Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz signs bill into law.

Gov. Tim Walz signed into law a response to Minnesota’s opioid crisis that he says holds Big Pharma accountable.

In 2017, there were more than 2,000 visits to Minnesota emergency rooms for opioid-involved overdoses, with 422 Minnesotans losing their lives. Since 2010, the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths has steadily increased each year. The new law, championed in the Minnesota House by Rep. Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth), becomes effective immediately.

“I’m incredibly thankful for the Minnesotans who have come forward to share how this crisis has impacted them, including countless family members who have lost loved ones, first responders, and professionals working in treatment and recovery,” said Olson, the House majority whip. “Getting this bill across the finish line required a great deal of compromise, but it highlights what we’re able to accomplish when we all recognize the significance of a problem and share a bipartisan commitment to solving it. Working together to implement these solutions, we can prevent future heartbreaking tragedies and hold Big Pharma accountable.”

Olson said despite massive profits and responsibility for the growing crisis, pharmaceutical companies have strongly opposed being part of the solution. The new law creates new registration fees on manufacturers and distributors to raise approximately $21 million annually for an Opiate Epidemic Response Account. An advisory committee will be tasked with making grant recommendations to the Department of Health for prevention strategies to reduce the number of senseless deaths and overdoses. The bill includes reporting requirements for the grants to help measure outcomes and identify best practices that could be adopted statewide.

“The opioid crisis continues to cause unthinkable tragedies for families across our state,” said Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman. “The new law that goes into effect today holds the pharmaceutical industry accountable and will help us finally address this crisis and the devastating impact it has had on Minnesotans.”

Many of the remaining resources will be appropriated to Minnesota counties to reimburse them for child protection costs as a result of families being impacted by the opioid crisis. In 2016, parental drug use surpassed neglect as the most common reason for new out-of-home placements for the first time. At 29 percent, this trend continued in 2017, almost doubling since 2013.

The bill includes funding for Hennepin Healthcare’s “Project ECHO,” grants for tribal nations and urban Native-American communities, and additional staff for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s drug labs and trafficking enforcement efforts. It also includes reforms to drug prescribing practices, improves efforts to safely remove excess drug supplies, and increases supplies of Naloxone (Narcan) for first responders.

The registration fees would sunset once the state recovers at least $250 million from settlements with pharmaceutical companies after a minimum of five years. The legislation dedicates any revenue from settlements to opioid response efforts, supplementing the registration fees.

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