As the Minnesota Legislature chugged toward a conclusion on Monday, they had a compromise opioid bill to consider.
"Working together, the Legislature forged a bipartisan compromise that recognizes the severity of our state's opioid crisis and gives us the tools to attack this public health disaster," said Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, the bill's chief author, in a news release. Members of both parties - some of whom told painful personal stories about opioids - shared common ground in wanting to respond to what has been deemed an epidemic. Both the DFL-controlled House and the Republican-dominated Senate passed bills providing about $21 million in annual funding for opioid response.
The funding mechanism was a sticking point, Minnesota Public Radio reported last month. The compromise bill is financed through registration fees on pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. Republicans wanted a "sunset" provision on those fees, and the compromise version provides a sunset once the state recovers at least $250 million from court settlements with pharmaceutical companies after a minimum of five years. The state has filed a number of lawsuits against drugmakers regarding opioids.
During the first quarter of 2019, seven people died of opioid overdoses in St. Louis County, the most for any one quarter in the county's history, said Jessica McCarthy, Duluth police opioid technician. During that same time period, law enforcement officers in the county used the overdose-reversal drug naloxone 37 times, according to Duluth police Lt. Jeff Kazel, commander of the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.