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

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Forum addresses drug abuse

Surgeon general: Opioid abuse no longer health crisis, now epidemic


Lois E. Johnson

Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm spoke about the upcoming 12-week course for sixth-graders to teach the students "The Truth About Drugs."

Approximately 150 concerned community members came to the Moose Lake Community Forum about heroin and opioid abuse at Moose Lake Community School on Tuesday, September 20.

The speakers spoke of the dangers of the drugs and the help available.

"I've been on several calls that resulted in deaths from overdoses," said Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm. "It's heartbreaking."

He went on to talk about the Moose Lake Police Department and the advantages of living in a small town.

"We are a small department with six officers," he said. "We live here, we go to church here and our kids go to school here. We hear about it when a drug house moves in. I've had to arrest nurses and police officers. I've arrested people in Pine County, too."

Bogenholm spoke about one method people use to get drugs.

"There is a lot of doctor shopping and faking injuries," he said. "People go to 10 to 15 clinics to get opioids."

Clinics are, however, monitoring the number of opioid prescriptions. "On a monthly basis, we go over our prescribing practices and identify potential problem patients who misuse or divert the drugs to others who misuse them," said Dr. Ryan Harden of Gateway Family Health Clinic of Moose Lake. "It's time-consuming, but very necessary. Some people need the medicine, like cancer patients. Some don't need opioids. Those are the ones I'm concerned about. We always try to act in the best interest of the patient."

Harden went on to say a recent letter from the surgeon general said opioid abuse is no longer a health crisis, it is an epidemic.

"The surgeon general asked the medical community to lead the charge," Harden said. "We can't do it by ourselves, it has to be in combination with others. Parents need the tools to work with their children."

Bogenholm said Officer Jamie Jungers of the Moose Lake Police Department will be teaching a 12-week course, "The Truth About Drugs," to sixth grade students at Moose Lake Community School this year.

Moose Lake squad vehicles and others in the county carry Naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, to treat people who have overdosed on heroin, he added.

"The Moose Lake squads are the closest to Moose Lake, Barnum and Sturgeon Lake," he said.

Jared Hendler, treatment court coordinator, spoke about high drug use in northeastern Minnesota.

"This area is the worst for every prescription written, diversion events and drug deaths. Overdose deaths have overtaken traffic deaths in Minnesota."

Hendler spoke about the rise in rates of HIV and hepatitis C infection.

"Seventeen percent of the cases in the state are in Duluth," he said.

As a person starts the journey to recovery, a Rule 25 assessment is conducted, said Kim Munuz, a Rule 25 assessor. Under Rule 25, an assessor gathers information about an individual and decides whether the individual needs treatment and if so, what type will be the most beneficial.

Any underlying medical condition, mental health condition, the readiness for treatment, post treatment history, support for recovery and stability of the living environment for the person is assessed to determine the best treatment, it was said.

"Once the Rule 25 assessment has taken place and we check with the insurance company, treatment is started for the person with medical assisted therapies," said Rik Colsen, a Tagwii Recovery Center supervisor. "We get the families involved. The recovery process can last for months or years."

Two young adults, who had been alcohol and drug abusers, spoke about their journeys of abuse and recovery.

Laura Zabinski explained her parents divorced when she was 8 years old. She lived with her strict father, but then went to live with her lenient mother.

"I worked hard to please Dad," she said. "When I was 14, I moved out of his house and moved to Mom's. Then I got into parties. We would pass a bottle of alcohol around. I loved it.

"My friends started to use hard drugs, like heroin and cocaine. I didn't think I needed those, but I also believed a little bit of pot wasn't too bad.

"Two weeks before my 18th birthday I got a DWI. My family brushed it off. But I found a friend, and I found it was OK to talk about the tough times. I am five years sober in November. Now my mom wished she had asked the tough questions. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions; don't be afraid to have rules."

Zabinski now is the Prevention Program manager for Know the Truth, a substance prevention program in Minneapolis.

Joshua Kenney of Sandstone had a tough home life and got into drugs, to the point where he was a dealer.

"Mom and Dad got divorced and then Mom got with a guy that was violent," he said. "I used to watch Mom get beat up when I was young.

"I started to take drugs to deal with it and then I started selling drugs. I want to thank Teen Challenge. It completely changed my life. I had underlying issues, and I had to deal with Mom getting beat up. I have been sober since January 13. My parents tried to be my friends. You can't do that; you have got to put your foot down."

Adam Peterson, prevention specialist from Adult and Teen Challenge, spoke about the many reasons young people look to drugs and alcohol.

"Sixty percent said they use drugs and alcohol because it is perceived safe and it is readily available," he said. "There could also be a family history of addiction."

He also spoke about how young people aren't mature enough to see the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

"They don't get it," he said. "Brain development takes time. For guys, the brain isn't fully developed until they are 28. For girls, it is 22 or 23. The frontal lobe controls the ability to make decisions. Understand that; be mindful. Mental health is a big issue. Chemical dependency can lead to mental health issues."

He offered advice to parents. "Continue to educate yourself," he said. "Lock up medications. Talk early and talk often. Have conversations with your children throughout their lives. Get to know your child and be interested in what they are doing and thinking. Get to know their friends. Always be monitoring and guiding - being a parent. Be intentional."

For more information, contact Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge at (612) 373-3366 or; or Know the Truth at (612) 238-6107 or


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