According to the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) 2021 Overdose Data Report, Black Minnesotans are three times more likely to die of a drug overdose than white Minnesotans. As home to one of the largest Somali populations in the nation, Minnesota’s Somali community has been underrepresented in overdose data. When collecting data on race and ethnicity, Somalis are often classified solely as Black, with no mention of the relevant ethnic subgroup. In 2017, MDH identified that the state lacked specific data to address the needs of the Somali community. Voices from the community demonstrated anecdote stories of overdoses of Somali youth. To address this issue, MDH launched pilot overdose fatality reviews (OFRs) in 2019, which recommended applying the OFR model using a culturally specific lens in the Somali community. The following year, using funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Overdose Data to Action grant, MDH partnered with Alliance Wellness Center—a culturally specific provider specializing in treatment and recovery for Somalis. During OFR implementation training, the OFR team lead shared concerns about the deeply rooted stigma surrounding overdoses in the Somali community as a barrier to community participation and facilitation of OFRs. To address the cultural stigma and build organizational capacity, the OFR team conducted prevention interviews before implementing OFRs in the community. Through these deep conversations, the OFR team captured the Somali community’s collective voice and identified barriers preventing community discussion on overdose deaths.
Keywords: Minnesota Department of Health overdose fatality review OFR Somali data ethnicity Overdose Data to Action culturally specific treatment recovery stigma community barrier organizational capacity prevention interviews