On the Front Line: The First Line of Defense

When Hennepin Health rolls out its new program in response to the opioid crisis, community health specialists like Hudo Ahmed are ready to go.

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Ahmed helps people on Hennepin Health's special needs health care plan figure out what they can do to stay healthy, schedule appointments, inform them about benefits and connect them to resources like housing and social services.

As part of this new program, Ahmed also will call clients when they get a prescription for an opioid after surgery or an injury. The Local 34 member will ask if they know why a medication was prescribed and what opioids are.

She says patients can find doctors’ offices too intimidating to ask questions, so workers like her will encourage clients to talk to their doctors and ask about alternatives to opioids such as acupuncture, physical therapy, gym membership or other medications.

The idea is to reach out and to provide information before addiction can start.

“The work we as community health specialists are doing is a big part of that first line of defense against the opioid epidemic,” Ahmed says. “By actually talking and engaging directly with the members, especially in the beginning when they first start taking opioid medications, we’re making sure they are truly informed. Information is powerful. Once people know, they can start making different types of decisions.

“One of my favorite parts of my job is connecting with my members and giving them information they were not aware of and seeing it click,” Ahmed says. 

“Opiate addiction is such an important public health issue. To play even a small role in preventing that is really fulfilling and exciting.”

Our series "On the Front Line" examines some of the many ways AFSCME Council 5 members are helping to fight Minnesota's opioid crisis.

Read the full series:

The Drug Treatment Counselors

Helping Moms and Babies

Calling 911

The Probation Officer