In Planning Summit on Drug Abuse, Community Voices Are Most Important

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Substance use disorder and the rapid rise in overdose deaths are among the most urgent issues facing our state. To save more lives and help communities heal, we must work together. That is why I’m particularly excited about an upcoming summit here in Minnesota.

In January, several partners will host the SUD Shared Solutions Summit, where participants will begin work on a three-to-five-year action plan to improve Minnesota’s substance use disorder (SUD) system. Incorporating community voices is a priority of the summit’s planning partners, which includes The Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health, Project Turnabout, Niyyah Recovery Initiative, Turning Point, the American Indian Chemical Dependence Advisory Council, Alluma, Minneapolis College, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Governor’s Office.

To help achieve this, the summit’s steering committee hosted two listening sessions on October 12, 2022, to identify and better understand opportunities, needs and gaps in Minnesota’s SUD system – and to get an idea of what people wanted to see in an SUD summit. The response was overwhelming.

Feedback from the listening sessions is being analyzed and will help to inform content at the summit.The listening sessions had attendees from every corner of the state, and people came from a wide variety of backgrounds, such as county and tribal workers, SUD providers, legislators, non-profit staff, and people in recovery. Participants were asked five questions and entered responses anonymously through an online tool called Mentimeter. The morning session had around 350 participants, who collectively offered 1,992 responses to the questions posed by the steering committee. The evening session had around 70 participants, who collectively offered an additional 528 responses. We also had a survey for people who couldn’t attend, and that resulted in an additional 58 participants and 558 responses.

We were inspired by the attendee’s willingness to provide input and humbled by the honesty of their answers and willingness to share hard truths. We were also impressed by the depth and detail of their ideas. Many themes came through clearly, like the impacts of workforce shortages, a lack of treatment capacity in rural areas, and the need for culturally relevant treatment, among others.

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Feedback from the listening sessions is being analyzed and will help to inform content at the summit. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) will also be able to use the feedback as we work on policies, funding priorities and legislative proposals. Staff are currently working to make the listening sessions feedback accessible, and once ready, it will be posted at the DHS website here.

As dates and details for the summit are finalized, we will share information on how to attend through email, social media and on the DHS website, among other channels.

Community input will ensure this summit has a lasting impact, and that we can reduce the pain that drug abuse causes across our state. We are deeply appreciative of the support and feedback you’ve already provided, and we implore you to participate in the summit if you can. Together, we can develop a plan that results in every Minnesotan having access to the help that they need, when they need it.

If you have questions about the upcoming summit, please email

Kristine Preston is the deputy assistant commissioner of the Behavioral Health, Housing, and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services Administration at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. 

Last Updated on November 14, 2022

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