Sometimes the truth hurts.
The webinar “A Night to Know the Truth” hosted Tuesday, Oct. 20, by the Brainerd Lakes Area Drug Education, or BLADE, tackled the difficult subjects of substance abuse and mental health.
“The goal of tonight is to help you guys all feel more equipped to support the young people in your community of Crow Wing County in regards to substance use and mental health,” Elle Mark, Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge prevention education manager, told participants.
The two-hour nighttime webinar hosted by the drug education coalition focused on sharing information on local substance abuse trends and how area students are responding to challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic, such as isolation and difficulties seeking in-person treatment.
“You’re going to be hearing from community leaders as well as people who are from your community who have suffered from addiction themselves,” Mark said to the hundred or so who registered for the online event to learn more about Know the Truth.
Know the Truth
Know the Truth is the substance abuse prevention program of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, a faith-based addiction-treatment provider.
“We have — beyond just our prevention education presentations — small groups and youth peer support group services. We use that peer-to-peer education in order to get at the questions the students really want to have answers to,” Mark said during the webinar.
Know the Truth began in 2006, and the program has grown to serving over 60,000 students per year, statewide, “by complementing their existing chemical health curriculum, bringing in those personal stories and making it more relatable to every student,” Mark said.
“This puts us in a unique situation to bridge the gap between the youth in the community and adults who care about them by offering presentations and ‘A Night to Know the Truth’ with communities such as yours in the Brainerd lakes area and Crow Wing County as a whole,” Mark said.
Know the Truth’s continuum of prevention services for schools include guided small group discussions and a 24/7 anonymous text hotline, for example, and for communities an annual conference focused on the underlying issues of youth substance abuse.
Dr. Shiela Klemmetsen, a family practitioner at Essentia Health in Baxter, shared during the webinar her involvement with the drug education coalition.
“I just want you guys to know that after being a part of BLADE and getting to know these people in our community, it’s really given me a lot of just hope and seeing the courage and truly seeing the unity of all of us working together for a common cause,” Klemmetsen said.
Medical care for “substance use disorders” is part of the primary care clinic in Baxter, according to Klemmetsen, with the goals of restoring relationships between the substance abuser’s friends and family, for example, and setting up counseling and partnering with other facilities.
“We really want people to be all together… and truly treating it like the disease that it is and not necessarily a moral failing, which I think a lot of times it gets judged to be,” Klemmetsen said.
Essentia Health offers medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders or treating mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We’ve taken this approach where we just want to hear your story. Or maybe you’re not suffering from substance use disorder yourself, but you’re a family member, which a lot of us on the BLADE coalition are family members as well,” Klemmetsen said.
Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard was one of the featured speakers during the webinar and spoke about the challenges of sharing BLADE’s unconventional approach with the public.
“Andy Galles, one of our lieutenants, often says, and it is true, we realize — we being law enforcement — that we’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem. It’s really going to take a community approach,” Goddard said.
The Lakes Area Drug Investigative Division was created in 2001. The multi-jurisdictional task force involves all law enforcement agencies in the county, with the major emphasis on the “investigation and enforcement of narcotics” in the county.
“The dealers in our community basically are methamphetamine and heroin,” Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Troy Nash said. “There’s other drugs going in our area — prescription medications, marijuana, cocaine, synthetic cannabis — but the most prevalent is the methamphetamine in our area.”
The number of opioid-related deaths in the state in 2017 was 727, according to Nash, and emergency medical services responded to about 60 opioid overdoses in the county in 2018.
“There’s not a lot of production in our area right now. A lot of this is being transported from the southern states up into Minneapolis, St. Cloud, and then our individuals that are dealing it now are usually going and getting supplied from the St. Cloud metro area,” Nash said.
Youth and drugs
Crosby Police Officer Colter Jenkins is a Crosby school resource officer who spoke during the webinar about how he attempts to gain students’ trust or have them come to him with problems.
“I’ve had multiple students, they come from broken homes. … There are drugs around them all the time. They don’t use, but they’re constantly seeing it in their homes,” Jenkins told the group.
Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted stated during the webinar his police department has been involved with the school district for about 15 years.
Exsted said the police department started two years ago with a full-time school resource officer for fifth through eighth graders at Forestview Middle School.
“Traditionally, we haven’t had a big problem in the schools but anytime you end up with an 11-year-old, 12-year-old, 13-year-old who is in possession of marijuana or meth … that’s always disturbing,” Exsted said. “You know the numbers don’t have to be high — just one — one case of that is disturbing.”
Brainerd Lakes Area Drug Education’s other partners include the Brainerd Dispatch, Lakes Area United Way, Bridges of Hope, Central Lakes College, Crow Wing Energized, Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project, the Brainerd Police Department, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and more.
“I think Know the Truth and BLADE and the programs related with that will help us grow that relationship and start to intervene a little quicker,” Exsted said of youths and substance abuse.