The Problem Isn’t Going Away 

county commission

Karen Newman 

Responding to an inquiry from Clay County Commissioner Jenny Mongeau, Public Health Director Kathy McKay updated the commission about the activities of the county’s detox center. The Clay County government website states: Our detox center is a 16-bed detoxification unit for male and female adults that offers 24-hour service 7 days a week.

Mongeau asked, “There have been reports nationally and state-wide about the increase in detox overdoses and usages.  Fentanyl overdoses are up 27% in Minnesota alone.  Can you talk about what you have seen trending with our own detox center and what you are hearing from the officers in the field?”

McKay responded, “Yes, we received the health alert from the Minnesota Department of Health about the large increase in opioid deaths in Minnesota. From 2019-2020, there was a 59% increase. That’s pretty significant.” She noted that the detox center serves pregnant women and individuals with mental health issues who require detox services involving drugs and/or alcohol, unlike some centers found around the state. She added, “The benefit we have in Clay County is that we serve all of those individuals… we are seeing increased client numbers and the acuity level of these clients is pretty high. We have a detox with medical oversight and nurses on every shift. It benefits our whole community.”

McKay reported that although Fargo has a detox center, it serves lower-level detox clients and doesn’t have medical supervision or nurses.  The Clay County Detox Center, with medical services, accommodates the FM-Metro and surrounding Minnesota communities. The presence of the Clay County Detox Center lowers the number of emergency room visits to serve detox client needs and frees hospital beds.  She continued, “Obviously we have a small facility and we express the hope that we would be able to increase the bed capacity and maybe another location in order to serve a greater population in our community. The problem isn’t going away.” The detox center recently received a new Withdrawal Management License which increases their capability to generate revenue.

Commissioner Mongeau linked the effects of Covid-19 on the community, not only to the weekly data presented to the commission, but to the aftermath. She said, “I think Covid has strained families and individuals in ways that none of us can know.  It is heartbreaking to see these increases.” She added, “I am deeply concerned we will see some residual effects in this area, in particular.

While expressing appreciation for the benefits to Clay County from Covod-19 funding, Commission Chair Kevin Campbell lamented “I don’t think we were able to do enough with the detox portion of it. It makes it significantly harder to do your job in your confined space.”

He added that at a meeting with the Cass County Commission an expanded regional detox center was discussed.  Campbell said, “I think for us to tackle this from a regional approach might be a really good option for us. The dialogue has just started.”

Commissioner David Ebinger contributed, “It is really critical that we look at this regionally. That’s when we get our greatest success, when we approach it as part of a community, not just across the river, but east of us in some of those counties too. All of them have expressed a need for a medical detox.”

 Ebinger added, “The Oxycontin addiction has now led to Fentanyl being manufactured offshore to look like Oxy and it’s being sold. If they are not intentionally disregarding the amount within each pill, it’s a sloppy operation and some of the pills are going to have three times the amount they planned on and some very little. That’s where the overdoses are coming from and that’s where the increase in addiction is coming from on the opioids. Meth has been a problem in the Red River Valley for years.”

Ebinger concluded, “Its time has come and we need to do something about it. I think we can and, again, that’s something we want to look to the future on here.” 

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