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University of Minnesota Extension

Cultivating recovery and healing through community

Extension's Community-based Opioid Prevention and Education (C.O.P.E) project supports recovery and healing through the power of community collaboration.

Recovery from substance use disorder can be challenging, and the journey can be difficult without support from family, friends and the wider community. That’s why, through Extension’s Community-based Opioid Prevention and Education (COPE) project, a collaboration of health agencies, tribal community leaders and local organizations is working to cultivate positive change and growth for those in recovery.

At the heart of these partnerships is the COPE project, which provides critical harm reduction education and resources to address the opioid crisis in rural Minnesota counties and tribal communities. This collaboration is more critical than ever in light of recent data from the Minnesota Department of Health that shows an increase in overdose deaths in 2021, especially across greater Minnesota.

By harnessing community strengths and building recovery capital, COPE and community changemakers in Itasca, Pine and St. Louis Counties are making a real difference in the lives of those recovering and healing from substance use disorder (SUD).

Community changemakers play a crucial role in promoting recovery

The support of community changemakers is instrumental in fostering recovery and healing in Minnesota communities. In 2019, Extension partnered with local organizations to hold “changemaker retreats,” bringing together community leaders to develop creative ideas for supporting recovery in their communities. Three years later, the impact of these retreats can still be seen across Minnesota. 

A portrait of Cynthia Baade holding a bouquet of orange and red flowers
Cynthia Baade, Mission Restart president

Cynthia Baade, president of Mission Restart, shared how her recovery organization started with the crucial support of a changemaker who helped get the organization up and running. Baade founded Mission Restart in response to the pandemic-related shutdown of recovery meetings and loss of support for individuals recovering from SUD. According to Baade, many people felt isolated and lacked the support to continue their path toward recovery. “A lot of people were saying that they felt like they didn't have anybody to reach out to,” says Baade. 

Baade's ultimate goal with Mission Restart is to ensure everyone has a place to turn to for support in their journey toward recovery. Thanks to COPE's provision of over 500 customized cards discussing safe use tips for drugs and highlighting other support and resources in the area, Mission Restart now provides harm reduction information in addition to their weekly meetings, peer recovery services and a 24-hour support line for those in need. 

But Baade is not alone in her efforts.

Wellness baskets and fentanyl testing kits offer new hope for recovery

A plastic blue basket with self-care items
Pine County provides wellness baskets that include self-care items for people in recovery.

Pine County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has also stepped up to support residents in recovery through wellness baskets. Jenae Hicks, a health educator at Pine County DHHS, puts together wellness baskets and delivers them to local recovery agencies. Since the program started in 2021, more than 100 baskets have been distributed to various agencies in Pine County. Previous baskets have included fleece blankets, journals, cleaning and cooking supplies, recipes and personal care products. The community's overwhelmingly positive response is reflected in multiple messages of gratitude and appreciation.

St. Louis County kit with fentanyl test strips
St. Louis County provides kits for community partners with fentanyl test strips.

Meanwhile, St. Louis County has taken proactive steps to combat the opioid crisis and aid in the detection of fentanyl by compiling fentanyl testing kits and distributing over 3,000 fentanyl test strips to community partners. These kits include informative cards featuring local organizations and resources, as well as safe use stickers with simple harm reduction tips related to naloxone and overdose prevention. As a result, more than ten organizations that had not previously partnered with the county on harm reduction efforts have reached out to request participation in future orders.

Commitment to the cause

Minnesota community leaders continue to make a meaningful impact on the lives of those in recovery. From organizing support groups to advocating for better access to treatment and resources, Minnesota communities are coming together, with the support of COPE, to help one another on the journey to healing and recovery. Their dedication serves as a reminder that positive change is possible through collective action and unwavering commitment to the cause.

COPE builds hope for Minnesota communities

COPE project partners and community leaders are continuing to build spaces for opioid use recovery and prevention across Minnesota. Learn how COPE is building hope for Minnesota communities, find harm reduction resources and follow the work happening across Minnesota counties and tribal nations.

Visit the COPE project website

Permission is granted to news media to republish our news articles with credit to University of Minnesota Extension. Images also may be republished; please check for specific photographer credits or limited use restrictions in the photo title.

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