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A film screening and panel discussion on the opioid epidemic is scheduled for Jan. 29 at Ostrander Auditorium at Minnesota State University. 

MANKATO — Medical, law enforcement and mental health experts will discuss local solutions to the opioid epidemic at a panel and film screening this month.

The Jan. 29 event at Minnesota State University will include a screening of “The Opioid Fix,” a documentary co-produced by TPT-Twin Cities PBS and Mayo Clinic. Attendance is free, although registration is required as space in Ostrander Auditorium may be limited.

Thad Shunkwiler, an MSU assistant professor who will be on the panel, said the screening will be a good introduction to the opioid crisis, while the discussion interspersed between clips will go into what’s happening locally to address it.

“(It’s about) educating the public and students about the epidemic and the second part is what can we all do to help with this,” he said. “In a public health crisis no one person or policy is going to solve it. It’s going to take everyone from different backgrounds to combat this problem.”

Matthew Schumann, a pain psychologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, appeared in the film and will also be on the panel. He said part of the discussion will focus on non-opioid and non-pharmacological pain management strategies.

“Getting a sense of what other strategies, non-pharmacological strategies, can be used to manage pain are important,” he said.

He noted the opioid epidemic hit rural areas hard in recent years. Southern Minnesota may not have been ravaged to the extent other parts of the country were, but he said it’s an ongoing concern.

Opioid overdose deaths rose by 681% in Minnesota between 2000 and 2017, growing from 54 to 422, according to the Minnesota Department Health. Additionally, non-fatal opioid overdoses totaled 1,946 statewide in 2018.

Most non-fatal overdoses occurred among people ages 15-34.

Christi Wilking, community relations officer with Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, said she hopes holding the event on campus will draw students.

“We wanted to partner with the university because we wanted to expand the reach a bit more,” she said, adding the panel aligns with the health system's 2020 community health focus on mental health and substance abuse.

Mayo Clinic Health System's Dr. Jason Dauffenbach will join Schumann and Shunkwiler on the panel, along with the film's producer, Steve Spencer, and Jeff Wersal, a commander with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force.

Kristine Retherford, dean of MSU's College of Allied Health and Nursing Dean, and Laura Bowman, Mayo Clinic Health System's regional director of strategic partnerships and community relations, will co-moderate. 

Networking and appetizers will precede the event starting at 3:30 p.m. ahead of a 4:15 start and 5:30 finish. To register for the event, visit www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/theopioidfix.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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