Challenges of drug addiction were the topic of conversation as U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar toured the Recovering Hope Treatment Center in Mora April 11.

The residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center opened less than one year ago and is currently serving 27 clients out of their 80 bed capacity. Recovering Hope Executive Director Erin Gibbons said the challenge of filling their beds comes not from a lack of need, but because of problems receiving credentials from insurance companies.

Right now Recovering Hope is classified as an out-of-network provider for all insurance companies, which Gibbons attributed to their center being so young. Gibbons said finding licensed drug and alcohol counselors is also a challenge for Recovering Hope, particularly when they are competing with larger, better known treatment centers in the Metro area. 

As Senator Klobuchar toured the facility, the number of beds available was apparent.

Recovering Hope is unique as one of the few Minnesota drug treatment centers that allow women receiving treatment to bring their children (under the age of five) with them. Klobuchar was able to visit two child care rooms where kids and infants could play. That day, three little girls were playing with sparkling slime as they learned about planets and stars.

One of Recovering Hope’s founders and current board member Ray Ludowese said their philosophy has always been to teach mothers life skills and parenting skills as they learn to live a sober life, rather than sending children into the foster care system. “You are giving them a chance to succeed,” he said.

Of the clients that come through Recovering Hope, approximately 70 percent are being treated for methamphetamine and/or opioid addiction, reported the center’s medical director Janet Wilkinson. Of those clients, nearly all of them started their addiction with tobacco, then marijuana use.

During the visit, representatives from the Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County said they were concerned about how to communicate to youth the dangers of marijuana as more states implement medical marijuana programs and the national push to legalize marijuana grows larger.

“The movement to legalize marijuana scares me,” said Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith. Aside from marijuana, Smith said the supply of methamphetamine coming to Kanabec County from Mexican drug cartels is greater than demand for the drug which makes it inexpensive and easy to get.

Klobuchar said one of her priorities at the Capital has been to stem the flow of methamphetamine and heroin being imported from countries like Mexico and China. Klobuchar said other priorities in the battle against drug addiction is keeping synthetic drugs illegal as manufacturers change their chemical formulas and keeping a closer eye on legal opioids through prescription drug monitoring programs. Klobuchar also said it is essential for the federal budget to keep funding strong in areas of prevention and treatment.

Klobuchar’s visit to Recovering Hope was part of a two day, 10-county rural economy tour. During the tour Klobuchar met with businesses and education leaders to highlight her legislation and initiatives to strengthen Minnesota’s workforce and bridge the skills gap, particularly by supporting apprenticeship programs via the American Apprenticeship Act.