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Battling the epidemic of opioid addiction takes a team effort

May 6

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5/6/2016 1:06 PM  RssIcon

Opioid addiction is now an epidemic, according to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That includes addiction to both the illegal form - heroin, and legal versions - painkillers. In fact, four out of five heroin addicts say they started on prescription drugs. The results are devastating: skyrocketing incidents of overdoses, more and more children being removed from homes where parents battle addiction, and other heartbreak

Senator Amy Klobuchar has been holding forums throughout the state seeking input from those on the front lines in this battle, and today she stopped in Duluth. The panel discussion included two St. Louis County representatives: County Attorney Mark Rubin and PHHS's Marcia Gurno, who helps coordinate the Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention Initiative (SAPII). Also participating were representatives from local law enforcement, substance abuse treatment programs and medical experts.

The panel had numerous suggestions for the Senator of ways the federal government could help, focusing on areas including prevention, treatment, recovery support and more. (Read the letter presented to the Senator here.) For instance, it was noted that the Drug Court program has a high success rate with participants, but only people convicted of felonies have access to Drug Court resources. Whereas an individual who has overdosed and is brought to a hospital must typically wait four to six weeks to get the help they need.

The most powerful moment came when a young mother named Jessica shared her story of overcoming what was a seven-year addiction. She started taking pills at age 13. At one point she ended up in a local hospital's Intensive Care Unit for three weeks, but even that wasn't enough to get her to stop. It was when she learned she was pregnant that she finally found the motivation to seek help from Marcia Gurno (shown below, holding the microphone. Jessica's daughter is the little girl on the right.)

Jessica ended her comments thanking St. Louis County and Marcia Gurno for saving her life.

St. Louis County employees with Senator Amy Klobuchar. L-R are: Marcia Gurno, Mark Rubin, Sen. Klobuchar, Asst County Attorney Ben Stromberg, Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook, Public Health and Human Service Director Dave Lee, Adult Services Division Director Gena Bosshert and SAPII Coordinator Jeff Polcher.

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