MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – About 200 people a day lose their lives to opioid addiction in the United States.

As of Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health is taking a brand new approach to the problem with some unlikely partners.

Opioids have become an unwanted part of the Minnesota’s story. There are people, like Kathy Wiirre of Wadena, who had a car accident and accidentally got addicted.

“It was a prescription. I took it as prescribed, went to work and the doctor kept filling it,” Wiirre said.

And then there was Prince, a king to many. He overdosed on fentanyl in 2016.  It was proof no one is immune.

So Tuesday in St. Paul, state health officials gathered with the head of Minnesota’s Business Partnership, Charlie Weaver.

“This isn’t about low wage versus big wage, this is about everybody which is why we need to address it,” Weaver said.

The partnership, which includes Target, Medtronic, 3M, Polaris and more than 100 other companies, announced they’re setting up workplace defenses against opioid addiction.

“We need to give them tools to know who to call, how do they get in touch with someone to get help,  what’s gonna happen if they go into treatment where can they get treatment, does insurance cover their treatment,” Weaver said. “The toolkit Target and other companies will have guiding employees on where to get help, how to support them during recovery and where to safely trash old pills.”

One of the doctor’s on the front line of addiction says the problem spans beyond his reach.

Art Wineman is the Regional Medical Director for Health Partners.

“If you don’t have supportive people around you, your chance of getting off opioids markedly decreases.  Family support is important, but so is employer support,” Wineman said.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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