Tackling substance abuse together

March 20, 2017
Young people talk with a middle-aged counselor.

Seeing how the growing abuse of opioids and heroin was affecting her northern Minnesota community, Laura Palombi sprang into action.

A member of the grassroots Carlton County Drug Abuse Task Force, Palombi, an assistant professor at the U of M College of Pharmacy’s Duluth campus, and a colleague from a community health board secured a grant from the University to hold a community forum in the town of Cloquet in October 2015. The organizers expected a turnout of 50; instead, the inaugural Carlton County Community Forum on Heroin and Opioid Abuse drew more than 260 people eager to learn what they could do to stem the rising tide of drug abuse.

Attendees heard from a diverse group of panelists about a wide range of topics. For example, a treatment specialist explained how to help a loved one who struggles with addiction, a toxicologist described heroin and opioids’ impact from a medical perspective, and a father shared his personal story of alcohol addiction and losing a child to a heroin overdose.

So successful was the forum, additional forums were held last fall in Cloquet and Moose Lake and in Kanabec County. Another will take place May 16 at the Grand Casino in Hinckley.

Palombi is also working with northern Minnesota schools to develop curricula that strive to prevent addiction.