How Can You Impact the Opioid Crisis? 
submitted by Laurie Willhite 

The opioid crisis is a serious issue for women. In 2016, 121 Minnesota women died of an overdose. Women are more likely to report using opioids for emotional pain. Women are more likely to be impacted by ACEs, which is a risk factor for substance use. We are more likely to be prescribed benzodiazepines (drugs such as lorazepam, alprazolam, and clonazepam) for anxiety and sleep disorders, increasing the risk of fatal overdose when combined with opioids. We are often caregivers with high personal and professional expectations of ourselves — we don’t want pain to slow us down. My addiction medicine colleagues report that women feel especially stigmatized by their opioid use.

I work at Hennepin Healthcare. As a Medication Therapy Management pharmacist in our pain clinic, I help patients decrease opioid doses slowly to lower and safer amounts. We identify patients that need naloxone — which reverses an overdose — and train people how to use it. Any home with opioids should have it in case of emergency. Naloxone is covered by insurance, given as a nasal spray, and available without a prescription from any pharmacy in Minnesota. 

We are increasing access to treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). We have a weekly conference to help doctors with patients who have pain and complex opioid problems. Our Project ECHO links opioid addiction medicine experts with primary care providers in Minnesota communities. 

What can women do to impact the opioid crisis?

  • Carry naloxone as I do.
  • Safely dispose of unused opioids in a drug disposal kiosk. 
  • Inform your legislator that OUD must be integrated with women’s needs. I see “inexpensive” opioid medications covered by insurance, while non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, massage, access to exercise facilities and other non-opioid therapies are not. Work for change in this area.
  • Advocate for minimizing the use of opioids for pain.
  • Seek treatment if you are concerned about opioid use. 


Details: findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator; Minnesota Regional Poison Center 800-222-1222 



Futures Café 

submitted by Marta Uhlenkott 

The new Futures Café in the Hennepin County Health Services building exclusively employs people, aged 16-22, who have been involved with the Human Services system. They have struggled with poverty, homelessness, or school issues, and show initiative and motivation. 

Program Manager Taya Kaufenberg has both a culinary arts and social work background. The job coach is Dawn Trimarco from HIRED. Their approach focuses on reliability, responsibility, and social interaction. 

Employees are referred for a 90-day employment training program. Although barista training is part of it, it is a comprehensive work readiness program that involves job coaching and Serve Safe certification. It teaches resume-writing, how to conduct an interview, and how to be a good food industry worker. Employees work 20 hours a week and many also attend school. Graduates receive ongoing employment counseling and support. 

The name “Futures Café” signifies a forward-looking approach, rather than dwelling on the past. It’s about opportunity for an abundant, overflowing future.