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The time to discuss is now: Roundtable event held on opioids and mental health

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 7/22/2022

Jul. 21—The Minnesota Farm Bureau, in conjunction with the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative, held a roundtable event on July 18, sharing thoughts and discussion on the ongoing mental health and opioid crisis in Minnesota.

RALI is an alliance of local, state and national organizations who are committed to finding solutions to end the substance misuse crisis. They continue to work on educating parents and community leaders by sharing resources on safely storing and disposing of unused medications.

The gathering provided an intimate setting, as guests heard from Rep. Jordan Rasmusson, Otter Tail County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons and the keynote speaker, Ruth Meirick, who is the foundation director at MFB.

"Our objective with the MFB to get involved with the opioid crisis is to help reduce stigma with mental health and opioid addiction," mentioned Meirick. "It's to really help farm families — to be able to tell them that resources are available."

Statistically speaking, Minnesota sees about four deaths a day due to opioid overdose.

Meirick travels the state and puts on presentations, like the one held at Elk's Point. It is a mission that she holds close, as she has had family members deal with mental health and addiction.

"We feel that it is our job to bring awareness to rural Minnesota," said Meirick. "We have boots on the ground with volunteer members helping. We feel strongly about getting to the table and having discussions."

Rasmussen shared that when he first started campaigning in 2020, drug addiction and mental health was by far one of the main issues when talking with people in the local communities. "This last session, we passed a mental health omnibus which includes record levels of funding for addiction and mental health services across the state. Money is being sent back to the state and counties and instead of it going into a general fund, it is being set aside for addiction type programs."

Fitzgibbons mentioned that his office takes multiple calls a day with someone dealing with a mental health crisis. The sheriff's department has ongoing training to be able to handle those situations and more importantly get the right help that someone may need.

"We do our best to try and mediate those who are having mental issues," says Fitzgibbons. "We aren't going to arrest our way out of the situation, we need to be supportive and have the tools to be successful."

The discussion is continuing. Resources are available at and


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