Opioids: Prevention, Treatment and Community Driven Efforts - Minnesota Department of Health

Opioids: Prevention, Treatment and Community-Driven Efforts

Stories from the Field

The Minnesota Department of Health is highlighting work being done across the state to save lives and prevent harms associated with drug use. Watch the stories below to learn more about community-led prevention efforts.

The opioid epidemic is not without positive successes. Monica is one example of a success story. The Little Falls resident currently spends her days helping people who are in recovery from opioid use disorder. She, herself, is in recovery from a decade long addiction that began with opioids and ended with heroin, causing her to steal from her parents and hit rock bottom. But there was hope.

She began treatment through her local medical center, CHI St. Gabriel’s. The architects of the Opioid Prevention and Treatment Program, Dr. Heather Bell and Dr. Kurt DeVine, created a community-lead, whole-person centered program that included medical, education and corrections systems to address the issue with the help of community partners. Seeing promising results, the Minnesota Legislature expanded in 2017 the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Opioid Prevention Pilot Project to eight Greater Minnesota communities, with CHI St Gabriel’s taking the lead on educating and collaborating with the communities to develop and implement prevention and treatment strategies individually tailored to each community.

Based on six months of data, these communities will cut patient pill use by nearly 765,000 pills per year. In addition, there are nearly two dozen waivered providers for buprenorphine, commonly known as Suboxone®, which is a medication used to treat opioid use disorder.

Each community, Little Falls, Aitkin, Hibbing, Redwood Falls, Alexandria, Mora, Fergus Falls, Montevideo, and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, continues to develop their opioid prevention and treatment programs and hopes to expand to other communities in the future. Ultimately, the goal is to help others like Monica not just in recovery, but to assist in rebuilding lives.

Grant is a 17-year old who had his wisdom teeth removed. His oral surgeon prescribed low-dose, short term opioids for pain management. Grant’s parents did their part and learned about the potential for opioid misuse. They advised Grant to use only over-the-counter medications unless absolutely necessary. Grant followed their advice and found he could manage his pain well using only ibuprofen.  His story is one that reflects a growing trend.

The American Medical Association found dental opioid prescriptions for the 11- to 18-year-old age group increased from 99.7 per 1000 dental patients in 2010, to 165.9 per 1000 dental patients in 2015. To address this growing crisis, the Minnesota Department of Health collaborated with other agencies to develop and release opioid prescribing guidelines in 2017.

The recommendations provide a framework to address pain management. In these cases, prescribing the lowest effective dose and duration of opioid medication when an opioid is needed for acute pain is key.  

Dr. John Reardon, a dentist in Stillwater, recalled the days when patients would leave the dental office with opioids in hand. He said the industry was beginning to self-regulate, but having the prescribing guidelines helped validate they were doing the right thing, and encouraged others to follow suit.

Dr. Mary Johnson, Vice President of Delta Dental Minnesota, said the industry as a whole is embracing the prescribing guidelines and understands that teenage years are vulnerable to opioid misuse. Together, she said, the dental industry can do its part in preventing the overprescribing of opioids for dental procedures.

Working together, the goal is to increase successful outcomes like Grant’s story.


Great Challenges in Greater Minnesota

A Duluth-area mother shares her heart wrenching story of her daughter’s journey into substance use disorder, having been revived twice by naloxone, and her hope that her daughter will survive and thrive as a woman in recovery.  We also learn about a unique delivery service along the Iron Range focused on providing residents naloxone among other harm reduction services


Anne Vandelac, mother of woman in recovery

Sue Purchase, founder, Harm Reduction Sisters

This work is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number NU17CE2019001983 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Please visit the Opioid Dashboard for more information on opioid overdose death, nonfatal overdose, use, misuse, substance use disorder, prescribing practices, supply, diversion, harm reduction, co-occurring conditions, and social determinants of health.

Updated Monday, 19-Apr-2021 13:03:09 CDT