This past week the number one thing State and Local officials talked about this past week was Opioid Issues. Check out my interview above with ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem about the opioid epidemic in North Dakota.
What did public officials tweet about this week?— Liz Malm (@elizabeth_malm) March 18, 2016
In just over a week our community has lost 3 people to heroin overdoses. Cops say laced heroin is coming into our community and taking people’s lives.
Maybe even more shocking is that according to the ND Department of Health, we have seen a 1,065% increase in heroin usage in just over 18 months. The problem is becoming epidemic, so we sat with ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to find out his ideas on how to solve this the opioid/heroin problem in North Dakota.
In the interview, Mr. Stenehjem reiterated how big of a problem this is in our state by giving an example of how many heroin samples the ND crime lab has tested already this year. He gave the example that in 2012, the crime lab analyzed 42 samples of heroin for the entire year. In 2016, the crime lab tested 43 samples of heroin in January alone. His numbers speak to just how serious of a problem North Dakota is facing.
I asked Mr. Stenehjem what he is doing as attorney general and what he would do as Governor to solve this problem. He mentioned that we cannot continue to simply incarcerate people and hope they get rehabilitated by being incarcerated. He suggests we need to focus more of our efforts and resources on treatment options. He is suggesting that if we can better treat people with addiction issues, we can actually save money because we are not spending $43,000 per inmate in North Dakota. I believe Mr. Stenehjem is suggesting that treatment could potentially turn an addict from a liability to society to an asset...meaning if we spend the money up front to treat addicts, we can get them back out into our society and help them live a productive life.
One other aspect Mr. Stenehjem says we need to focus on to solve this problem is to continue the prescription drug monitoring program. This program is designed to ensure that doctors are not mis-prescribing/over-prescribing and potentially causing people to become addicted in the first place to opiates.
One of the toughest challenges for judges that deal with drug addicts is the minimum mandatory sentencing. A lot of judges would like more autonomy and flexibility with this, so rather than simply incarcerating someone, they may be able to better suggest a treatment program. Mr. Stenehjem says he is looking to work with judges to give them more flexibility.
In early February, President Barack Obama released a plan that would provide over a $1BN to help with the opioid/heroin problem in America. States can request federal funding from this program to help with their opioid/heroin issues. Mr. Stenehjem said that right now there are people in the state of North Dakota that are working to get access to some of this federal funding. You can find out more about President Obama’s program by clicking on the link in RELATED LINK box on the right side of this post.
Do you feel North Dakota is doing enough to solve this opioid/heroin problem? What more do you feel they should be doing? Would love to know your thoughts and suggestions.