Hazen hosts Heitkamp, talks about opioid challenges

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Opioid overdose deaths in North Dakota increased nearly 400 percent from 2013 to 2016. Rural communities often don't have the resources to fight the problem.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is part of a bill that will get $12 billion over the next five years to communities fighting the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis cost the country more than $500 billion in 2015. Rural communities like Hazen paid a heavy price.

"Getting the workforce that we need to provide the services that we need to and want to for our community. So those are challenges that all health care providers face,” said Sakakawea Medical Center CEO Darrold Bertsch.

Senator Heitkamp heard how opioids have taken over rural communities.

"Let's get resources to the community to tackle this problem. Let's make sure that people who truly need this as pain medication actually have it,” said Heitkamp.

Ken Miller, the superintendent of Hazen Schools, said they've tried to attack the problem in schools.

"Education obviously is upfront and we're not even close to where we need to be when it comes to educating our staff,” said Miller

A new bill was introduced earlier this week in the Senate that would provide communities more resources. A similar bill was also reintroduced that would make pharmaceutical companies pay a penny per milligram of opioid to pay for substance abuse treatments.

"If you trace back where we started the opioid addiction problem, it's with over-prescription of opioids,” said Heitkamp.

Both Miller and Bertsch said they will continue to work collaboratively to find a solution as Heitkamp said no federal dollars will be allocated to a community without a plan.