U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., is tackling the opioid crisis in legislation approved June 13 by the House, and on Monday he’ll host a roundtable discussion on the epidemic.
The issue has “been swept under the rug until recently,” Lewis said in an interview.
Lewis co-sponsored a bill that would direct Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to create an advisory group of employers, employees, physicians, researchers, local officials and others. It would highlight successful abuse prevention programs and best practices for workplaces. The measure is being considered by a U.S. Senate committee.
Workplaces and local governments must confront opioid abuse, Lewis said. “We can’t just do it with federal legislation. This has got to be a community response.”
Lewis also is a sponsor of the bipartisan Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act, meant to rein in the size and cost of the federal criminal code, including drug laws, and the prison system.
“We’re taking a medical issue and making sure we’re treating it as such, and not a criminal issue,” he said. The focus should be on “rehabilitation, not locking people up.”
Bryan Klabunde, Minnesota Farmers Union vice president, will participate in the roundtable and share its conclusions with his members.
“We should recognize the signs and look out for our friends and neighbors,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are. It can affect everybody.”
Opioid-involved overdose deaths in Minnesota increased from 395 in 2016 to 401 in 2017, according to preliminary state Department of Health data.