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Brainerd works toward zero alcohol related deaths

Minnesota is looking to facilitate the program through local entities by training them to teach the Responsible Beverage Service Training course to their communities.

Presenter speaking to room of people seated at long tables.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Responsible Beverage Service liaison Shawn Hansen speaks to the participants Thursday, March 10, 2022, at the Brainerd Police Department.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — The Brainerd Police Department hosted a Responsible Beverage Service Training Thursday, March 10, in an effort to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road in the Brainerd lakes area through multiple programs.

Presenting the train-the-trainer program was Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Responsible Beverage Service liaison Shawn Hansen, who revamped the training in May 2021 after the previous program’s National Transportation Safety Board grant expired.

Photo of Shawn Hansen
Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Responsible Beverage Service liaison, Shawn Hansen, speaks Thursday, March 10, 2022, at the Brainerd Police Department.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

“The program is about educating and providing tools to those in the alcohol industry to reduce the number of accidents, underaged people served and to help bars and liquor stores protect their guests and themselves,” Hansen said.

The state-run program is focusing on the train-the-trainer aspect as Hansen would not be able to cover the needs of the entire state. The goal is to facilitate the program through local entities by training them to teach the course to their community.

Brainerd’s Deputy Police Chief John Davis said the department has been involved with the program since 2016 and has provided classes to establishments in the area since.

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“We really encourage it, not just for the education, but to establish that relationship and that partnership to help make their businesses and our community as healthy as it can be,” Davis said.

Along with the training, Davis said the Brainerd lakes area is working on establishing a program to provide a safe transportation alternative for people who drove themselves to a bar or restaurant and, after drinking alcohol, need another way home.

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Jan. 25, the BCA sent out a news release requesting public help after 35 overdoses in north central Minnesota since Dec. 1, 2022.

Davis said the Better Bar Safe Ride program is a project of the Brainerd Lakes Toward Zero Deaths coalition. Plans call for the pilot program this summer with a focus on Brainerd’s downtown bar district, as it has one of the highest concentrations of bars and restaurants in the county.

“Once we get it somewhat established then we'll expand that not only through the rest of the Brainerd but into Baxter and Crow Wing County, with the entire area as the end goal,” Davis said.

Though the program is still in development, Davis said they partnered with Brainerd Area Taxi to take on the transportation. Brainerd Community Action agreed to work with the program as its 501(c)(3) funding agent.

Organizers are working on establishing funding for the program, Davis said, including grants and a community fund in partnership with local liquor establishments.

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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