Opioids remain a major public health challenge in Minnesota and nationwide, but Little Falls and several Greater Minnesota communities are showing that real progress is possible.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Opioid Prevention Pilot Project involves eight communities across the state. Based on six months of data, these communities are expected to cut patient pill use by nearly 765,000 pills per year. In addition, 147 patients are receiving care for opioid use disorder, and Greater Minnesota now has 21 new providers of medication-assisted treatment, which uses medicines that help prevent withdrawal symptoms.

The pioneer of the approach and leader of the initiative is CHI St. Gabriel’s Family Medical Center in Little Falls. The clinic estimates it has reduced patient pill use by 724,000 pills per year, tapered about 670 patients off of controlled substance prescriptions, and currently provides about 90 patients medication-assisted treatment.

Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed budget includes funds to offer grants to up to 20 additional communities.

The pilot projects included the following providers: Alexandria Clinic, a service of Douglas County Hospital; Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls; Chippewa County Montevideo Hospital; and Carris Health Redwood Falls Clinic.

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