Main menu


As opioid overdoses surge, Twin Cities officials focus on drug prevention and education

featured image

Christopher Burks moved to Minnesota a few years ago and quit drinking. For a long time, like many people recovering from drug addiction, he had a hard time finding it.

Burks, 49, had tried drugs including crack cocaine and methamphetamine, overdosing six times over 25 years and then relapsing. An Ohio native and now a peer recovery specialist for the Twin Cities Recovery Project, his situation finally changed when his granddaughter was born.

“Her mother asked me, ‘What are your grandchildren going to call you?’ Basically, ‘Are you going to be a part of your granddaughter’s life?’ I knew I needed to make a change.”

Barriers to sobriety often include the inability to secure a job and build a community of people fighting addiction. This is what Burks discovered by connecting to a recovery project. With a surge in opioid overdoses caused by potent synthetic fentanyl driving up mortality among Twin Cities residents, this is a social challenge that is more apparent than ever.

Burks carries a bottle of naloxone, a synthetic drug used to resuscitate drug overdoses, everywhere. He says he’s seen multiple people overdosing in the Twin Cities, and that some members of the Twin Cities Recovery Project have used naloxone to save others.

More and more paramedics are doing the same.

In a press release on Oct. 7, Minneapolis officials said there have been 2,113 overdoses so far this year. At least 108 people have died from such overdoses. This compares to a total of 2,283 overdoses and 197 overdose deaths in 2021. In response to a surge in substance abuse, the city is committed to substance abuse prevention and education, according to a Minneapolis news release.

According to city data, drug overdoses (both fatal and non-fatal) in St. In response, EMS is giving more naloxone to people on opioids.

Driving this increase is a seven-fold spike in fentanyl overdoses tracked by the St. Paul Police Department.

By the end of last year, the St. Paul Police Department had recorded over 900 overdose cases. This put him about 150 more than in 2019, 15% of which involved fentanyl as a suspected drug. This year’s total is on pace to match last year’s, with nearly 20% of his cases suspected of using fentanyl.

The statistics are even more dire if we focus only on fatal overdoses. 77% of fatal drug overdose incidents in St. Paul were suspected to involve fentanyl in 2021, up from 33% in 2019.

Downtown, Payne Fallen and the North End have the most drug overdoses since 2019. Incidents are also common on University Avenue.

St. Paul Police Sergeant. Justin Tiffany knows a lot about overdosing on the street. Tiffany works in the Department’s Community He works in the Outreach and Stabilization Unit, which he created in 2018 to connect people at risk to the resources and care they need.

COAST is made up of four board members, three licensed social workers, one licensed drug and alcohol counselor, and one research analyst, and is dedicated to community outreach and advocacy. We partner with other officers.

While there is local investment in their work, Tiffany says more help to improve access to addiction treatment could go a long way.

“It takes that kind of engagement to interact with these people and get them where they need to be,” Tiffany said. I think the number of overdoses will continue to rise.”

This is not the only challenge in preventing a fatal overdose. The Minnesota Department of Health says systemic racism creates a wide disparity in overdose deaths, with a black resident three times more likely than a white resident to die of opiate poisoning. increase.

Opiates continue to spread. A drug seizure in southern Minnesota last month found “rainbow” fentanyl that looked like candy, and a drug raid in Bloomington led police to recover his 24-pound fentanyl tablet. This makes him one of the largest fentanyl drug seizures in state history.

However, Tiffany said more people knew about fentanyl and synthetic opiates than before, and that awareness is dismantling stigma about drug dependence.

Alexas Leibel, 26, an intern at the Twin Cities Recovery Project, says such stigma is a major barrier for people seeking treatment.

Laibel sought sobriety for years and found a place to be with Burks and those seeking change. She said the social stigma surrounding her substance abuse has prevented many from admitting that they are addicted. But accepting that there is a problem can make a difference.

“It’s not easy to become addicted, so I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of… no one wants to be dependent on something like this,” Laibel said. , I don’t think anyone in my family would have taken this path, and if they had, our family wouldn’t be as broken as it is today.”