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Naloxone Shortage: What’s Happening and What YOU Need to Know

Naloxone Shortage: What’s Happening and What YOU Need to Know

By TINA MONJE Despite spiking overdose deaths, the nation’s grassroots harm reduction organizations were notified this spring that Pfizer, their primary supplier of affordable, single-dose injectable naloxone (i.e. Narcan), would temporarily halt production. Pfizer has declined to provide information with major news sources, except that this halt has nothing to do with COVID-19 vaccines, and that production will resume in February. SHRS Linkage to Care Coordinator Marissa Bonnie implementing a community naloxone station in South Minneapolis. Photo by Emily Shippee Of the many naloxone producers, Pfizer is the only one who sells the product at an affordable rate. In 2012, the company entered into an agreement with a nation-wide buyers’ club consisting of community harm reduction organizations in an effort to get the opioid overdose reversal drug into the hands of those most likely to respond to overdose - people who use drugs (PWUD). Minneapolis-based Southside Harm Reduction Services (SHRS) is one of the many buyers’ club members who rely on Pfizer’s accessibility. Of the syringe services programs (SSP’s) in Minnesota, SHRS purchases and distributes the largest quantity. SHRS Founder and Executive Director Jack Martin reports that, between June 2020 and 2021 alone, they distributed at least 80,000 doses to PWUD either directly, or through other SSPs, organizations, and individuals. While naloxone is theoretically abundant, a single dose from other producers can run about $20 each, an infeasible price for PWUD, and for the underfunded or underground entities who serve them. “There’s enough naloxone in the world,” says Martin. “We don’t need to be in a situation where we’re having to deny people naloxone.” Martin suggests that other pharmaceutical companies either cannot or simply will not offer it at competitive prices. For now, [...]

Ebenezer Land

Ebenezer Land

By DWIGHT HOBBES “Affordable housing...is a misnomer of sorts: affordability implies the ability to pay for something given your budget”, think tank Cato Institute noted in a 2016 blog. Anyone of modest means looking for someplace to live who has run into what’s being marketed as “affordable” can tell you just what a misnomer that is. It begs the cynical retort, affordable to whom? On top of which, rents and income have gone in opposite directions for some time and the contagion certainly didn’t help, putting people out of work left and right. Ebenezer Park Apartments (photo courtesy of Ebenezer) Enter Ebenezer Park Apts., which doesn’t solve that problem for everyone, but does give the elderly and disabled, including deaf tenants, a sorely needed break. Starting with the wallet, but, importantly, not ending there. Paramount, it goes without saying, is the difference between dispiritedly perusing ads for places priced out of your range and being asked one-third of your income – whatever that happens to be. Plus, there’s no application fee. It defies reason as how companies and organizations, whose selling card is affordability, charge at least $35, non-refundable, with a straight face just to fill out an application. Claiming it’s to cover the background check is just so much bilge water. Ebenezer can find out whether you got booked for loitering and doesn’t pocket a dime in the process. We’re not talking public housing, which generally, how little you pay, is no bargain. Shelterforce.org documents, "Public housing , to a cycle of government neglect and under-funding which, in turn, led to poor construction design, inadequate maintenance, racial segregation, stigmatization, and further concentration of the very poor." In parts of Minneapolis, it also fosters veritable drug and prostitution franchises. Conversely, Ebenezer is a comparative oasis. Maintenance, something no [...]

COVID-19 Back to School

COVID-19 Back to School

By LINDSEY FENNER It’s September, which means kids are back in school! But with the Delta variant spreading in MN, and kids under 12 unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, sending your kids to school this year might feel really scary. Although the new variant is much more contagious, the good news is that all of the COVID-19 precautions we’re already using are still effective against the Delta variant. We have so many tools to use! But it is important to remember that there isn’t just one thing to do; we need to layer up these interventions to keep our kids healthy. Read your school’s COVID-19 plan. Ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand.Surround your kids under 12 with vaccinated adults. Every vaccinated person helps to weaken the chain of transmission, and protect unvaccinated folks.Get your kids over 12 vaccinated. Although they are less likely to get severely ill, they can still get sick, and they can certainly spread COVID-19 to vulnerable loved ones, and unvaccinated younger siblings.Reduce community risk outside of school. Preventing spread outside of school prevents spread inside of school. This might look like: wearing a mask in all indoor settings outside of the home, seeing a smaller group of friends, doing fewer extracurricular activities.Good ventilation is essential. If your school isn’t communicating with families about how they are improving ventilation in the classroom, ask about it!Get tested regularly: The CDC recommends students get tested at least weekly, even if they don’t have symptoms. Talk to your school nurse about what testing is available through the school. The State of MN offers FREE, at-home testing: https://learn.vaulthealth.com/state-of-minnesota/Masks are recommended in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Try to get the best-fitting, highest filtration mask your child can comfortably wear for long periods of time.Keep your child home from school [...]

Red Lake and NACC Set to Open New Healthcare Center

Red Lake and NACC Set to Open New Healthcare Center

By TINA MONJE In September of 2020, Red Lake Nation and their affordable housing nonprofit partner, CommonBond Communities, began taking applications for their new Native-centered apartment building, Mino Bimaadiziwin. Today, most of the units are occupied, and they hope to have the building full by late August. In partnership with Native American Community Clinic (NACC), Red Lake Nation is also gearing up to open the Mino Bimaadiziwin Wellness Center, an onsite health clinic. Dr. Laurelle Myhra, PhD, LMFT, is an enrolled member of Red Lake Nation, and the new clinic’s director. According to Myhra, this project, arguably the first of its kind in the nation, has been made possible by the innovative Indigenous leaders who are seated at the planning table. The culmination of “a lot of indigenous people carrying indigenous knowledge and ancestry,” she says, has resulted in this new, one-of-a-kind avenue, through which residents may access housing and healthcare.This project comes after years of increasing houselessness within the community, and years of community organizing and development among Minnesota tribal leaders, Indigenous outreach workers, and community members at large. Construction began in the fall of 2019, and moved rapidly through the winter, on a site familiar to the population for whom this development is built to serve. At this site, in December of 2018, Simpson Housing opened the Navigation Center. By the guidance of local Native leadership groups, including Red Lake Nation, American Indian Community Development Center (AICDC) and Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID), this temporary shelter was built in response to the Franklin/Hiawatha encampment, known as the Wall of Forgotten Natives, which quickly grew through the spring and summer of 2018.The short-lived shelter provided 24/7, low-barrier entrance, where staff helped residents find permanent housing, and access to social services and health care. Many social [...]

Free Meals and Snacks for Kids

Free Meals and Snacks for Kids

En la escuela y en otros sitios Comidas escolares nutritivas gratuitas/Iskuulada iyo meelo kaleba  For more free meals for kids, download the “Free Meals for Kids” app on your smartphone!  East Phillips Park Cultural and Community Center 2307 17th Ave S  •Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 15-August 12 •Meal Bags will be provided from 5:00 PM- 6:00 PM  Little Earth Residents Association (LERA) 2495 18th Avenue South  •Tuesdays and Fridays, July 2-August 13 •Meal bags will be provided from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM  Stewart Park 2700 12th Ave S  • This summer food services program provides children nutritious meals during summer vacation (Monday through Friday) on behalf of the Minneapolis School District. It is free to all children aged 18 and younger.  • Monday – Friday, 1-2PM: snack; 5-6PM: dinner  Weekly Meal Boxes Minneapolis Public Schools South High3131 S 19th Ave, 55407 Door 20, Off of 21st Ave South •Food boxes will contain 7 breakfasts and 7 lunches. Monday- Friday, 10am - 3pm Street Eats Food Truck, Minneapolis Public Schools •Hope Academy, 2300 Chicago Ave S: Wednesdays, 12PM-12:30PM •Waite House, 2323 11th Ave: Fridays, 11:40AM-12:10PM Franklin Library 1314 E Franklin Ave •Youth snacks:Thursdays 2:30-3:30 p.m. Hosmer Library 347 E 36th St •Snacks for kids always available during open hours •Cold Boxed Lunch: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 10:50-11:10AM •Hot Lunch: Wednesday 1:20-1:40 FREE MEALS FOR KIDS aplicación móvil/mobile app Free Nutritious Meals For Kids 18 And Under Only a click away, the Free Meals for Kids mobile app will help families and kids find free meals at schools and other sites across Minnesota during COVID-19. How it works: 1. Download the Free Meals for Kids app to your cell phone. 2. Use the app to find the nearest [...]

Reflections From a Former COVID-19 Case Investigator

Reflections From a Former COVID-19 Case Investigator

By LINDSEY FENNER  After over a year working in public health as a pandemic responder, I am back doing my pre-pandemic work. And although this doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, it does mean this column is at an end. I started writing it because I wanted people to have something to hold onto within the swirl of pandemic uncertainty and anxiety. I realized very quickly that no matter what my job description was on paper, what I was really doing was struggling with people through uncertainty. My job was to listen, to talk through complicated realities that didn’t fit neatly into a box, to help people who were sick make decisions when there wasn’t a clear correct choice. And now, after my job is over, what is there to say about what we have all been through together?  We are all connected. Which is nothing new, but doing this work meant relearning that every single day. In my role doing case investigation/epidemiology we called people one by one, asking them questions about their individual actions. But in every individual conversation, we were really teasing out all of these threads of connection. How one thing led to another, led to this particular person I was talking to on the phone being infected. This is after all how infectious diseases work, and why this work is done by “public” health and not your personal healthcare provider.  And each individual conversation was so important, especially at the beginning when there was so much we didn’t know. Each person had a story. And these stories, as lived experiences, all matter. And parts of that story became data points on a graph. This shouldn’t be seen as something purely reductive or dehumanizing. These data points, made up of stories, collectively helped tell the policy makers what to do next.  We could have done better. Sometimes the wrong decision was made by people in power. Sometimes there was no good choice: no clear scientific [...]

How We Get to the End (because we’re not there yet)

TIPS FROM A COVID-19 CASE INVESTIGATOR By LINDSEY FENNER Now that COVID vaccines are much more easily available in Minnesota, we have reached what is perhaps the hardest part of this enormous vaccination task: reaching the folks who waited or haven’t quite made up their minds or still have questions. And as much information as any government public health official can send out in the world, YOU can make a difference by having conversations with loved ones about getting vaccinated. These conversations might be difficult. And it will likely take more than one conversation. But this is how we get to the end of the pandemic.  Some tips for having these difficult yet crucial discussions Listen with empathy and without judgement: These vaccines are new. There is so much information and misinformation about them, it can be overwhelming. It is understandable that people have questions or anxiety about getting their shot. Give folks space to talk it out. Ask open-ended questions: This helps keep the conversation going, and helps you understand what your friend or relative is concerned about. Share information and resources (but ask permission first): There are many good informational resources about the vaccine. Just try not to SPAM them with information!Help them find their reason why: People who get vaccinated do it for different reasons. You could share why you got vaccinated to help them think about it, or talk about what you both could do together once everyone is vaccinated.Remove barriers: Sometimes people just need a little logistical support, like help finding an appointment or vaccination event, transportation to the vaccination site, help with caregiving if they have side effects, or just someone familiar to accompany them at the appointment. We need  to acknowledge that there are so many structural reasons that have prevented people from getting vaccinated, like lack of access to healthcare, paid time off, or [...]

Vaccination Facts, Datos Sobre La Vacuna, Xaqiiqooyinka Tallaalka

Vaccination Facts, Datos Sobre La Vacuna, Xaqiiqooyinka Tallaalka

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

TIPS FROM A COVID-19 CASE INVESTIGATOR By LINDSEY FENNER As I am writing this in late April, I have just gotten my first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. After doing pandemic response work for almost a year, it was an incredibly emotional moment for me, as I know it has been for many people. My tears of joy were matched by the broad grin of the man getting vaccinated across from me, his elation clear through his mask. But my joy in getting vac- cinated has been tempered by the cold reality of rising COVID cases in Minnesota. At work, we watched the numbers slowly inch up in the month of March, and then saw them pick up speed in April. We don’t know when this latest surge in Minnesota will peak. I desperately hope that by May, the worst will truly be behind us, but right now, as I write this, we just don’t know. Why have cases been rising again? Perhaps the biggest reason is the growing dominance of the variant strain B117. B117, the variant of concern first discovered in the UK, has torn through Europe, and is now tearing through parts of the US like Michigan and Minnesota. B117 seems to be over 50% more transmissible and likely causes more severe illness than the original COVID variety. And it is now believed to be the dominant COVID strain in Minnesota. What this means practically, is that while there might have been some riskier activities we did before and didn’t get sick, we now are much more likely to get COVID doing the same things. We are also seeing many more cases in children and teens, and more severe illness in younger people. The good news is that the vaccines in the US seem to do a good job against B117. But we all need to take steps to protect folks who aren’t vaccinated yet, or can’t get vaccinated, like children and folks who are immunocompromised.  Kids should get tested every other week if they are attending in-person school or daycare. They should get tested every week if they are [...]

Tips from a COVID-19 Case Investigator: I’m Vaccinated. Now What?

Tips from a COVID-19 Case Investigator: I’m Vaccinated. Now What?

By LINDSEY FENNER As more neighbors and loved ones are getting vaccinated, we’re entering a hopeful yet complicated time of the pandemic. If you’re like me, only some people in your household or social group are fully vaccinated (I’ll probably be last on the list!). This means while there are some things fully vaccinated people can do with other fully vaccinated people, they should be careful when they’re around folks who haven’t been vaccinated yet. First a definition: “Fully vaccinated” means someone who has completed their full vaccine series (2 shots for a 2-dose series like Moderna/Pfizer, and 1 shot for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine) and it has been at least 2 weeks since they had their final dose. Had one shot of a two-dose vaccine? Nope, not fully vaccinated. Had your last shot yesterday? Still not fully vaccinated. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out with new guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated last month. This guidance attempts to balance our need for social connection with what we still don’t know about how the vaccines reduce transmission of COVID-19. The COVID vaccines approved in the US have shown a really remarkable ability to prevent death or serious illness from COVID-19. But, like most vaccines, they don’t work 100%. Very rarely, people who are vaccinated can still become infected with COVID. This is called “vaccine breakthrough,” and MDH keeps track of people who test positive who have been fully vaccinated. So far, it seems like these instances have been very uncommon, and people have had zero or extremely mild symptoms. And although fully vaccinated people are unlikely to get seriously ill, we’re still getting information on how much vaccinated folks can still spread the virus if they get infected. New CDC guidance for if you’ve been fully vaccinated (as of March 9, 2021): What’s [...]

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