Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Shawn Jansen
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Pine County receives grants to help combat opioid and substance abuse


December 27, 2018

Pine County is the recipient of two grants that will address the opioid crisis. MaryJo Katras, University of Minnesota (U of M) Extension, and Laura Palombi, U of M-College of Pharmacy, addressed the Pine County Board of Commissioners about the grant on Tuesday, explaining how the grants are focused on building the area’s capacity to address opioid and substance abuse challenges related to the rural setting.

The Rural Health and Safety Education grant is through the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Institute of Food and Agriculture and is primarily focused on educating the community, organizations, individuals, and families, and training community leaders to implement projects aimed at the opioid crisis. Included in this will be increasing access to information on the opioid issue online and conducting community forums on education, recovery and prevention.

The Rural Opioid Technical Assistance Grant is given by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In addition to similar education and training pieces, this grant also includes organizing a community collaborative council composed of tribal community members, leaders and professionals to provide guidance on opioid issues in the Indian community. There will be four positions hired from the Native American community, with two tribal partners already on board, said Katras.

Board chair Steve Hallan asked if Katras and Palombi would be working with users or clinics, and Palombi said they could work with health care providers, drug courts, or it could be anybody. Katras added that they could even work with supporting families if a parent is in recovery.

County Attorney Reese Frederickson asked if they could expand the grant to methamphetamine. He said the meth to opioid cases are 10 to one in the county.

They responded that the focus of the grant is to strengthen the “recovery capital”, or the community supports for recovery, with regard to substance abuse in the region, so the drug of choice will not matter. Palombi said, “The dollars are for building up the community.”

The grants are for two years, and they reported they hoped to get people on board as quickly as possible.

Levy approved

The county board established the property tax levy at $18,790,664 and adopted an accompanying budget.

Chair Hallan said the commissioners have worked on the budget for about six months. “I think we would all like to see it less,” he said. “I think we determined from all of our meetings, we don’t know how we can do that and still operate.”

“We heard a little bit today,” said Commissioner Matt Ludwig of Sandstone. “I just think we need to be mindful of our numbers there.”

He was referring to the public forum portion of the meeting, when a local farmer, Morrie Carlson, said, “Guys, I ain’t gonna be able to stay farming much longer if you keep doing what you’re doing to me.” He said the classifications on his buildings were changed, and the valuations on the property were increased. Hallan asked to look at the property tax statement he held in his hand and later asked him if had gone to the township and school district because those two entities had larger percentage increases. Carlson said he had gone to the township, but he had a soft heart for the school district having served on the school board for 15 years.

“I just want to acknowledge that the budget is balanced through the use of some reserves,” said County Administrator David Minke.


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