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KELO-TV news anchor Angela Kennecke to speak on opioid addiction Monday

Luverne event will be livestreamed at Worthington's Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.

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Angela Kennecke (right) is shown with her daughter, Emily, who died as a result of a fentanyl overdose.
Christopher Reistroffer
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Angela Kennecke
Special to The Globe

WORTHINGTON — A consortium of health partners that teamed up to evaluate needs and barriers for substance abuse education in rural Minnesota will host a program on opioid addiction at 7 p.m. Monday, with a live program at Luverne High School’s auditorium and a livestream program at Worthington’s Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.

KELO-TV News Anchor Angela Kennecke, who lost a daughter to a fentanyl overdose in May 2018, will be the featured speaker. She will also speak to students during a 2 p.m. program at Luverne High School.

Emily’s Hope

The program is free to the public at all locations, and doors will open at 6 p.m. Free-will donations will be accepted, with all money gathered going to support Emily’s Hope, a nonprofit that provides treatment scholarships to addicts to help turn their life around.

Following Emily’s death at age 21, Kennecke has taken her daughter’s story nationwide and internationally, speaking about the issues surrounding opioid addiction, and the frustrations and sense of helplessness as a parent seeing their child battling addiction.

Through Emily’s Hope, donations have been used to help dozens of people get treatment. The charity also supports mothers in recovery and their children, who are able to stay in the Emily’s Hope Oxford Sober Living House.

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By sharing the story of Emily and the tragic loss, Kennecke has turned heartbreak into action by erasing the stigma surrounding addiction and advocating for more funding, better treatment and more research and understanding of substance use disorder.

Raising awareness

Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council’s Family Planning clinic is among several partners involved in the multi-county consortium to address the opioid epidemic. The group initially secured a three-year planning grant from Health Resources and Services Administration.

Now, the consortium has secured a three-year implementation grant, which will be an extension of the work identified during the planning phase. Implementation projects will address drug prevention, treatment and recovery.

Partnering with SMOC in the Rural Opioid Planning and Implementation grant are Project Morningstar, #Luv1LuvALL, Primewest Health, Southwest Health and Human Services, Minnesota West Community & Technical College and Sterling Drug.

In Nobles County, SMOC Health Services Director Terri Janssen intends to bring together a variety of potential partners to discuss ways to address opioid addiction locally. That begins on Thursday, with a planned two-hour meeting with representatives from Nobles County Community Services, New Life Treatment Center, probation, drug court, law enforcement and others who work with addicts.

“People don’t understand how easy it is to become addicted to opioids,” Janssen said. “If someone is at risk or using, we need to make sure we have the right resources in place to refer or connect.”

One of the resources she wants local responders to have ready access to is Narcan, a life-saving treatment that can be given to an individual who has overdosed. Thus far, two Narcan nasal treatments have been purchased for the first responders in Adrian and the Adrian Police Department.

“We are working with Amanda Schmitz from Sterling Drug, reaching out to first responders to try to figure out what they need for training,” Janssen said, adding that the goal is to provide both Narcan treatments and training for all first responder units.

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The Steve Rummler Hope Foundation in Minneapolis will fund the Narcan training, which will mostly be provided via Zoom, but can be offered in person, Janssen said.

“What’s nice about (Narcan, or Naloxone) is, if you give it and a person wasn’t in an overdose situation, it won’t hurt them; but if they are, it might save their life,” she said. “People think it doesn’t happen here, and unfortunately it does. Angela will be talking about that.”

Joining Kennecke’s presentation Monday evening will be a panel discussion on opioid abuse, which will also be livestreamed.

“In Worthington, I’m planning to do a sign-up for the Narcan training,” Janssen said.

Individuals who are unable to attend Monday’s program in Luverne, or the livestream in Worthington, may view the event online at youtube.com/luvernecardinalvision .

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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