Minnesota responds to opioid crisis with strategies focused on inclusion and awareness

minnesota opioid crisis

Opioid-related deaths in Minnesota increased fivefold between 1999 and 2014. And in 2015, there were 216 deaths related to opioid pain relievers, according to the state’s Department of Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Unit. A review of state death records revealed that opioid painkillers claimed more lives than homicides each year.

State officials have implemented several strategies to temper the rise of opioid-related fatal overdoses.

Minnesota’s Opioid Prescribing Improvement Project (OPIP) “is working to reduce inappropriate prescribing in state healthcare programs by developing guidelines, measures of provider prescribing, prescriber quality improvement, and, if needed, disenrollment of providers from the state Medicaid program,” according to a statement from the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS).

An inclusive strategy is integral to successfully reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in Minnesota. The DHS is leading the Opioid Prescribing Work Group (OPWG), which is made up of prescribers, pharmacists, mental health professionals, consumers, law enforcement, state health plans, and government partners who provide advice and support to the OPIP.

The DHS is also focusing on raising community awareness. The state’s grant application proposed developing strategies that focus on raising awareness of sharing medications; bringing prescription drug abuse prevention activities to schools and communities; and increasing the use of the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP).

The PMP is “an important tool to make sure that people abusing opioids cannot go to multiple doctors to receive multiple prescriptions,” the DHS said in a statement. “Beginning in the summer of 2017, all prescribing providers are required to register to use the PMP.”

Minnesota’s opioid crisis began receiving front page coverage after the death of pop icon Prince, who died of an accidental fentanyl overdose last April.

During an investigation into Prince’s medications, authorities discovered pill bottles in his home that were labeled as hydrocodone. However, the pills inside were laced with fentanyl, according to officials. It’s unclear whether Prince knew of the mislabeling, but officials stated that Prince had no valid prescriptions for the substance at the time.

Mere weeks after his sudden death, the DEA released a document it had been preparing since 2015 — which warned law enforcement officials of the dangers of fentanyl — along with a report on counterfeit prescription pills that may contain the drug.

Soon after, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sponsored a bill that encouraged states and local communities to join the fight against opioid addiction. The bill included efforts such as… (continue reading)