By Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Two prominent Minnesota state senators are joining forces to help stop the epidemic of opioid overdoses in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, opioid overdose deaths have soared 600 percent since 2000 with 395 people losing their lives in 2016.

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Two prominent Minnesota senators, including one who lost her daughter in 2007, says the state needs to do more.

“It’s time to call this opioid epidemic for what it is: It is a public health emergency,” Sen. Julie Rosen said.

Two heavy hitters in the Minnesota state senate say it’s time for pharmaceutical companies to pay more to sell opioids in Minnesota.

“They pay $235 to sell in Minnesota,” Rosen said. “That is one of the lowest in the nation — $235 is all they pay a year.”

Sen. Rosen, the chair of the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee, says legislative leaders are ready to force the pharmaceutical companies’ hands.

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“They have been very reluctant to come to the table to combat this issue,” Rosen said.

Joining Sen. Rosen is Democratic State Sen. Chris Eaton from Brooklyn Center.

“I have a personal story of losing my daughter to opioids, so that is what drives me,” Eaton said.

Sen. Eaton lost her 23-year-old daughter Ariel to an overdose in 2007. She wants Minnesota law to require insurance companies to cover more services related to addiction.

“I am hoping that because of this bill, and the impetus that we put on this, that we can get the addiction into the annual physical and the regular care of the medical health care system,” Eaton said.

The overall bill would provide $20 million for opioid programs.

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In an effort to reach out to Gov. Tim Walz, his spokesperson told us Walz is supportive of these efforts to curb the opioid epidemic and looks forward to meeting with the bipartisan legislators backing this effort tomorrow.

Esme Murphy