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To help stem wave of opioid overdoses, partnership seeks state funds to step up awareness

Dean Orton, chief operating officer of Twin Cities PBS, answers a question about HF354, sponsored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson, Sr., right, to provide funds for a public television and community radio project called “Beyond Opioids.” Photo by Paul Battaglia

Supporters of a bill to help with opioid awareness said the National Safety Council has found a person dies of an opioid overdose more often than a car crash and that, on average, an American dies every 11 minutes from an opioid overdose.

“There’s only so much you can do to prevent car accidents, but there’s a lot that can be done to prevent opioid-related deaths,” said Joel Glazer, CEO of the Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations.

He spoke to the House State Government Finance Division Tuesday in support of HF354, which would appropriate $1.6 million to a three-entity partnership to support the “Beyond Opioids” project.

Glaser said the project is far more than a public service announcement, such as the classic featuring a frying egg with the slogan “This Is Your Brain on Drugs.”

According to a handout, “This groundbreaking project will leverage the power of media to educate Minnesotans about the opioid crisis; empower people to share stories; prevent opioid abuse; and connect people to resources for help and hope.”

The $3.1 million initiative is a partnership between AMPERS, Twin Cities Public Television and the Minnesota Public Television Association.

Dean Orton, chief operating officer of Twin Cities PBS, said traditional media often looks at the opioid problem via sound bites or quick stories, whereas this project can provide a deeper dive to address the complexity of the problem and provide a better understanding of what is possible.

The product could be made widely available, including to television stations, other multimedia platforms, nonprofits and schools.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson Sr. (DFL-Crystal), sponsors HF354, which was held over for possible inclusion in a supplemental appropriations bill. The funding was in the omnibus state government finance bill passed by the House in 2019, but was removed in the conference committee process.

“Our state is facing what is truly an epidemic that is getting worse,” he said. “There is no question that we need addiction counseling and treatment, but we also need education and prevention.”

A companion, SF441, sponsored by Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point), awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.


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