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Guest Editorial: New thinking needed in opioid battles

Funding is on its way in Minnesota to help curb opioid abuse. The announcement came Thursday from Gov. Mark Dayton, who declared $700,000 in grants to help fight the crisis.

More important, Dayton announced new prescription guidelines for Minnesota doctors.

It comes as Minnesota works to steady itself in the wake of a 600 percent increase in opioid deaths from 2000 to 2016. We're sure the grant money will be put to good use, but we especially like the idea of new guidelines, which will push doctors to limit and closely monitor opioid prescriptions. It's a change in thinking, and that's important.

Dayton deserves credit for his work to address this sad and growing problem.

In North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum is making gains, too. Recently, he discussed with us an approach that is under the radar, but one that could produce results in the future. It, too, should prompt a change in how we think about the state's addiction crisis.

For example: After digging deep into each line of state agency budgets, Burgum said he has found a general lack of attention to addiction and the problems addiction creates.

With a revenue shortfall looming, Burgum organized in-depth strategic reviews — anywhere from two to six hours long — with state cabinet agencies. During those reviews, the governor noticed something was missing.

"We discovered every agency was touched by the cost of addiction, but only two of them had a line item for it," he said. "Human Services had it for treatment and Health had it for prevention. But every other agency was getting, in some cases, hammered by (addiction issues)."

He said 85 percent of inmates at the North Dakota Penitentiary report some sort of addiction, "so the whole Corrections budget" should basically be an addiction budget.

"And what's our Highway Patrol budget?" the governor asked. "Yes, sometimes we're giving out a ticket for a tail-light being out, but a big chunk of what they're doing is related (to drugs and alcohol)."

Even the state Department of Public Instruction is affected, he said.

"When you look at kids that are dropping out of school, or performance or disciplinary issues, a lot of that is related to something going on at home — maybe an addiction," Burgum said.

The point of the exercise, the governor said, is to look closely at each agency budget and find what's not there, and then work strategically to address it.

Again, it's about creating new attitudes and then attacking a problem — in this case addiction — with hundreds of darts instead of a single cannon shot.

We have two states with a similar problem, and two governors working with outside-the-box ideas to fix it.

That's the best way to successfully battle this epidemic.—Grand Forks Herald

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