Red Lake Indian Reservation declares health emergency over opioid crisis

There's been a recent rise in overdoses and drug addiction.

A tribal council just north of Bemidji has declared a public health emergency due to the rising drug problem on the reservation.

This week, the Red Lake Tribal Council posted to Facebook a resolution from earlier this month. It explains how the "massive abuse by tribal members of prescription drugs and other illegal drugs" has had "devastating effects" on the community. 

Specifically, the resolution says there've been significant problems with addiction and overdoses, among other things. Like how the drug problem is also hurting the way the Red Lake community is perceived.

That's why leaders are so serious about addressing the issue. The resolution says they'd go as far as to banish tribal members who contribute to the drug problem. 

According to the Star Tribune, the idea would be for people to get help while they're away and return once they're sober. The specifics for that haven't been set in stone yet, though. That'll be discussed at an Aug. 1 meeting. 

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered in Red Lake for a Walk Against Substance Abuse.

The opioid problem in Minnesota

Prescription opioids (like Vicodin, OxyContin, or Percocet) have been blamed for a rise in overdose deaths, because addicts will often switch to a street opioid, like heroin.

The most recent 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.

Opioid pain relievers were the leading drug associated with death in Minnesota at 216, followed by heroin at 114. Meanwhile 78 were due to stimulants such as methamphetamines.

Getting help

There are resources 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.

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