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Lawmakers from both sides join together to try to curb MN's opioid epidemic

Five bills are part of the Opioid Reform Act.

Minnesota lawmakers introduced five proposals Tuesday aimed specifically at addressing the ongoing opioid epidemic in Minnesota.

The bills are part of the bipartisan Opioid Reform Act, which was unveiled as part of the first-ever Opioid Awareness Day on the Hill.

The five proposals are all directed at the prescription drug industry and health care providers. They include new restrictions on when prescriptions could be filled, as well as requirements for doctors to take part in the prescription monitoring program. Opioid manufacturers would also pay a new fee, under one bill.

“Many times, these addictions start with a prescription from a doctor and quickly spiral into an unbreakable dependency," said Rep. Dave Baker Tuesday, whose son died from a drug overdose in 2011. "These bills that were heard in committee this morning – as well as others we’re working on – are steps to get a handle on the growing problem of opioid abuse and can help prevent opioid-related deaths in our state."

“We are seeing this problem in every corner of the state, and it’s escalating,” Sen. Julie Rosen, a Republican who worked on the bills in the act, said Tuesday. “We need to be proactive in eliminating opioid abuse and educating the public about this growing crisis."

Prescription opioids and heroin

Opioids like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin are being prescribed more often than they used to, and that's contributed to the rise in the number of overdose deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. People are getting addicted to these prescription painkillers, and then some are turning to street opioids like heroin to get their fix.

In fact, more than 45 percent of people who used heroin were also hooked on prescription painkillers, the CDC says. This prompted the agency to issue new recommendations for doctors when considering prescribing opioids to people with chronic pain, including only prescribing the smallest effective dose and monitoring patients who use them.

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows there were 572 drug overdose deaths in Minnesota in 2015 – that was up 11 percent from 2014, when there were 516. More than half of the deaths were due to prescription medications rather than street drugs.

Getting help

There are resources within Minnesota and the U.S. to get help if you’re struggling with addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a website that shows residential, outpatient and hospital inpatient treatment program locations. And the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) also offers help, and can connect people with resources nearby.

The National Institute of Health has more options here, as well as a guide of what to do if a friend or loved one has a substance abuse problem.

Details from the proposals

Here are the bills detailed Tuesday:

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