Leech Lake Comes Together for International Overdose Awareness Day
The Leech Lake Reservation first declared a public health emergency for the opioid crisis back in 2011. 75 community members in Leech Lake gathered on International Overdose Awareness Day to talk about the crisis.
Organizers in 57 cities across the country held the rallies through the Fed Up Coalition.
Patricia Bittner, is the Meth Project Coordinator for the Leech Lake Tribal Police and organizer of the local event. She travels around the state to educate people about the issue. Attendees can ranges any where from 5 years old and up.
“They need to learn all the prevention. They need to learn all the education so they don’t fall into the struggle of addiction that everyone else is,” Bittner said.
But people in the area may have to look elsewhere for help. Bittner says the small amount of inpatient centers in the area is one of the many barriers to treatment.
“There’s more of a problem than there are resources that we have to handle it,” said Bittner. “The problem has just gotten too big.”
Speakers at the event mirrored the sentiment.
“At that point in my life I was only dealing with alcohol- which was a big problem for me, but what do we have today now? Hundred times worse than alcohol,” said Mike Smith.
Many speakers were hopeful for themselves and the community.
“Life is way better sober than it is high, you know? When I left that addiction, now that I can see clearly, I love life again. It’s so beautiful,” Tommy Tiokasin told the crowd.
Al Fairbanks is a Chaplan at Winnie Transformation Center. He emphasized returning to native traditions while coming together to best serve people struggling with addiction.
“We have a beautiful nation now is our time to come together as one, not as divided. We are one.”
At the end of the event, attendees paid tribute to loved ones lost to drugs by writing their names on balloons and releasing them.
According to the a report by the Minnesota Department of Health released earlier this year, adults aged 35 to 44 were more likely to die from drug overdose than any other age group. There are 398 treatment centers Minnesota, with two centers in Cass county.