In Minnesota, as in so many places across the country, the overdose death rate has been rising since 2010. There were nearly 400 opioid-related overdose deaths in Minnesota in 2016. As CEO and chairman of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, or CADCA, these numbers are not new to me. If they are new to you, I hope you will take some time to look at how opioid addiction and overdose are impacting Minnesota - and how you can help.

A great place to start is at ralimn.org. CADCA has been a national partner with RALI (the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative) since its launch in July. RALI Minnesota is the newest chapter of a countrywide effort to bring communities together to address opioid addiction.

At CADCA, we believe that for change to happen, all sectors of a community need to be working together. We work with organizations in every state and territory, as well as 23 countries around the world, to support drug-free communities. RALI Minnesota is just one of those many groups, and we are pleased by how it has mobilized a broad spectrum of partners to address the crisis in the state.

RALI Minnesota has brought groups like the Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation, the Hennepin County Sheriff Foundation, and the Minnesota Rural Health Association together, because addiction does not discriminate. It does not obey the boundaries of cities or counties, and it does not care if you have a job and a family. Addiction can strike anyone at any time. Along with RALI Minnesota and its partners, we are working to educate the public on how to prevent addiction and how to recognize it in friends and loved ones.

One of the easiest things anyone can do to prevent prescription-drug misuse is to store prescription opioids in a secure location and promptly dispose of them when they are no longer needed. Half-full bottles of forgotten painkillers sitting in unsecured medicine cabinets pose a risk to anyone struggling with a substance-use disorder. More than 50 percent of those misusing opioids get them from family and friends.

As we face a nationwide opioid epidemic, we recognize the need to work on collaborative solutions to this problem. In order to create change in local communities, we have to use a holistic, multi-sector approach. This approach is the only way to address the root cause of the problem.

It starts at home. Prompt and proper drug disposal ensures that unused painkillers don't fall into the wrong hands. Effective disposal options include bringing your medications to take-back events at law enforcement offices, dropping them in secure take-back boxes, or using a disposal kit. By partnering with RALI, we are pleased to be able to offer our many years of experience in prevention education.

Even before its official launch, RALI Minnesota held community meetings to educate residents, and it worked with its partners to distribute in-home drug-disposal kits to people across the state. These kits undoubtedly will save lives and create a new wave of prevention efforts in Minnesota.

I look forward to the work we will do with RALI Minnesota across the state. If you want to be part of preventing drug abuse in your community, I hope you will learn more about RALI or visit cadca.org to find out more about our efforts around the country.

 

Gen. Arthur T. Dean, a 31-year veteran of the U.S. Army, is CEO and chairman of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, based in Alexandria, Va. CADCA is partnered with RALI Minnesota, which is working to help communities prevent opioid abuse. RALI Minnesota partners include the Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation, Minnesota Realtors, the Minnesota Rural Health Association, the Hennepin County Sheriffs Foundation, the Lakeville Public Safety Foundation, and JustUs Health. Dean wrote this for the News Tribune.