DRUG FORUM. Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott answered a question about inter-agency cooperation during a community forum on drug abuse prevention at the Becker High School Wednesday night as SCSD Investigative Sgt. Ben Zawacki looked on.

Forum tells "the truth" about her ion and substance abuse

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Contributing Writer
David Hannula
Federal and local law enforcement officers and substance abuse prevention specialists presented a community forum on the growing problem of heroin and prescription drug abuse in Minnesota in the auditorium at the Becker High School last Wednesday night. 
The event was titled “A Night to Know the Truth,” and featured information displays from a variety of drug abuse prevention agencies including the Minneapolis-based organization called “Know The Truth” which deals with substance abuse prevention, Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, the Sherburne County Substance Use Prevention Coalition and law enforcement agencies from around the area.
The program was introduced by Sherburne County Commissioner John Riebel and County Attorney Kathleen Heaney, who also served as the moderator for the evening. 
The first speaker was Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott, who provided a report on drug trends in Sherburne County, a “regional perspective on heroin,” and details on fatalities associated with substance abuse in the area. 
Elk River resident Janet Weishalla addressed the meeting, bravely telling the story of her family and the devastation they still feel at the loss of their son Bobby to a heroin overdose in 2012.  She advised all present to “be a parent” more than being a friend to your children, to ask questions and know what your children are doing and with who, and, “if something does not feel right, it probably isn’t.”  She still has not changed his room at home, she said, or been able to bring herself to wash his clothes.  
For rehab agencies, her advice was:”Don’t kick them out if they relapse, that is when they need you the most.”
Two young people also related their stories during the presentation. In the first, “Will” related how he began drinking alcohol in his early teens, a bad divorce led to more drugs, painkillers, and finally heroin.   At the time, his father was a DARE officer in the local school, he said, proving that it can happen to anybody.  A near-death overdose a friend suffered while with him led to jail for him and recovery and membership in the Know The Truth (KTT) program, which he now represents.  “Megan” related her decline through an abusive environment, drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, stealing from her family and dropping out of school, punctuated by long periods of being a run-away with no contact with her family or infant daughter.  She finally hit bottom when she was arrested a year ago, and is now on the path to recovery with Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, where she has just been chosen to attend the Leadership institute, she concluded.
Other speakers included federal Drug Enforcement Administration representative Daniel Moran, who reported on the pathways that bring heroin into central Minnesota from Mexico and other sources, and the on-going activities of law enforcement to oppose the spread of the drug cartels into the U.S., SCSD Investigative Captain Scott Fildes, who presented information on abuse of prescription drugs and SCSD Investigative Sergeant Ben Zawacki, who detailed law enforcement activities in the area.
Adam Pederson of the MN Adult & Teen Challenge spoke about the types of abuses his organization deals with, with alcohol being the number one drug of choice among young people, with the opiates coming in as the number two choice with the clients his organization works with.
Warning Signs
A list of warning signs provided listed some areas for parents to be especially watchful for, including loss in interest in family activities, disrespect for family rules, verbal or physical abuse, lies about activities, new, unknown friends, a drop off in grades in school truancy, defiance of authority, suddenly poor attitude to sport or other favorite activities, loss of memory or short attention span, mood swings, changes in weight, depression, argumentative behavior, stealing money or pills from home and a loss of care in personal appearance can all be warning signs of substance abuse or other related problems.
All of the presenters then took part in a question-and-answer session that also included Becker police Chief Brent Baloun, Big Lake Police Chief Joel Scharf and Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe. SCSD Deputy Roxanne Schreder was also involved with preparation of the program, but did not take part in the on-stage discussion. Questions included whether area law enforcement patrols carry medication that can be given to heroin overdose victims, levels of cooperation between departments, federal assistance for local departments to dispose of prescription drugs that have been turned in and new laws that will shield individuals from prosecution if they call police to report an overdose that took place while they were present.
Resources
The program included four points to remember in talking to teenagers about drugs and alcohol: (1.) Start talking early in life, and keep talking. (2.) Be prepared to talk about your past. (3.) Support your teen with role modeling and firm guidance. (4.) Consider putting your agreements in writing.
There are currently three prescription drug drop-off sites in Sherburne County: Becker Police Dept., 12060 Sherburne Ave, Becker, MN 55308, (763) 200-4267; Big Lake Police Dept., 160 Lake Street North, Big lake, MN 55309, (763) 263-2500, and the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office, 13880 Business Center Drive, Elk River, MN, 55330, (763) 765-3500.
For more information, contact the following agencies:  Sherburne County Health and Human Services, (763) 765-4000; Four County Mental Health Initiative: www.mnmentalhealth.org; Sherburne County Substance Use Prevention Coalition, (763) 765-3579; MN Adult and Teen Challenge, (612) FREEDOM; Narcotics Anonymous, www.naminnesota.org; Hazelden, 1-800-257-7810; Central MN Mental Health Center, (763) 441-3770, and the Emily Program (eating disorders), (651) 645-5323.
 

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GET TO WORK! Rebecca Jacobs of Northstar Technology Solutions chatted with Tim Zipoy from Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services and Business Service Specialist Brad Durfee from Minnesota Job Services. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

BROWN FAMILY FARM. Jodi and Ben Brown, raise produce on land on Co. Rd. 15. (Submitted photo).

THE CAST OF CINDERELLA gave four outstanding performances at Big lake High School over the weekend in the first musical production the school has had for many years. (Photos by Jennifer Edwards).

Front row: Hailey Foss, Christina Kimmer and Ashley Lang Back row: Assistant Coach Todd Yurkew, Maria Yurkew, Hannah Heitz, Ariel Parnell, Megan Archambault and Coach Kevin Lang. (Submitted photo.)

BARELY RECOGNIZABLE, Assistant Principal Theresa Smock Potter, fifth-grade Teacher Karen Nelsen, Kindergarten Teacher Taylor Klausen and Principal Caryl Gordy sat still for the annual Pennies for Pies event which raised $2,748.46 for the Big Lake Food Shelf Monday afternoon. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).