The Blue Ribbon Commission on Addiction Takes Action

The Blue Ribbon Commission is working to end opioid abuse and addiction in the Fargo-Moorhead community

The CDC says drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the nation.

Since 2012, the Cass County Coroner reports there have been more than 60 overdose deaths in the county.

So how are local officials working together to come up with a plan to fight back?

The mayors of Fargo, West Fargo, Moorhead, Dilworth and Horace have created The Blue Ribbon Commission on Addiction.

The commission’s focus is to promote the importance of health while working towards the prevention, treatment and recovery of addiction.

The mayors’ hope is to educate everyone on the struggles with addiction, whether you have personal experience or not.

“Addiction destroys lives,” said Pat Traynor, who is the Executive Director of the North Dakota Medical Foundation. “It destroys families and it really, really needs to be addressed today.”

The North Dakota Medical Foundation is a non-profit organization helping to fight addiction in the community.

Traynor says his key goal is to help develop a brilliant strategy that maximizes the current resources which the community already has.

“I’m thrilled with the overwhelming response of people, including the mayors that really want to help move the needle on this terrible, terrible issue,” said Traynor.

The Early Intervention Expert Panel on the commission is made up of 20 members who are solely focused on preventing the start of drug use all together.

“That’s probably one of the best places to get folks in terms of helping them before all the damage is done with their families and their employers in the community,” said Darrin Tonsfelt, who is with the Village Family Service Center.

Those who are a part of this explain why it’s so important to bring awareness to addiction.

“Not just young people coming from broken homes. We are all at risk,” said Michael Kaspari with First Step Recovery.

“I don’t believe the general public really has a true understanding of the magnitude of the issue,” said John Vastag with ND Assistive.

The commission plans on spreading awareness by public speaking with church groups, civil groups and even community service groups.

They also plan to establish transitional housing while someone is waiting to get into a treatment program or supportive housing while they’re currently involved in a treatment program.

“Will we ever be at zero? Unfortunately probably not,” said Vastag. “Can we make a dramatic improvement of where we’re at? Absolutely,” said Vastag.

According to the Minnesota Student Survey,13.1% of high school students in our region have taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

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