By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota House is creating a new Task Force on Addiction and Recovery.

It will study the growing drug and alcohol abuse crisis in the state.

At its helm is a state lawmaker who is now publicly revealing his own lifetime struggle with addiction.

“I like to think that it was fate,” said Republican state Rep. Keith Franke of St. Paul Park.

Life could have turned out much differently for Franke.

As a young man, he was convicted of multiple DWIs, was in and out of jail, and returned again and again to drug and alcohol treatment programs.

“Trouble always seemed to find me,” Franke said. “Or I was always looking for it. I don’t know which one.”

Franke’s clean and sober 20 years now.

He bought the Park Café in St. Paul Park, then the corner bar down the street.

First, he was elected to be the city’s mayor. Then he was elected as a state representative.

Now, he’s heading a House task force aimed at people just like him.

“It’s hard. It’s never easy. It’s not easy,” he said. “I put myself out there to let people know that there’s hope. There’s possibility.”

The Task Force on Addiction and Recovery will tackle what happens when people can’t get proper treatment: family violence, crime, mental illness and homelessness.

There’s plenty of state experts on the treatment side, Franke says, adding that he’ll bring the experience of an addict to the task force.

“I believe everything in my life, everything that I’ve gone through, everything that has happened and the choices and decisions I’ve made, have made me who I am today,” he said.

The Task Force on Addiction and Recovery will meet during the legislative session, which begins next week.

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