Nineteen individuals were selected, including Darin Prescott of the Lower Sioux community, for their personal and professional experience with opioid addiction and its consequences. They will help guide Minnesota’s efforts to combat a drug and overdose epidemic that has spread to every region of the state.

The members of the newly appointed opioid epidemic response advisory council bring a wide range of backgrounds and expertise to address what is a complex and multi-faceted problem.

“The opioid scourge has claimed hundreds of lives, torn families apart, strained health care systems, exploded county budgets and ravaged our tribal communities,” said Gov. Tim Walz. “This advisory council will help us understand the problem from a variety of perspectives and help us set priorities as we try to repair and recover from that damage.”

Among other things, the council will make recommendations about projects and initiatives to be funded through the opiate epidemic response fund, which is expected to raise $20 million annually through fees that are being collected. 

Those fees come from prescribers, manufacturers and distributors.

“The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on families and communities across the state, particularly among indigenous communities. With this new advisory council we will work towards innovative, community-driven solutions,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “We are determined to end this crisis and are grateful for the tireless work of advocates and legislators who transformed unimaginable pain into action.”

The council is made up of legislative and tribal leaders, health care professionals, experts in addiction treatment, mental illness and public health, a state district court judge, individuals in long-term recovery from opioid addiction and those who experience chronic pain.

Eleven of the council’s 19 voting members were appointed by human services commissioner Jodi Harpstead, with another eight directly appointed by statute.

“Nearly 175 people applied for a seat on the council, so there was great public interest in finding measurable, effective and sustainable solutions to this problem,” said Harpstead.