Coalition against substance abuse encourages better choices for a better life

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Published in Kanabec County Times |  December 15, 2016  |  Opinion

In 2002, a group of concerned citizens formed a task force to address the Methamphetamine issues facing Kanabec County. The mission of the task force was expanded in 2006 to include alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention strategies. The task force then adopted the name Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County (SACK). Over the past ten years the coalition has worked diligently to promote healthy choices, educate the community, form collaborative partnerships and engage our youth in activities that will reject cultural pressures related to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.  

The Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County includes members from Law Enforcement, Health Care, Justice/Corrections, Faith-Based Organization, Civic and Volunteer Groups, Youth Organizations, Parents, Ogilvie and Mora Schools, Media, State and Local Government. Each of these groups provides valuable knowledge, ideas and resources to the coalition.

Over the past ten years, the coalition has been involved in a variety of preventative strategies with youth prevention at the core of coalition’s focus. Collaborative work is ongoing with both Mora and Ogilvie school districts to promote and organize their youth advocacy groups. Ogilvie’s youth program, OWN IT! (Ogilvie We Act Now!) and Mora’s youth program, ATI (Above the Influence) actively promote activities and events that give students a positive way to embrace life, encourage community involvement and teach our youth how to make better choices when faced with temptation.

Recently the SACK coalition hosted a community forum about heroin and opioid epidemic that our society is facing. Members of our coalition, Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith, FirstLight Health Systems Pharmacy Director, Dr. Brent Thompson, East Central Drug Task Force Agent, Alex Gerhardson and Kanabec County Attorney, Barb McFadden each delivered staggering statistics, personal and professional stories about the reality of drug abuse that are facing our communities. Your son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin or friend may not be using heroin, opioids or other substances but the impact of others that do can do immeasurable harm to our community. Recovering addicts gave testimonials about their addiction and recovery process. Echoed by each were the numbers of crimes committed, the need for financial support, loss of relationships and other issues that put added strain on community resources. Even if someone you know isn’t abusing some type of substance it is more important than ever for our community to be aware that the issue of heroin and opioid abuse can and likely will happen in Kanabec County and we need to be educated, prepared and continue our efforts in prevention.

One of the ways the coalition’s work extends into the community is by hosting bi-annual, no cost training for establishments that hold liquor licenses in Kanabec County. County and city ordinances require establishments that hold a liquor license to train their employees annually in the responsibilities of serving alcohol. Coalition volunteers are trained to teach this class, known as Responsible Beverage Server Training (RBST). These sessions remind servers and establishment owners of the dangers of over serving, how to properly check identification, keep informed about changes and updates in state and local laws and trends that the county is seeing with substance abuse.

In 2014, the coalition announced a permanent Prescription and Non-Prescription Drug Drop Box located in the Kanabec County Jail lobby. Available 24/7, this drop box is used for disposal medications unused, expired or unwanted. The Drug Drop Box is a strategy the coalition adopted to help get drugs out of medicine cabinets and away from those that may seek to abuse them. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that death from overdose involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999! They estimate that over 165,000 people have died in the US from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Statistics, like these from the CDC it is increasing important to discard of unused medication.

The Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County is committed to promoting better choices so citizens of all ages can live a better life in Kanabec County. With dedicated coalition members our vision for the future continues to be educating our youth and residents on the dangers of substance abuse, teaching them to reject cultural pressures and collaborating with our community partners to become involved in the coalitions work, mission and vision.

The coalition meets on the first Tuesday of each month in the Kanabec County Jail training room beginning at 8 a.m. If you’re interested in joining, please come! We distribute an e-newsletter weekly and share articles, prevention tips, ideas and stories on social media, our website and at coalition meetings. Check out our website: or contact me for more information.

Better Choices | Better Life

Patti Miller
SACK Coordinator
Kanabec County Community Health
Ph. 320.679.6321

Posted in News/Announcements.