The final question in our City Council candidate’s forum is on the growing drug problem and solutions the City can contribute to. And for more on the election and other forum questions, check out our election headquarters here.
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Please comment on the drug problem that exists within the community. How do you envision the City of Minot’s role as part of the solution?
Shortly after the election the Mayor is calling for a Blue Ribbon panel to bring all of the agencies and players together to bring a community wide effort to address the problem and identify solutions. The council will play a role in this fight by bringing together the resources and assets to fight the problems. To give a more definitive answer right now would be just a bit premature as finding the funds to coincide with identified solutions will be the first challenge especially now in times of a very tight budget. For that reason it will take a concerted effort by the community, regional and state agencies to reverse this horrible epidemic. I I believe addiction is a disease and by in large can't be cured without treatment and support.
In addressing the drug problem, the city needs to focus on better law enforcement, to reduce crime (e.g., more police officers out on the street), and support local drug treatment programs.
Individuals who abuse drugs need treatment, not jail. By building and maintaining a strong and healthy community, we will ultimately reduce drug problems. We need to work with state and federal governments to make treatment programs more accessible in the community (e.g., facilitating the recently opened methadone clinic, that treats opioid addiction).
I have sympathy for people who get hooked on drugs, and want to help them get their lives back on track. I don't have sympathy for those (on drugs) who rob and hurt others; they need to be held accountable for their actions.
First I'd like to say that I'm proud that the city is addressing this more directly as of very recent. Minot and North Dakota in general has had a huge drug problem for years. While I know it's easy for many people to instantly label those whom have gotten involved in drugs as criminals we must start to recognize that addiction is a disease, whether that addiction is to illegal substances, legal substances, alcohol, gambling, etc. Fighting addiction is going to be hard and there is not a singular solution. As North Dakota moves forward with its plan to build a clinic in Minot, we must also make sure that we are supportive and expand rehabilitation services, preventative programs, and work with law enforcement to stop the distribution of illegal substances. Whether or not you or someone you know has drug issues it affects our entire city. We need to address these issues head on with the input and the support of our citizens. We have many people who have already been fighting and have seen the huge impact drugs have on their families, friends, and their personal lives. We need to decide on an effective course soon before more lives are destroyed.
I have a unique perspective to the drug problem in our community. As a Law Enforcement officer I routinely speak with individuals who are addicted to controlled substances, and their stories are always tough to hear. One story I routinely hear is that when released from correctional facilities, they are immersed in an environment of drug abuse again. This makes it hard for them to stay clean. I am hopeful that the recent Park South Apartment project can be a place that people in recovery can go and be free of the negative influences. Drug abuse is a complicated issue and I am unsure of what the city's role will be in the future. However the city is forming a committee to examine what it can do. This is an excellent first step to determine the city's role. I am sure the Mayor has considered the idea, but I think it would be prudent for the city to reach out to the State Health department and The First District Health unit to assist the committee.
Additction is an important issue, and is a societal challenge in many communities iincluding Minot. Addressing it requires a coordinated approach by multiple organizations with multiple roles to play, including City Government. The problem is such that no one entity can significantly impact it alone. One role is getting drug dealer networks shut down by law enforcement, and Minot Police have a part in that. I supported the methadone clinic in Minot, the first one in the state, because of concerned parents and relatives of addicted individuals. Sen. Heitkamp's recent forum and citizen input is resulting in the Mayor appointing a Blue Ribbon Panel to take further local steps. I applaud the work of Sentor Heitkamp and others to engage the national medical community for increased awareness and help to keep people from slipping into opioid addiction from prescription meds. I favor whatever combination of rehab, treatement or incarceration will produce the best result for the individual, which understandably can vary in each case. We need more treatment programs. The City must encourage other organizations to engage & partner in building the solution set.
Following the upcoming city council election, Mayor Barney will form the Mayoral Blue Ribbon Commission to bring various professionals from health and safety together to create strategies and a campaign to address this community and state wide tragedy. I commend him on his leadership. I've heard from countless parents, grandparents and professionals that want to see our local government do more. We can create a coordinated, visible city wide campaign to address the gaps in treatment options and services offered. We can begin with a very public 'Take Back Initiative' in collaboration with a local pharmacy and law enforcement to have often over prescribed medications easily and safely discarded. A few years ago, I severed my achilles and 30+ Oxycotin were prescribed. Painful, but the drug did nothing to heal my leg, but everything to prevent me from caring for myself while living alone. I cut my doses in half and couldn't function. However, the 'high' scared me enough to stop taking my medication. After two doses I gave it back to local law enforcement in Juneau. There is no easy fix. This is a human issue and not simply a crime issue. This affects all of us! And, we will do more!
There's a data correlation between the increase in prescriptions written for opioid-based painkillers like oxycodone and the rise in opioid addictions in the past ~15 years. I'd say there's evidence to suggest some degree of causation. It's what makes Ohio's recent lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies so significant; it reminds me a lot of the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s. One state, at least, is attempting to introduce some corporate accountability into the equation. Well done Ohio!
I mention it because the drug problem is not a Minot problem or a North Dakota problem alone; it's much bigger than that. Here's what we can do locally:
First, we can follow Fargo's Blue Ribbon Commission blueprint and get all our local agencies and non-profits working together. The symptoms of this cultural disease spread out like ripples to all corners of our community, and we'll weather them better if we face them as a team.
Second, we can support our frontline people in needed policy changes and resource requests at higher levels of government. When we speak as the City of Minot, we have strength. So, we need to make ourselves strong, and then use that strength to get what we need.