INT’L FALLS: New Drug Trends Evoke Town Hall in Borderland

INT’L FALLS, Minn. — Current drug trends in the Borderland lead the city of International Falls to call a town hall on Wednesday at 6:30 pm.

In efforts to prevent an uptick in drug abuse, local leaders of International Falls held a forum to discuss what they see happening in the community and inform the public.

Substance abuse is nothing new, it’s a nationwide crisis.

It’s not just happening in big cities, but up the Iron Range and to the edge of the Northland.

The Koochiching Area Prevention in Education Coalition (KAPE) said this forum is meant to educate and shed light on the local drug abuse status.

A panel of speakers including law enforcement, health officials, and newly elected judge Jerrod Shermoen, who leads the local treatment court, discussed the current challenges at hand — while also providing ways to prevent future drug addictions.

State Representative Dave Baker is a former resident of International Falls and he returned there on Wednesday to join-in on the mission.

“This crisis is right in front of us, especially here in Northeastern Minnesota. It’s all around us and so we’ve got to be aware of it and the better prepared we are, the better this is all going to be for everybody. This is something that we need to stay steady on our messaging and stay in front of these kids because sometimes, they don’t get a second chance,” said Rep. Baker.

That rings true for Rep. Baker’s son, Dan. Dan fell victim to heroin after being prescribed opioid painkillers for a minor injury in High School hockey.

This led to an opioid addiction, then heroin. Dan later died of an overdose in 2011.

Rep. Baker said, he now uses his platform to reach parents and kids before it’s too late.

“It’s been really helpful for me to have a voice in honor of Dan, if you will, to share my message of what parents need to know. It’s ok to ask questions, shame is something that is all around this disease. We’re trying to break those barriers down and really give awareness to how fluid and how rampant these pills are coming at us, all around us. It looks safe, but it’s not.”

There’s a lot of work being done to spread awareness on the state level, as well, according to Rep. Baker.

This includes putting drug education in classrooms at no charge to school districts, awarding money to companies for providing naloxone, which helps in reversing an overdose, to schools and law enforcement, and utilizing marketing strategies targeted at drug abuse prevention.

Along with local leaders, addiction resources were available at the town hall.

KAPE & The Dan Baker Foundation sponsored the meeting.
Over 200 community members were in attendance.
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