The fact that nearly 100 people attended a public meeting Wednesday to discuss opioid abuse in Williston is a sign of exactly how large the problem has become.

EMTs have delivered 51 doses of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan so far this year, which is slightly lower than last year, but deaths are on the rise. That highlights how urgently something needs to be done.

The meeting was a good start. It’s important for the public to know the scope of the problem, and to know what city officials, police and paramedics are doing to address it. It should be clear by now, however, that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.

Multiple people highlighted how few options are available for people seeking addiction treatment in western North Dakota. CHI St. Alexius does not have beds for patients who need detox. The nearest treatment center is in Minot.

Not only is it two hours away, if would-be patients don’t have insurance, they’ll likely be turned away.

And even if they aren’t, they’re left with a stark choice when their treatment is over: stay in Minot and leave behind their friends and family to be around a community of people in recovery or come back to Williston and leave that support system behind.

Summit Counseling Services has been working for a year or more to start a residential treatment facility in western North Dakota. The owners have been trying to find community partners, and we hope they will be successful.

If they are, there is still a gap in available services that needs to be addressed now. We are glad to hear that some state lawmakers have been considering putting incentives in place to attract doctors and psychiatrists to work in western North Dakota, but we wonder if that can happen before the next Legislative session in 2019.

That is too long to wait.

Opioid addiction has become a crisis in Williston, in North Dakota, in the United States. We need a comprehensive solution where anyone who wants treatment can get it and anyone who would try and take advantage of addiction by selling narcotics is punished.

Far, far too many people have died. Addiction does not discriminate based on age, race or income. We need to do something to honor those we have lost and to ensure we lose no one else.

 

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