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Column: Let's tackle addiction and prevention openly

Keith Franke

By Keith Franke, Minnesota House District 54A represents House

With 134 members in the Minnesota House of Representatives, everyone brings a unique set of skills, expertise and life experiences to the discussion. Personally, I want to use my experience to help Minnesotans struggling with addiction.

This is one of the issues that transcends political party or ideology; everyone probably knows someone who's struggled with addiction, and that common thread brings us together as legislators to try and combat this disease. I'm currently working on setting up a task force of legislators to tackle this issue, as well as authoring and advancing a number of bills I believe can help fight addiction in our state.

With just a few weeks left in the session, our committees are putting together our larger bills we hope will be signed into law by the governor. One of these bills, related to Health and Human Services, includes my bipartisan legislation HF4135, which has funding for the Minnesota Recovery Corps Grant. This is a program designed for people with direct or indirect experience with recovery to serve other individuals who are trying to sustain their own recovery. From my own experiences, I see this as a crucial tool in helping connect recovering addicts with those still in the throes of addiction. To have this included in our HHS proposal is a good start to this legislation being signed into law.

Raising awareness of addiction is one way we can start to change the conversation surrounding it. This is especially true when we talk about the opioid epidemic. Almost 400 Minnesotans died last year due to opioid-related overdose. The problem keeps getting worse, and the state — and nation, for that matter — must take significant steps to limit overdose and abuse.

One way we can do this is to openly talk about the dangers of opioids, even those prescribed for legitimate uses. I have legislation to help Twin Cities Public Television fund and produce the "Beyond Opioids Project." This is an initiative to highlight the dangers of opioid abuse and to share the stories of Minnesotans struggling with addiction. Changing the conversation around opioids is critical in passing laws to prevent addiction and abuse.

Lastly, I'm co-authoring a bill by Rep. Rick Hansen of South St. Paul to use existing tax dollars to create a substance and alcohol abuse prevention account. The bill, HF1091, is a bipartisan initiative in both the House and the Senate. Again, I see addiction as an issue that transcends political parties, and we're showing that by working together on bills like this at the Capitol.

Using our personal experiences — even if they happened at difficult times in our lives — helps bring new ideas and ways of thinking to St. Paul. I hope that I can use my understanding of this disease to help Minnesotans prevent addiction or get on a path to recovery. I believe the bills I'm authoring and co-authoring are pieces in a large puzzle of tackling this issue in our state.