Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Heroin, opioid abuse forum draws crowd

 

Lois E. Johnson

Ricky DeFoe tells the crowd at the Carlton County Community Forum on Heroin and Opioid Abuse that he lost his daughter to drugs.

The Cloquet Forestry Center meeting room was packed with a crowd of more than 250 people Monday evening, October 5, for the Carlton County Community Forum on Heroin and Opioid Abuse.

"I'm very impressed and surprised at the number of people that came tonight," said Steve Stracek, the Cloquet Police chief. "That shows there is a concern about the drug problem."

The forum began with experts speaking about the drug problem in the area and ended with a discussion with people in the crowd.

Richard Colsen of the Fond du Lac Recovery Center said prescription drugs are often the beginning of the journey to heroin.

"Prescription drugs are readily available," he said. "It hasn't slowed down a bit. Eighty percent of drug abusers started with prescription drugs."

A member of the audience told the group she had been given a prescription for oxycodone (a pain reliever) after surgery on her thumb.

"The prescription was for 90 pills," she said. "I didn't fill it because I didn't think I needed it. And I didn't.

"What doctor would give a prescription for that many pills?"

"Young people have parties where they pass bottles of pills around," said Stracek. "A young lady was arrested for selling pills. She was 16 when she tried Oxycontin for the first time."

Stracek showed statistics of how the drug use in Cloquet has almost doubled in the past two years. Drug arrests have almost tripled.

"We are coming up against numbers that law enforcement can't deal with," he said. "We need to stop it."

An audience member commented that the drug problem was all about economics.

Stracek agreed.

"The laws aren't designed for people with addiction issues," he said. "They are designed for people who make a lot of money on drugs. We need to stop that flow of people and put the wall up."

There was a question from a member of the audience about why people who are arrested aren't put in jail.

Stracek's answer was that law enforcement does its part but it can't control the outcome. He added there is a drug court in Carlton County that helps people.

There was discussion about children in the home of drug abusers.

Stracek replied when a drug abuser is arrested the children are taken out of the home and handed over to the human services department.

Another comment was some children are placed back in the home too soon, while others have to fight to get their children back.

Several parents feared for the lives of their older children who have started abusing drugs.

Ricky DeFoe told about his daughter, who died from an overdose while confined.

"That was the saddest call I ever received," he said. "A guy said she didn't make it. She had stopped breathing and they couldn't revive her.

"How could that be? She was in a secure facility. An autopsy showed that she died from a heroin overdose."

Other parents told of their fear of losing their children to drug overdoses and several, including DeFoe, had begged the court to keep their children in prison to keep them alive.

"My hope is that young people live to adulthood," DeFoe said. "We are losing almost a whole generation to drugs."

One mother said she was afraid of losing a daughter with a drug problem. She told of her constant efforts to find help for her daughter and her frustration that no one gives her any answers.

"What do you do?" she asked. "What DO you do?"

Another parent answered the person has to want the help and to seek treatment for themselves. If they don't, all a parent can do is to hope and pray.

One parent told of her son, who had been through treatment twice and is now drug free.

A mother said she had been an enabler. She said she now gives her children limited amounts of money and asks for receipts.

"I thought my son was innocent but I found out he was selling drugs," a mother said. "Educate yourself. Pamphlets are available at the police station. It starts with us. Law enforcement can only do so much."

"We really have to get together as a community," said Colsen. "The drug problem is here; it won't be going away for a while."

"I see this as a collaborative," said Elisabeth Bilden, a medical toxicologist from Essentia Health, who cares for patients with overdoses of heroin often. "We need to work together. There are a lot of things to be worked on. We need to educate the kids, be in their faces early on with preliminary prevention."

Programs about drug abuse prevention are available in the schools in Carlton County, it was said.

"This will take more than one golden arrow," said Paul Coughlin, a Carlton County deputy, jail administrator and member of the Barnum School Board.

The session ended with the possibility of more forums to be scheduled in the future.

 

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