Meeting aims at drugs

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 2, 2001

Parents hate to think their children are using illegal drugs.

Friday, February 02, 2001

Parents hate to think their children are using illegal drugs. Many don’t want to think their children are even exposed to them. But drug use is on the rise again among juveniles, and not talking about the problem is not going to make it go away, local experts say.

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That is why local treatment, law enforcement, health and court officials are holding an informational program and resource fair Monday night in the Albert Lea High School auditorium – to help people understand the substances teens are exposed to, and their legal, psychological, physical and addictive effects.

&uot;This is not directed strictly at parents of teenagers,&uot; said Albert Lea Police Assistant Chief Dwaine Winkels. &uot;This is for everybody.&uot;

&uot;The main goal of the whole program is to educate parents as to what’s out there,&uot; Winkels said. &uot;What the kids are exposed to.&uot;

Parents may be familiar with the appearance and effects of older drugs like marijuana, but might not know much about newer, designer drugs.

New drugs are not only more potent than some older ones, but some types can also cause permanent physical damage and addiction, Winkels said.

Agencies involved in event planning included the Albert Lea Police Department, Freeborn County Sheriff’s Department, Albert Lea Area Public Schools, Alden-Conger Public schools, Glenville-Emmons public schools, Freeborn County Public Health, Fountain Centers, Freeborn County Attorney’s Office, Freeborn County Court Services, and Freeborn County Department of Human Services. The event is sponsored by KATE radio.

Speakers will share information about the kinds of drugs being used by youth in this area; signs and symptoms of substance abuse; treatment resources; and prosecution.

Businessman Milan Hart, whose son was prosecuted for drug crimes, will speak on the effects of drug abuse on parents and families, and Doctor Steven Weise will discuss his experiences in the Albert Lea Medical Center (ALMC) emergency room.

Other speakers include Garth Barker and Ginny Larson from Fountain Treatment Center, Assistant Freeborn County Attorney Erin O’Brien and Albert Lea Police Detective Gene Arnold.

Officers have made the rounds at service clubs, parent groups and churches talking about juveniles and drugs, but a lot of parents were still calling the law enforcement center with questions.

Communication between law enforcement, court services, and treatment facilities also needed improvement, Winkels said.

&uot;There was just no focus for the agencies,&uot; Winkels said.

The groups started planning a county-wide drug awareness meeting to inform the community about drug issues, and to share ideas among groups.

&uot;Everybody felt it would be a good idea to at least try it,&uot; Winkels said.

If the program is successful, it may be held annually, or even become part of some high school’s orientation process, Winkels said.

Drug use is cyclical, and seems to be on the rise again, especially among middle-class juveniles, Winkels said.

&uot;We’re seeing all these fancy designer drugs that are being thrown at the kids,&uot; he said.

Parents often don’t know how to deal with children and drugs, or how to help children who have become addicted to illegal substances, Winkels said.

&uot;There are some real hard, serious parenting issues you need to deal with when you have a kid that becomes involved in narcotics,&uot; Jensen said.

It is hard for parents to believe their children could be involved in drugs, but many are, said Ginny Larson, Fountain Centers Service Line Administrator.

&uot;Parents have a natural instinct to protect their children,&uot; Winkels said. &uot;But after a while, the parent is just doing a snow job on themselves. They’re enabling it. Denial is a big thing.&uot;

Drugs are a common problem everywhere, and communities are working in different ways to find solutions, Winkels said. More information can only help parents and juveniles make informed decisions.

&uot;All it takes is for your kid to go to one event, a party or something, and be exposed to heavy peer pressure,&uot; Winkels said.

&uot;If we keep the blinders on and say it’s not going to happen in small town USA, something’s going to blow up,&uot; Jensen said.