworth. The commission will focus on efforts in three major areas: promotion and prevention, early intervention and treatment and recovery. Promotion and prevention efforts include community education and wellness programs. Early intervention includes assisting individuals or family members seeking assistance in locating treatment referral services and information resources. Treatment and recovery efforts include expanding existing treatment services and counseling programs.

Local healthcare providers Essentia Health and Sanford Health are also working on this issue and have instituted changes to prescription drug practices. Staff has completed educational programs focused on patient care and prescription drug use and abuse and patients are provided information relating to pain treatment options and alternatives to certain medications. Other practices, including reducing the amount of medication being dispensed, have also been adopted to limit misuse.

On the federal level, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, as well as U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, have been involved in passing the 21st Century Cures Act, providing $1 billion over two years to fight opioid addiction. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, approved in July, has a focus of reducing prescription opioid and heroin addiction by expanding prevention efforts and increasing addiction treatment opportunities. Hoeven was an author and helped introduce the Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act of 2016 designed to target the import of synthetic opioids.

The North Dakota Legislative Session is set to begin in January. Comprehensive studies relating to behavioral health and addiction have been completed. The recommendations of those studies have been drafted into legislative bills that will be introduced during the session. Available state and federal funding will have an impact on how these measures may be carried out.

What you, as a community member, can do to be part of the action is become better informed on the illness of addiction. Addiction is a medical condition not unlike diabetes, hypertension or cancer. A person's genetics can make them more susceptible to addiction than others.

Learn the signs of addictions, what commonly used narcotics and narcotic equipment looks like, how to have the talk with your family members and what resources are available, like 2-1-1 from Firstlink. This free, confidential resource connects callers to information about health and human services and is staffed by specialists trained in crisis intervention.

The North Dakota Prevention Stop Overdose website (https://prevention.nd.gov/stopoverdose) is another great resource to check out to educate yourself on addiction. Remember, we call can play a part in reaching for the solution.

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