Essentia Health Hosts Panel on Opioid Crisis

Business leaders gather to discuss ways drug epidemic can be solved

FARGO, ND — It’s a drug killing more than 90 Americans every day: opiates.

One mother understands that after sending her two sons to jail.

“I was trying to save their lives,” Mary Locken said.

Locken’s sons, 23-year-old Joe and 21-year-old Nicholas, were caught up in the storm of addiction.

They started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at a young age, but eventually, it wasn’t enough.

“The game changer for both of them, no mistake, [was] prescription drugs,” Locken said.

Essentia Health wants to change that.

They held a panel discussion for business leaders to address ways to combat opioid addiction in the community.

Essentia has already started to take more precautions in giving chronic pain patients prescriptions with opioids.

“We have an opioid agreement that spells out what their obligations are,” said Dr. Richard Vetter, who is Essentia Health’s clinical chief of primary care. “What the clinicians obligations are and really helps us have that conversation about risk benefits.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 21-29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.

Vetter said the panel is a good place to discuss further ways this crisis can be solved because it’s about working together.

“I think it’ll require a collaborative effort to really deal with this problem,” Vetter said. “But I think there’s hope. I think there’s a lot of hope because there are treatments out there that are effective. We just have to get them to the patients that need them.”

Locken has discovered that hope once again.

“Where I had given up hope for my sons, literally, I thought they were walking death, that they would not survive,” Locken said. “I now have hope for both of my sons.”

Locken’s son Joe was just released from prison, while Nicholas is still serving his sentence.

Joe will be attending Minnesota State Moorhead.

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