$180k used to fight opioid epidemic in Grand Forks

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) Fighting back against the opioid epidemic. Tonight, some major funds flowing into the Red River Valley to help curb the dramatic spike in overdoses.

Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is now sold at 5 different pharmacies in Grand Forks. That's 5 more than there were last year.

The antidote used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses is only part of new plan to attack the city's drug problem.

"It's 180,000 dollars," said Grand Forks Public Health Department Director Debbie Swanson.

Grant money from the state is set to be signed off at Monday night's city council meeting. The Public Health Department says they have variety of plans in place for the money.

The first will be to hire coordinator. Officials say a base-salary employee will be needed to tackle their agenda.

One of the newest strategies to tackle to opioid addiction is Medication-Assisted Treatment. A strategy to have primary care physicians help addicts slowly become less dependent on the drug.

"That's currently not very available in the Grand Forks area. That's one of our main goals to make that available," Swanson said.

She says there is no place in Grand Forks that offers that type of treatment now. She anticipates that to change in the next year.

Grand Forks saw more than double the amount of overdoses from 2015 to 2016, nearly 500 of them. Grand Forks is on-track for less than 400 this year.

Swanson says the money will also be used to hold doctors accountable for the amount of pain pills they prescribe, a renewed effort at treatment in the corrections process and de-stigmatizing addiction.

"Understanding harm-reduction is an important aspect of this work," Swanson said.

She says educational efforts will be key in beating the opioid crisis.

One of those educational forums will take place tomorrow. A documentary and panel discussion will be at the Empire Arts Center tomorrow at 7 pm.