Spring 2018

Tackling Minnesota's opioid crisis

Photography by Linda Peterson

The statistics are alarming: opioid overdose deaths in the United States have reached the highest numbers ever recorded. 

In recent studies, 80 percent of people in treatment reported that their addiction to cheaper,  more deadly street drugs like heroin and fentanyl began with dependence on opioid-based  prescription drugs.

During an internship with the Minnesota Department of Health, Roon Makhtal, B.A. ’18, examined how electronic prescriptions and documentation might mitigate this crisis.

Electronic prescribing creates digital records and a secure system for sending prescriptions, thus making it easier to monitor usage patterns and trends. But only 20 percent of Minnesota’s health care providers can afford the costly technology. Electronic prescribing is especially scarce in rural areas, where opioid use is spreading rapidly. 

One of the Health Department’s recommendations to the governor involves grants to help providers purchase and install e-prescribing technology. “This crisis is so big that there is no single solution,” she says. “But we have start somewhere.”

Makhtal, who is studying health services manage-ment, received the Joan T. Smith Scholarship honoring Graca Michel. “This opportunity launched my career path,” she says. “I am the first in my family to graduate from college. Without scholarships, affording tuition would have been a challenge.”