Minn. campaign to take on opiates, heroin

Minnesota hopes a new statewide substance abuse collaboration will help the state get a handle on its growing opiate and heroin problem.

Government and civic leaders released their strategy Thursday at the State Capitol. The strategy will be implemented across state agencies from Public Safety to Corrections to Education and Health. It also gives priority to evidence-based interventions.

David Frenz, medical director for addiction medicine for the Healtheast Care System, said the medical community also has a role to play. Franz said doctors desperately need more training on how to responsibly prescribe controlled substances.

"Doctors are part of the problem because a lot of those prescription pain pills and other controlled substances that are abused come from doctors," Frenz said. "We pick up a pen, write a prescription, give it to patients and then it's sort of off to the races in terms of problems."

Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said in the short term, the strategy will address the rapid growth in prescription opiate and heroin abuse in Minnesota.

"Too many of our youth think that because prescription drugs are legal when they're prescribed that they maybe safe, when they're not," Jesson said. "And too many parents, I think, and families, think heroin [is] not a problem, couldn't be a problem in our community. And it is."

State officials will seek input on their substance abuse strategy this fall during a series of community meetings to be held across the state.

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