Methadone Misuse Prompts Talks of Tighter Supervision Legislation

By KBJR News 1

December 13, 2012 Updated Dec 14, 2012 at 10:14 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Two Carlton County Highway workers were killed in October when a car driven by Vanessa Rae Brigan slammed into their truck on Highway 210.

Inside Brigan's car, police found syringes containing methadone and a nearly empty bottle of methadone with a prescription.

It's just one of many cases involving the pain reliever that will have Minnesota lawmakers tackling methadone regulations at clinics throughout the state in the upcoming session.

"In terms of populations, we have a major, major problem in this part of the state in Duluth and in Carlton County," said Rep. Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth).

The incoming chair of the Health and Human Services Finance Committee, Representative Tom Huntley, met with other committee members and the department of human services to discuss the growing concern.

"The problem is that people are getting the drugs legally, but they are getting way too many, and then they're selling them on the street to people who don't know how to handle and it and people are killing themselves," said Rep. Huntley.

According to statics obtained by the Duluth News Tribune, 392 Minnesotans have died from methadone-involved overdoses since 2001.

Lawmakers say the problem starts with the clinics providing methadone and lacking regulation. Twice this year the Department of Human Services cited the Lake Superior Treatment Center in Duluth with numerous violations.

Violations range from over-large counselor caseloads to inadequate monitoring of take-home methadone control practices. They are all issues lawmakers and the department of human services want to fix immediately.

"Doing a better job of looking at how people getting methadone in these license programs might be getting other medication other opiates from community pharmacies and how some of those ultimately those medications end up in the wrong hands," said Department of Human Services Inspector General Jerry Kerber.

State officials say they expect to come out of the legislative session with more tools for holding providers accountable.

The Inspector General says he doubts there will be any road blocks in creating more regulations, citing that providers are on board with changes.

The legislative session gets underway on January 8th.

Kevin Jacobsen
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