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Jourdain declares public health emergency

RED LAKE -- In many ways the Red Lake Nation is prospering, but in one particular area the news is bad.

During his State of the Band Address Friday, Chairman Floyd "Buck" Jourdain Jr. declared a public health emergency in relation to the widespread addiction to prescription drugs.

"Continuous challenges present themselves to tribes," he said.

The focus of prevention, education and law enforcement action has been on illegal drugs such as crack cocaine, he said. But as one drug problem abates, another moves in to take its place.

He commended the White Earth Chairwoman and Tribal Council who passed a proclamation Jan. 31, declaring a public health emergency with respect to prescription medication and illegal drug abuse.

Jourdain used his speech to declare the same emergency in the Red Lake Nation.

"We must do whatever we can to curb the scourge of drug abuse," he said, bringing applause from the audience at the Red Lake Humanities Center.

He cited nationwide statistics of 38,371 people dying from drug addiction in 2007 and one million emergency room visits caused by drug overdoses in 2009. He said between 1998 and 2008 the number of people seeking treatment for addiction to painkillers jumped 400 percent.

"We are no exception to the national trend here at Red Lake," Jourdain said.

He said he has directed the Red Lake Comprehensive Health to analyze the problem and submit action plans for stemming the problem.