REGIONAL – What sets apart the Minnesota Department of Health’s newest effort to address the evolving opioid epidemic isn’t a new take on harsh but sterile statistics. The way to …
REGIONAL – What sets apart the Minnesota Department of Health’s newest effort to address the evolving opioid epidemic isn’t a new take on harsh but sterile statistics. The way to provide a voice to those who have experienced this substance use disorder, say Injury and Violence Prevention section staff, is to use technology to get personal.
“Stories from the Field,” a new podcast series launched by the department on Tuesday, strives to do just that. By blending the real and often unsettling stories of real people deeply affected by opioid abuse with the voices of health care experts and community leaders, the series aims to illustrate the complexities of the epidemic in a way that connects with listeners on a level that will lead many to positive change.
“You’re going to find that the podcasts feature a real person who has been impacted in some way,” said Julie Bartkey, opioid prevention communications officer. “We have a mother whose son was very recently found dead of an overdose, sitting up while packing for a vacation. We have another mother whose daughter has been revived twice by Naloxone. What we’ve tried to do is partner a real person with community advocates who are trying to instill change and to try to destigmatize substance abuse, destigmatize overdose, so that people understand that recovery is possible and that these are all preventable deaths.”
The first podcast, available now, is a departure from that formula in that it sets the stage for the series by telling the history of opioids, heroin, and other drugs from the perspectives of white, tribal, and Black communities. It provides background and context for listeners to more fully engage with subsequent episodes that reveal the raw emotions of people who have battled substance misuse, lost loved ones, and managed to get through it. The diverse group of guests represent communities of color, tribal communities, the LGBTQ population, and a variety of economic backgrounds.
“We have an entire episode dedicated to what’s being done in one tribal community that has started a nation-leading effort to turn drug courts into wellness courts,” Bartkey said. “So people can get some inspiration and knowledge about what’s happening on other tribal lands, and then they can reach out for more, because we know that there’s great communication between tribes for the most part.”
The five-episode series is a pilot for what Bartkey and her colleagues hope will become an expanded effort in the future if the response is good.
“I think we did a really solid job of trying to represent Metro, Greater Minnesota and underserved communities, but there’s room for more, there’s always room to build on this,” Bartkey said. “But we had to start someplace, and this seemed like a good starting point.”
The overarching goal is connection – stories and discussions connecting with listeners in a way that will help them to connect with resources in their communities to help them make safer choices and find possible solutions.
The first podcast, “The History of Opioids,” is available online now at https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/opioids/communities/fieldstories.html. The second podcast, “Great Challenges in Greater Minnesota,” will be released on Tuesday, April 20, with additional episodes posted every two weeks on Tuesdays until all five are up.
The “Stories from the Field” webpage also serves as a gateway to additional resources.
“By featuring the work being done throughout the state, we hope to leave listeners with a sense of hope and that help is available,” said Dana Farley, injury and violence prevention supervisor. “Podcasts are just one way the Injury and Violence Prevention section at MDH engages with our communities to address the emerging opioid crisis.”
For more information and other resources, visit MDH’s Opioid Overdose Prevention page.