Mental Health Treatment Seen as Solution to Meth Spike in MN

Mental Health Treatment Seen as Solution to Meth Spike in MN Click to Enlarge

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota is seeing an increase in methamphetamine activity, a drug that was viewed as a major problem 20 years ago.

A research group says boosting access to mental health care might stop the drug's comeback.

The opioid crisis has commanded the attention of law enforcement and policymakers. But in states such as Minnesota, authorities also are having to combat the demand for meth.

The Department of Public Safety says it has seen a more than 600% increase in seizures of meth over the past five years.

Marnie Werner, president of the Center for Rural Policy and Development, says the problem is being felt in rural areas.

"It's high in the northern part of the state and then it gradually gets lower until you get to southern Minnesota, where it is still an issue," she states. "Law enforcement people around here where I am in Mankato tell me that what they seize is, by and large, meth."

Werner says unlike the previous meth wave, when homemade labs drove the market, suppliers from Mexico are funneling the drug here.

She says because today's meth is cheaper and easier to get, more people might be using it as a coping mechanism if they're having trouble accessing needed care, such as mental health treatment. She says more resources in that area might help to reduce demand for meth.

Werner says various agencies and organizations have put a bigger spotlight on mental health issues, but she says there's still a gap in rural Minnesota.

"There's just a serious shortage everywhere of health care professionals, particularly in mental health and drug treatment," she states.

According to data from the Minnesota Department of Health, 80% of Minnesota counties qualify as areas seeing a shortage of mental health professionals. The agency also says many providers in rural areas are older and closer to retirement.

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