Opioid funding and more: 3 things to know about St. Louis County this week

This week: funding requests for opioid remediation funds, a drainage ditch public hearing and further discussion on a report on diversity, equity and inclusion in county employees.

People in purple shirts celebrate recovery in outdoor park
People fill the Lakewalk during the Recovery Alliance Duluth walk on Sept. 17 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Here are three things you need to know about St. Louis County this week. This week's County Board meeting is 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Canosia Town Hall, 4896 Midway Road.

Opioid remediation project funding

The St. Louis County Board will take an initial vote on funding various proposals to aid in opioid remediation and reduction. The county received $2.06 million in this first round of remediation funds as the result of lawsuits the state of Minnesota is involved in with opioid manufacturers.

Last year the county's advisory committee of human remediation settlement funds put out a request for proposals to use these funds. Last week, at a county board workshop, Jana Blomberg, a community health program coordinator and member of the committee, presented the board with eight proposals for the board's consideration, including:

  • $144,400 Rural Aids Action Network — to expand services in the county, hire a new staff member for further outreach
  • $283,200 Recovery Alliance Duluth — to add more peer support specialists, expand services.
  • $300,000 Housing for Inmates — to provide housing for formerly incarcerated individuals in Duluth, provide harm reduction resources.
  • $94,000 CHUM — to expand street outreach and hire a new peer support specialist shared with RAD, and a street outreach specialist.
  • $34,000 United Way — to work in prevention by expanding a lunch buddies mentor program that matches trauma-informed youth with positive adult role models.
  • $134,900 Wellbeing Development — to add a peer recovery specialist, expand harm reduction programs in the Ely area.
  • $120,000 Media fund/Midwest Communications — to partner with local organizations to release harm reduction communication materials and look for decrease in overdose related deaths.
  • $100,000 YWCA Duluth — to provide transitional housing for young mothers, to distribute naloxone to clients, and training for staff, participants and families in the Early Childhood education center.

There will be two rounds of funding this year and the Rural Aids Action Network, Recovery Alliance Duluth, Housing for Inmates, Wellbeing Development, CHUM, and the YWCA Duluth are recommended to receive $1.05 million in the first round and United Way and Midwest Communications are set to receive $154,000 in the second.
The funding requests will go before the board this week in their committee of the whole session.

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Drainage ditch public meeting to be set

The St. Louis County Board, following its regular meeting Tuesday morning, will act as the County Drainage Authority to set a public hearing on the redetermination of benefits and damages for St. Louis County Ditch 4 in the Meadowlands area.

Ditch 4 was constructed more than 100 years ago and no longer drains as it should, causing issues for neighboring farmlands. In 2019, farmers requested the county make repairs to the ditches. Prior to making any repairs, the county had to reestablish drainage records, as past records were either "lost, destroyed or are otherwise incomplete," according to a county report. That process was completed in August and part of the ditch was abandoned and lists of benefits and damages were provided to nearby land owners.

At a previous meeting in December, neighboring farmers raised concerns about the costs of the assessments placed on their lands due to the reestablishment process.

The board is expected to set a public hearing for 1 p.m. Feb. 7 a the County Board room at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth to finally consider the benefits and damages of the ditch.

Diversity, equity and inclusion recommendations

In December, the county board received final recommendations for the Center of Economic Inclusion, a St. Paul-based consulting service, on the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion among the employees of the county.

The final report included 23 recommendations, both long and short term, which the county can put into practice to make the county a more diversity, equitable and inclusive place the work. These include hiring a chief equity and inclusion officer, county-wide racial equity training, reviewing hiring processes to reduce bias, and other ideas to improve hiring, retention and advancement of staff who are racially diverse.

The board will revisit this issue at this week's committee of the whole meeting.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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