Joining AmeriCorps VISTA meant taking a leap of faith for me. I was able to land a wonderful VISTA position with St. Louis County Public Health in Northern Minnesota focusing on Opioid Prevention. I knew I wanted to be in public health, but the opioid epidemic seemed like such an overwhelming health concern to tackle.
My early days of service involved a lot of research and trainings about the multitude of layers involved in the opioid epidemic and how to administer the opioid overdose reversal drug, Narcan. I built partnerships with community members and organizations working towards the same goals and I was proud of all the action taking place in my community; however, I didn’t quite know where I fit into the strategic plan. When National Take Back Day neared, I knew this event promoting safe medication disposal would be a great place to start.
I was able to utilize my research, partnerships, and health promotion experience to inform community members about the importance of removing unused medications from the household and educating them on where to find collection sites around the county. After the event, the Sheriff’s Department informed me that we more than doubled the amount of medication collected from the previous year, totaling more than 125 pounds!
Seeing the results of this event, I realized that it’s the small, community-driven efforts that can make an impact on the harms related to the opioid epidemic. Since then, my service year has been filled with community coalition work and various projects chipping away at each layer of the opioid epidemic. I’m happy to say that I found my place in this field and position. Looking forward, my hope is that the manuscript I co-authored with pharmacists and public health professionals in the region on how to increase Narcan access to community members will be published.