An April 10 post on the Morris Invisible Facebook page about an upcoming April 22 public meeting in Willmar by a Democratic congressman and a Republican state representative sparked our interest.
A call to Congressman Collin Peterson's office confirmed that the April 22 public meeting about the opioid crisis and healthcare is indeed in the works, though the time and place have yet to be announced. The staff person to whom we spoke noted that it's the office of state representative Dave Baker, R-Willmar (not Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, as was first reported) that is working with Peterson to set up the meeting.
Since the Minnesota House is on recess, we couldn't get more information from Baker's office or the Republican communications staff. We'll update this post when we have more information.
While it's surprising to see a bi-partisan open meeting these days, it should be no surprise to anyone to learn of Representative Baker's leadership in putting aside the current political climate to work on the former issue. Minnesota Public Radio's Jon Collins reported in Son's overdose death drives this Minnesota legislator's work:
Deaths from opioid drug overdoses have hit epidemic proportions nationwide. In Minnesota, the struggle with addiction to prescription painkillers and illegal opioid drugs has left families, friends and communities across the state grieving deaths that could have been prevented. Dave Baker is one of them.
Dan Baker had just been kicked out of a drug treatment program for sharing medication with a roommate. With his family out of town on vacation, the 25-year-old took a TV from his parents' empty house in Willmar and headed to Minneapolis in search of heroin.
"We'd been trying to call Dan all morning because we knew he was home. And he would never answer, never answer the phone," said his father, Dave Baker.
"My wife was really worried," he said. "'Something's not right.'"
Dave and the rest of his family flew back from their California vacation that next morning, still unable to reach their son.
When they landed, there was a message on Dave's phone to call one of the restaurants they own. The urgency of the message, he said, felt "odd."
Dave called as soon as the plane landed. He was told that Dan had died of a heroin overdose that morning in a Maplewood home. . . .
Collins' article was published in 2016. More recently, the Associated Press's Kyle Potter reported in Minnesota lawmakers channel grief into fight against opioids:
In statehouses across the country, lawmakers with loved ones who fell victim to drugs are leading the fight against the nation’s deadly opioid-abuse crisis, drawing on tragic personal experience to attack the problem.
A Minnesota state senator whose daughter died of a heroin overdose in a Burger King parking lot — a friend hid the needles instead of calling for help — spearheaded a law that grants immunity to 911 callers. In Wisconsin, a state representative has introduced more than a dozen opioid-related bills in the years since his daughter went from painkillers to heroin to prison. A Pennsylvania lawmaker whose son is a recovering heroin addict championed a state law that expanded availability of an antidote that can reverse an overdose.
“We’re all here because we have this empty void in our lives,” said Minnesota state Rep. Dave Baker, a Republican from Willmar whose son started taking prescription drugs for back pain and died of a heroin overdose in 2011. . . .
It's good to see even more bi-partisan cooperation on the federal and state level in West Central Minnesota. A recovering alcoholic himself, Peterson is a member of the distinctly Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, which describes itself in these words:
The Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus educates and raises awareness among lawmakers about addiction prevention and treatment and substance abuse. Opioid deaths have surpassed 30,000 for the first time in history, while nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year. Substance abuse costs our nation $600 billion in health care, criminal justice, and lost productivity costs, but that is nothing compared to the toll it takes on our families and friends. Preventing the further spread of this epidemic is essential to our nation’s complete recovery. The Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus aims to stop these devastating trends by bringing awareness to this cause and changing the stigma associated with addiction and mental illness.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, MinnPost 's Greta Kaul reported last week in Amid opioid crisis, Minnesota sees significant decline in painkiller prescriptions:
Minnesota health care professionals dispensed about 9 percent fewer prescriptions for controlled opioid painkillers in 2016 than they did in 2015, according to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy.
The data comes amid an opioid epidemic that continues to crescendo in Minnesota and the U.S. Between 2000 and 2015, opioid overdoses killed 2,273 Minnesotans, and nationally, they have contributed to more than 200,000 deaths since 1999.
For most drugs, the state wouldn’t expect to see a decline in prescriptions: Minnesota’s population is growing and getting older, which generally means a steady rise in drugs dispensed over time, said Cody Wiberg, the executive director of Minnesota’s Board of Pharmacy. . . .
Rep. David Baker, R-Willmar, one of the most vocal legislators on the subject of opioids at the capitol, says he’s encouraged that the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions appear to be dropping. For him, the issue is personal. His son Dan was prescribed Vicodin for a back pain when he was a junior at St. Thomas University. He became addicted to painkillers and died of a heroin overdose in 2011 at age 25. . . .
Read the rest of Kaul's data-driven analysis at MinnPost.
Photo: Dave Baker. Photo swiped from the West Central Tribune. Bluestem isn't often a fan of Baker, but working together with Peterson's office on this issue is a sign of leadership.
If you appreciate our posts and original analysis, you can mail contributions (payable to Sally Jo Sorensen, 33166 770th Ave, Ortonville, MN 56278) or use the paypal button in the upper right hand corner of this post. Those wishing to make a small ongoing monthly contribution should click on the paypal subscription button.
Or you can contribute via this link to paypal; use email firstname.lastname@example.org as recipient.