Nineteen individuals selected for their personal and professional experience with opioid addiction and its consequences will help guide Minnesota’s efforts to combat a drug and overdose epidemic that has spread to every region of the state.
The members of the newly appointed Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council bring a wide range of background and expertise to address a complex and multi-faceted problem. The council held its first meeting in September. Its first report and project funding recommendations are due in March of 2020.
“The opioid scourge has claimed hundreds of lives, torn families apart, strained health care systems, exploded county budgets and ravaged our tribal communities,” said Gov. Tim Walz. “This advisory council will help us understand the problem from a variety of perspectives and help us set priorities as we try to repair and recover from that damage.”
Among other things, the council will make recommendations about projects and initiatives to be funded through the Opiate Epidemic Response Fund, which is expected to raise $20 million annually through fees collected from opioid prescribers, drug manufacturers and distributors.
The council is made up of legislative and tribal leaders; health care professionals; experts in addiction treatment, mental illness and public health; a state district court judge; individuals in long-term recovery from opioid addiction; and those who experience chronic pain.
Eleven of the council’s 19 voting members were appointed by Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead, with another eight directly appointed by statute. The council is under the administration of the Department of Human Services.
“Nearly 175 people applied for a seat on the council, so there was great public interest in finding measurable, effective and sustainable solutions to this problem,” said Commissioner Harpstead. “In addition to experience, members were chosen with geographic and gender diversity in mind. We placed special emphasis on including members from communities especially hard-hit by the epidemic.”
Voting members include Willie Pearl Evans, Anoka; Kathryn L. Nevins, Nevis; Darin Prescott, Morton; Nicole Anderson, Onamia; Esther Muturi, New Hope; Alexia Reed Holtum, Minnetonka; Wendy Burt, St. Paul; Roy Sutherland, Minneapolis; Sarah Grosshuesch, Delano; Toni Napier, Ogema, Judge D. Korey Wahwassuck, Grand Rapids; Peter Carlson, Cannon Falls; Dr. Anne Pylkas, St. Paul; Katrina Howard, Minneapolis; and Dr. Halena Gazelka, Rochester.
Legislators on the committee are Rep. Erin Koegel, Spring Lake Park; Rep. Dave Baker, Willmar; Sen. Mark Koran, North Branch and Sen. Chris Eaton, Brooklyn Center, MN
Non-voting members include the commissioner of the Department of Human Services or a delegate; commissioner of the Department of Health or a delegate; and the commissioner of the Department of Corrections or a delegate.