Attack on drug issue

Addiction issue front and center as discussion begins

Jill Schramm/MDN Lisa Tankersley, left, speaks as Supt. Mark Vollmer listens during the Committee on Addiction meeting Wednesday in City Hall.

Community education, advocacy services and grant dollars are among items a city committee studying Minot’s drug addiction problem plans to pursue.

The mayor’s Committee on Addiction held its first meeting Wednesday. Those members who were able to attend the holiday-week meeting began to lay the groundwork for addressing drug addiction issues that have been growing in the community.

Police Chief Jason Olson, a committee member, said Minot has never seen heroin in the city like it has in the past year and a half.

“Now we are seeing it almost daily. We are seeing overdose deaths and overdoses. That’s on a regular basis,” he said. Police officers used naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdose, four times in the first 48 hours after they began regularly carrying the drug a few weeks ago.

“It’s a Band-Aid that can save somebody’s life, but it’s a Band-Aid on a huge problem,” Olson said.

Committee member Paul Stroklund, who has experienced drug addiction in his family, said one of his goals for the committee is to increase public awareness.

“People don’t have the facts. They need the facts,” he said.

The city will be contacting service clubs about having Stroklund or committee member Mark Schaefer, director at Community Medical Services’ methadone clinic, speak at their meetings on the issue. The city also will be visiting with media about assisting with community awareness on drug-related topics.

Patti Eisenzimmer, another parent and committee member, noted the need for more than treatment for recovering addicts. Housing, jobs and support to avoid slipping back into old behaviors are necessary, she said.

“We have to bring them back to an environment they feel safe and secure in,” she said.

Lisa Tankersley, community resources coordinator and committee member, cited various initiatives being tried in other states and in larger communities. One initiative worth adopting in Minot would create a system of trained volunteers who could bridge the gap for recovering addicts waiting to get into treatment or coming out of incarceration, she said.

The committee mentioned the need for better coordination among agencies and increased knowledge about each other’s services. Committee members also found a need for more training for school counselors and more information for parents to be able to identify potential problems with their children and know where to seek help. City staff will prepare a list of existing services to provide to the committee at a future meeting.

In the area of funding, a subcommittee of the Committee on Addiction will pursue an available grant for prevention and treatment services. A local charitable group also has expressed interest in helping financially.