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Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd receives grant to combat opioid abuse

Essentia Health uses grant to expand community network


Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd received a $100,000 HRSA Rural Opioid Response planning grant to establish a community network to help increase access to medication for opioid-use disorder, recovery support and prevention education in the Brainerd lakes area.

Since September, this effort has resulted in the development of a robust community network that includes Northern Pines Mental Health, Nystrom and Associates, the Crosby-Ironton School District, Brainerd Public Schools, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office, Crow Wing County Community Services and other substance-use prevention and criminal justice organizations.

The problem of substance use has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Drug-overdose deaths increased 31% during the first half of 2020 as compared to the first half of 2019,” according to statewide data from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The network uses organizations in the Brainerd lakes area to work together to better serve people who have been affected by opioid-use disorder and other substance-related problems. The group meets monthly.

“We recognize that there are a number of really great organizations in our community working to improve the lives of people with substance-use disorder; this network is intended to bring those organizations together to determine the gaps in care and find solutions to address those unmet needs,” Jessica Schwartz, a registered nurse and the program manager for substance-use outreach at Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Baxter Clinic, said in a news release.


This coalition works together to gather data about substance-use trends in our area in order to increase evidence-based prevention education.

“This network is also an opportunity for the existing organizations in our community to collaborate with one another to form a more comprehensive support system for people who have struggled with substance use,” Schwartz said.

Essentia Health also has additional funding from the Minnesota Department of Health to serve communities in Crow Wing, Cass and Hubbard counties. These funds will be instrumental to increase access to medications for opioid-use disorder.

The 19-month grant also will allow for expansion of staff to meet the complex needs of people dealing with substance use through care facilitation.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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