Grassroots opioid overdose prevention effort opens third Twin Cities harm reduction box

Grassroots opioid overdose prevention effort opens third Twin Cities harm reduction box

Grassroots opioid overdose prevention effort opens third Twin Cities harm reduction box

As fentanyl use and related deaths continue to rise, so do grassroots overdose prevention efforts.

An opioid harm reduction station was unveiled on Sunday outside of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Brooklyn Park.

It’s a pretty simple concept: the unlocked, marked box contains Narcan kits and fentanyl test strips that are all free for the taking.

The Brooklyn Park box is the third box local ad agency SixSpeed put up in the metro through its Overdose Prevention Project, and it’s in remembrance of Mateo Swanson, who died from an overdose in Brooklyn Park almost exactly a year ago at 22 years old.

Parents Terri and Bob Swanson, who raised money to sponsor the box, were at its dedication following the Sunday morning church service.

Terri Swanson called her son “a very fun, energetic kid.” The couple adopted him from Guatemala when he was a baby.

“He really was an awesome young man, and he had everybody’s back,” she shared. “And unfortunately, it was his loyalty and trust that ultimately led him to the drug that killed him.”

On March 27, 2023, Mateo took what he thought was Percocet, Terri Swanson said, adding, “and it was 100% fentanyl.”

“Our message is to ‘Pause. Take a beat…’ and that just means, think about what you’re doing before you do it because Mateo never did that,” she continued.

“The awareness isn’t quite there yet, even though this fentanyl problem is hitting everywhere,” Bob Swanson added. “It really needs to be known about and this is our best effort to step in.”

According to preliminary 2022 data from the Minnesota Department of Health, fentanyl is now involved in 92% of all opioid-related deaths in the state.

Creative director Grant Parsons represented SixSpeed at the dedication. The agency started creating the boxes last year with help from Southside Harm Reduction Services and a few local churches, he said.

“We do a lot of custom design work for clients of our own and decided to do sort of a public health initiative. Just use our powers for good,” Parsons explained.

The fentanyl test strips allow people, without questions asked, to check for fentanyl in illicit substances and the Narcan kits are an over-the-counter tool used to stop an opioid overdose in its tracks.

“It’s something that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose,” Parsons said, adding, “These things should be like defibrillators, you know, they should be everywhere.”

Parsons said they stock the boxes with 20 kits a week and “they’re going every week, yep.”

The two other Overdose Prevention Project boxes up in the metro so far are in Minneapolis at SixSpeed on West 35th Street and in St. Louis Park at Episcopal Church in Minnesota on West Broadway.

SixSpeed has donation instructions on its website for anyone looking to help stock a box or start efforts to open another one.

Mateo Swanson’s family started an initiative called Mateo’s Message following his death, with a stated goal of honoring him and educating other young people by sharing his story.