As opioid epidemic rages in Minneapolis' Somali community, advocates fight stigma surrounding addiction

(FOX 9)

The Somali community in the Twin Cities is dealing with its own opioids crisis right now. Several young people have recently overdosed on the powerful opioid fentanyl. A meeting Friday night was held to discuss the issue of opioid abuse.

"It's heartbreaking especially because I used to do it," said Abdirahman Warsame.

Warsame overdosed on fentanyl several times but, unlike some of the other young people in his community, he survived.

"It's kind of hard when you see something you know is a big problem and you look around and nobody cares about it," he explained.

Warsame shared his experiences at a community meeting at Stewart Park in south Minneapolis. Organizers say the goal of the gathering of 100 or so people is to end the silence about addiction and mental health among Somalis in Minnesota.

"There is a disconnect between the youth and the parents so a lot of the times there may be a language barriers," explained Yussef Shafie with the Alliance Wellness Center. "The mom may not understand what opiates are, what addiction is."

Organizers say there have been more than a dozen deaths from fentanyl among Somali youth in the Twin Cities so far this year. They want to educate East Africans in the metro so they can overcome the shame and stigma associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

"We need to do better we need to end the stigma now," said Shafie. "We can't wait another day because we just keep losing more young folks and that is unfortunate."

Warsame has been clean for over a year and he hopes his story inspires others to open their eyes to the crisis in their community.

"It lets people know this is not something to be ashamed of," said Warsame. "This is a problem. It's a mistake and this is how you get out of it."

The community members heard from people in recovery and parents who lost a child to an opioid overdose. They also received some training on how to use Narcan.

They plan on having more community meetings like this one in the future.