Heroin use among high school students in Northfield

Kurt Larson at Larson’s Printing alerted me to this article published in the Pioneer Press on Monday: Meth hospital, treatment admissions down in ’06. The article ends with this paragraph, italics mine:

Falkowski said she has been monitoring the media for signs of heroin abuse in upscale schools for years, without finding evidence of the suburban drug trends evident in other states. That changed several months ago with reports of a heroin network among high school students in Northfield.

(Falkowski is Carol Falkowski, director of the Butler Center for Research at Hazelden.)

heroin.jpgThe way that paragraph is written implies that Northfield is an upscale suburb, which ain’t so. But I phoned Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith today and he confirmed the story and the problem… and indicated that the heroin use is definitely by students from upper income families here in Northfield.

He indicated that there was a local effort in the works (evidently HCI is involved) to address the problem, including the lack of a local treatment facility/program. He might be able to add more info about this on his blog or via a comment here.

Update July 6: I’ve deleted the text and YouTube video on Incarcerex that I included in the original blog post and removed phrase ‘war on drugs’ from the blog title. With over 100 comments, the message thread was loading slowly and hopefully this will speed things up a bit… as well as help keep the discussion Northfield-focused.

Update July 11:After rereading articles and comments in preparation for today’s radio show/podcast, I’ve edited the title of the blog post from ‘Heroin network at the Northfield High School’ to ‘Heroin use among high school students in Northfield.’ This change more accurately reflects A) the actual wording of the Hazelden researcher, and B) the fact that there are high schoolers in Northfield who are at the district high school, at ARTech, and who are being homeschooled. I apologize for the wording and acknowledge that it was unfair to the school district and its high school. My error is partially due to my longstanding support for charter schools. I guess this is an example of what’s called biased reporting. Oddly, no one called me on this.


  1. Every high school, three, I attended in Chicago had
    drug/addiciton problems. At the all girls Catholic school, it was mainly cigarettes and beer and boys, at the blue collar neighborhood school, it was just about anything including weapons, and at the middle class public school, it was pot, cocaine and snobbery. If any govt has facilities and programs to curb addictions it’s Chicago, but that never stopped any one from climbing off the wagon, if they felt a need. What does work is parental involvement and caring. If the parents are addicts or if they don’t care what the kids do, or if they take a hands off approach, or if they strangle the kids with ‘love’, read control, there might very well be addiction problems.

    Addictions that are nearly impossible to over come are genetically based. The others are more easily overcome when the right set of thoughts and circumstances come to the fore.

    Once the drugs take hold, the drugs do all the talking.
    No matter what anyone says, that’s the truth. And until it is recogized as such, no progress in sobriety can be made, imho.

    Sobriety is a beautiful and free way to live. Never be beholding to any substance other than healthy food and clean water and your body and soul will thank you every day.

    Thanks for the opportunity to spout off about this very important issue.

    June 22, 2007
  2. Marie Fischer said:

    I just like to let people know that the Key definitely helps. We have an amazing drug-free environment that kids can be a part of, but we also can’t be open 24/7, so although we’re doing all we can, things like this make me think that it might not be enough.

    It’s kind of discouraging to be a high school student and hear of your friends using heroin (I won’t go into details), and even more discouraging when their own Youth Center can’t help them. There aren’t any treatment options available, and it makes it all the worse when you see you’re friends addictions getting worse, and sometimes to the point where they’re taken away from their home and friends. ‘Discouraging’ is really the only word I can think of.

    June 23, 2007
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Marie, I’m not sure the Key/NUY should feel responsible to do more than what it’s already doing re: chemical abuse/prevention. As long as you’re vigilant about maintaining a drug-free environment, that’s the main thing.

    The need for a local treatment option for heroin addicts is something that’s evidently being talked about but I don’t know any details.

    June 23, 2007
  4. An Anonymous Parent said:

    I don’t like anonymous posters, but feel I need to be anonymous this time.

    Some months ago, before the news of the “heroin network” at Northfield High School came out, a friend of mine told me of his/her concerns regarding the rampant alcohol/drug use by Northfield High School students. This person teaches in the local school district and has several children in the high school/or who recently graduated.

    This person was puzzled by the fact that many of the users were the “alpha” kids. Popular. Affluent. Athletes. These were not kids who suffered from lack of parental or societal attention.

    Also, I’m concerned that it appears that the only reason this problem has come to light is because a citizen read one line from an article in the St. Paul paper and tipped off a blog run by volunteers. Where’s the Northfield News? Police chief Gary Smith? Doesn’t the high school feel a responsibility to notify parents and try to deal with this problem?

    June 23, 2007
  5. An Anonymous Poster said:

    Just to add – when I was in the Northfield schools many years ago kids were doing marijuana, acid even cocaine. This included the ‘jocks’ and other ‘alphas’. I played around with a few of the lighter elements shall we say so conclude that drug use in school in Northfield isn’t about parent neglect always. It’s about looking for thrills. Combating boredom. Not to say that there isn’t peer pressure but I think the ‘alphas’ that seek out drug use or initiate it in their group are looking for something different. Perhaps something more than ‘cows, colleges and contentment’ which always sounded boring to me.

    June 23, 2007
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    I understand the need for both of you anonymous commenters to be anonymous. Thanks for contributing.

    Chemical abuse among kids isn’t a simple cause-effect situation, and I think family dynamics are right up there with societal factors (boredom, peer pressure, consumer culture) and genetics.

    And while some family dynamics contribute more directly to kids’ abuse of chemicals than others (parental sexual abuse, for example), I think the bigger issue is how parents respond when the behavior first occurs or becomes problematic. A too-lenient approach can be as problematic as a too-harsh approach, and parents undermining each other can be the worst of all.

    So I hope that whatever the community does in response to this, a multi-faceted approach is considered and prevention/treatment that involves the whole family is given top priority.

    FYI, Chief Smith has blogged on this issue of heroin abuse. Among other things, he wrote:

    We’ve just started the design of a project that will coincide with our National Night Out event this year to raise awareness of substance abuse issues in our area; specifically the heroin use among our younger residents. The project will focus on education and providing information to parents and other community members. Watch this blog as well as our local media outlets for future forums and educational events.”

    June 24, 2007
  7. BruceWMorlan said:

    I would like to hear from a professional in the teaching community specifically addressing whether this is another perceived (or perhaps verified) shortcoming of the big box (minimize fixed costs) approach to building schools. In Dundas planning commission meetings I have hinted that we should be considering leaving space in our neighborhoods for new school(s), especially on the west side of the river. I am hoping to get some good data (not just opinions) on whether small “personalized” schools give students a better sense of self and community.

    June 25, 2007
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    I think school size DOES matter, Bruce. And I think Dundas would be a good candidate for an elementary-level charter school. Here’s one place to look at some of the research on school size.

    June 25, 2007
  9. Anne Bretts said:

    As usual, the answer to the big/little school question is more complicated than bad/good.
    Little schools can be more personal and work well in some areas, but at the high school level they have troubl supporting AP, advanced and lab courses where enrollment tends to be a small percentage of the overall student body. They also have trouble fielding sports teams and other group activities. On the other hand they allow time for personal independet study and student-teacher interaction.
    At the elementary school level, schools with one section are more prone to problems with class size spikes because there are no other sections to share the impact.
    At all levels, it can be harder to provide special ed and other support services, with school districts paying for “windshield” time for teachers stretched over two or more buildings.
    Joe Nathan at the Humphrey Institute has been talking about this for years, ever since I covered education up in Duluth years ago.
    Back then the city closed a bunch of elementary schools that were half-empty due to population loss. The savings were small initially and disappeared after a year or so as the new larger schools added assistant principals and discipline experts to handle the less personal atmosphere.
    As for drug use, you can find it in big and little schools, rich and poor.
    I went to school in elementary classes of 50 taught by tough nuns and learned a lot. My kids did well in classes of 25 in rural Wisconsin where they rode the bus an hour each way and still didn’t have a big school. They did badly in classes with bad teachers or when there were problems at home or when they had some stress no one even noticed.
    You can make some generalities, but you have to balance all the factors in this question. Are you willing to dump big school sports teams and play in small divisions? Are you willing to take courses online or by video hook-up?
    I like small schools and support them, but I’m not sure how many people are willing to take the trade-offs.

    June 25, 2007
  10. An Anonymous Teacher said:

    While I do think that it is important for students to be known in schools as individuals, I fear that this conversation is going to diverge from the topic at hand here. Let’s debate the big/small schools issue at another time at another place.

    As a teacher in Northfield, it is my perception that teenage drug use a BIG issue that people seem afraid to talk about. All sorts of kids — not just the “alphas” or just the kids on the fringe or the kids from this big school or that small school – are using “heavier” stuff like opiates (heroin and prescription drugs like Oxycontin) and cocaine and psychedelics.

    If you ask some kids, they’ll tell you that the perception is that drug usage is a bigger issue in Northfield than in other communities. I think that some would also agree with the poster who said it’s about looking for thrills and combating boredom.

    I’ll echo what Marie said, but from a teacher’s perspective: It’s incredibly discouraging to be a teacher and hear of your students using heroin. There aren’t any treatment options available and not a whole lot of public discussion about it.

    June 25, 2007
  11. Anne Bretts said:

    Yes, I agree with the anonymous teacher that the issue isn’t school size. I only mentioned it to point out that these problems can and do happen everywhere. I’m wondering whethere there is any way to really get a figure or solid estimate that indicates how “bad” bad is.
    There’s a great story online about research on addiction that indicates about 32 percent of those who smoke become dependent on nicotine, while 23 percent of those who use heroin and 17 percent of those who use cocaine become dependent on them. About 10-12 percent of people who drink become dependent. It’s just a matter of brain chemistry, not morality or peer pressure, although those factors can increase exposure.
    I’m not minimizing the problem, just want to point out that it’s important to determine how big the problem is and deal with it, knowing that each generation will have a drug of choice to deal with, from bootleg liquor to LSD to meth to heroin.

    June 25, 2007
  12. In response to the concerns over heroin use in Northfield, it seems appropriate to let you know that there are groups talking about the use of heroin and the use of alcohol and other drugs by young people. The Rice County Chemical Health Coalition is a group made up of partners in multiple sectors of the county (primarily in Northfield and Faribault). The coalition is working to address substance use by youth including alcohol and other drugs…..and including heroin. Several Action Teams have been working on this issue for more than a year. Funding for the work comes from the Rice County Family Services Collaborative and from the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (HCI).

    With regard to heroin, both the coalition’s Provider Team (comprised of local treatment and other health care providers) and the Enforcement Team (comprised of law enforcement, Rice County Community Corrections and the County Attorney’s office) have spent considerable time focusing on this issue. The Provider Team is working to encourage Northfield physicians to participate in training that would allow them to administer withdrawal medications helpful in addressing addiction to heroin. This is currently a significant gap in the treatment continuum in our community.

    The Provider Team has also created a resource directory available through the HCI website ( http://www.northfieldhci.org/nsresourcedirectory.php ). This directory allows community members to access information about local substance abuse prevention and treatment resources. The directory is available in both English and Spanish.

    Here in Northfield, the Northfield Mayor’s Task Force is also interested in this situation, as well as all other forms of drug and alcohol use by youth.

    While heroin use certainly is of concern, it is also important to remember that most young people (like adults) who choose to use substances don’t start with heroin. The current concern sparked by this spike in heroin use is an important reminder that we have work to do as a community around all drug/alcohol use by young people. Prevention works, but it takes a cooperative effort to be successful. Schools, parents, and law enforcement can’t do it alone. Community members are encouraged to get involved — we would be glad to speak with anyone interested in becoming more involved in this topic — 507-664-3524, 507-333-6813.

    Thanks for your focus on this issue,

    – Kathy Sandberg & Zach Pruitt, Rice County Chemical Health Coalition

    June 25, 2007
  13. Scott Oney said:

    But what about the elephant in the room? OK, the elephant in this case is more likely lurking in a parking lot somewhere or on the fringes of a school playground, but he’s still hard to miss. I’m referring, of course, to the pusher. Before anyone can use heroin properly, a high degree of mentoring is required. The activity isn’t inherently that appealing, and the drug isn’t that easy to use, so anyone wanting to sell smack to kids should plan on investing some serious time with them. (Initiation into drug use is included in at least one typology of bullying, under the “corrupting” subtype.)

    By one estimate I’ve heard, there are about 100 young heroin users in Northfield. (I’d appreciate it if someone could update me on this statistic.) That’s certainly enough users to be considered a problem, but from the pusher’s point of view, it’s a pretty small number. One hundred users could probably support a small crew, as long as the pushers lived in shared households with additional sources of income. There might even be two or three competing crews in town, but the total number of individuals involved must be quite small.

    We could form a few more task forces and gear up to treat a thousand addicts, but what would be the point? Once we had cured them, we could move on to the next thousand, but when would it end? Putting three or four dealers out of business would be as effective, and much easier. We have a problem here that doesn’t affect many similar small cities in the region. Northfield is an attractive drug market. Is this problem just due to some defect peculiar to our kids, or does it result from misguided policies of our local government or failures on the part of our local police?

    June 27, 2007
  14. Griff Wigley said:

    Zach or Kathy, if you post again (and I hope you do), please post as individuals, not as a two-person team. It’s too hard to have a conversation with you otherwise and what’ll happen is that people will resort to speaking about you instead of to you… and that lends itself to disrespect should a disagreement occur.

    One of you wrote:

    While heroin use certainly is of concern, it is also important to remember that most young people (like adults) who choose to use substances don’t start with heroin.

    In Northfield’s prevention (eg, Mayor’s Task Force) and treatment approaches, what’s the consensus about which drugs are gateway drugs?

    June 29, 2007
  15. Griff Wigley said:

    I was contacted privately this week by a concerned parent who would like to talk with me off the record about her recent experiences with her high school-aged teens and friends regarding this issue. We’re meeting next week. After that, I’ll lobby my colleagues to consider having this topic be the subject of Locally Grown podcast episode.

    June 29, 2007
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Scott Oney wrote:

    We have a problem here that doesn’t affect many similar small cities in the region. Northfield is an attractive drug market. Is this problem just due to some defect peculiar to our kids, or does it result from misguided policies of our local government or failures on the part of our local police?

    Thanks for that post, Scott. And that’s a great question that needs some serious study. But until the community’s more aware of the problem , it’s not likely going to happen.

    Anyone know if our education leaders (school board, administrators, teacher union reps) are aware of the extent of the problem? (100 youth heroin users seems like a lot to me.) If so, when has it been talked about publicly?

    Is there a fear that this would be a blemish on Northfield’s generally well-regarded public education system and therefore, it’s better dealt with quietly?

    I’d like to urge our educators to be as forthcoming and transparent as possible on this so that citizens are more inclined to rally around you and help work on the problem rather than criticizing you.

    June 29, 2007
  17. Scott Oney said:


    Yikes! I didn’t mean to give the impression that there were 100 users at the high school. If that were true, it would be time to give up and move! I think I said “young,” not “youth,” and in this case I had in mind people in their late teens to midtwenties.

    But use has trickled down to the high school, which may be just as well as it seems to have caught the attention of townsfolk who were probably unaware of what’s been going on in our trailer parks and projects. (In this case, the action may be centered in the Estates, but who knows? It’s probably always shifting; perhaps Gary Smith could fill us in.)

    As far as estimating numbers, this is best done by extrapolating from hospital admittances and testing at jail intake. Perhaps someone could share these figures for the Northfield hospital and the county jail.

    Incidentally, the Faribault Daily News today (Saturday, June 30) had an article showing what can be done if people are willing to admit that they have a problem and ask for help. Faribault police, with extensive help from the feds, were able to take out a crew of Tre Tre Crips who had set up shop in that city. The investigation took little more than a month, and besides the usual wiretaps and undercover work, they were able to use high-tech devices that you wouldn’t expect a small-town police department to have on hand. So there are resources available, but somebody here would have to ask.

    June 30, 2007
  18. not given said:

    I was one of the hundred, i am not by any means cured, but many of you are correct. Let me get one thing clear, the number of “heroin users” may be in the hundred plus range but, the number of “junkies” is closer to 30. The amount of kids that have tried to heroin or maybe use it once a month or so greatly out numbers the daily I.V. users. I was one of the daily I.V. users, and Scott you are correct, there are only a handful of dealers, it isnt this amazing network of highschool kids selling to everyone they see, its very descreet and not many people actually get their hands on any large amount. Everyones suspicions are correct though, it does come from the cities (obviously) and this town is a very attractive drug market. Another thing i would like to clairify is that the “Alpha” kids are mainly the ones doing this, its a very clicky thing. But you have to remember that its very very expensive in the cities, and once you get it down here the prices double sometimes triple. Kids are not paying for this out of pocket, the thefts are almost all connected to this, and again its only a very small handful of people doing it, remember only around 30 absolutley physically need this drug to avoid withdrawl. Out of that number you have to subtract the number of dealers, and their close friends who either get this for free, or sell it with them. I am no professional but having lived this life i’m able to say that tops 20 kids are out robbing your garage, your car, or your home. Whatever they can get their hands on. It is a large problem and like Scott said, if we “cure” a thousand by then it would have spread to even more. We need to weigh out options and find out what needs to be done…i would love to leave my name but obviously if someone from the heroin “lifestyle” where to read it problems would be brought to myself and loved ones. Hope i helped?

    June 30, 2007
  19. Tracy Davis said:

    Dear “Not Given”,

    Thank you for taking the time and trouble to post. Generally we require a name, but under the circumstances I understand why you wouldn’t leave one.

    I hope you find all the help and support you need to stay clean.

    June 30, 2007
  20. not given said:

    May i add that most of the hardcore heroin users are in their late teens to twenty somethings. It has trickled down to the schools, even to the youngest user i’ve heard of being 13. Scary stuff. Most younger people can get it from someone their age. and the older guys usually stick to their own as well. I am afraid that kids that have yet to have any major life experiences are going to throw their lives away for a quick fix, and not be able to enjoy their life. I’d hope teachers would call their students on their use, and parents contact the correct speicalists to at least give the addict a shot. I know thats what i needed a little helpful push from family, friends and loved ones.

    June 30, 2007
  21. Kathy Sandberg said:

    Thanks for the clarification on submitting a comment. There was a question based on the information that Zach and I shared about gateway drugs. Generally, gateway drugs are considered to be tobacco, alcohol and marijuana. Although some people start with other mood altering chemicals, those are the most common across populations and over time. Although it is important to pay attention to the ebb and flow of drugs that become popular and then fade into the background, the most successful prevention efforts tend do not forget the drugs (including alcohol) where most use begins.
    I am very encouraged by the discussion taking place. Communities that are successful in addressing and prevention alcohol and other drug use are ones that are willing to talk about it.

    June 30, 2007
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    Kathy, it seems that there’s considerable research (see the citations here
    that indicates marijuana is not a gateway drug, but that tobacco is.

    I’m sure there’s research to indicate the opposite!

    What assumptions do you and Zach make in your programs?

    July 1, 2007
  23. kiffi summa said:

    I have been very concernd for some years about the number of teen suicides in Northfield; as reported, much higher than in surrounding communities.
    This is not a digression, but a related subject. I think that drug use, in any age group, is often self medication for depression….and escape route from things you seem powerless to change.
    I’m very glad this discussion is ocurring, but sincerely hope the relevant professionals will join in and that there will be some outcomes.
    Many previous times in Northfield we have had community discussions of “risky behaviors”, and having been present at some of those (I’m thinking in particular of one which was organized by a high school principal, and which had about 45 representative participants) and if anyone brought up the hard issues, the room went silent.
    It sometimes seems that there is a reluctance to admit that NF has the same problems as the rest of the world, and that there may be cows, and colleges, elsewhere, but true contentment is a rare commodity.
    There’s even another facet to the realm of addictions, and that is pornography.. and before anyone jumps on me, I know that it is a legal 1st amendment right for adults! That’s not the area or degree of pronography that I’m referring to. I’m talking about addiction; addiction to either adult or CHILD porn and the victims and negative behaviors that result. Another area of behavior that Northfielders are hesitant to discuss.
    Let’s see if this forum can be used to “get the drunken uncle in the back bedroom” out onto the “front porch” and deal with the sadness of addictions for those experiencing them, as well as the impacts on the “innocents” surrounding them.

    July 1, 2007
  24. Scott Oney said:

    Not Given #20,

    Thanks for posting. It helps a lot to have a clearer idea of what’s going on and how many people are involved.

    I was always a kid who would try anything, so I definitely wouldn’t fault the 100, or even the 30. But that’s why you want to set up a community where kids may have to decide, say, whether or not to get drunk in the Arb or smoke pot in the high school parking lot, but where heroin is just something you hear about once in a while happening somewhere else.

    If we took a closer look at the group of 10, it would probably turn out that only two or three were running the rest of them. (And they’re not your friends.) The local cops most likely have regular and frequent contact with them and know who they are; if not, they could probably find them out in about a day and a half. I know we have other pressing issues in town, and the local cops are stretched pretty thin harassing skateboarders and breaking up college keggers, but it would be nice to see them step up and do the right thing on this one.

    July 1, 2007
  25. Griff Wigley said:


    We’ll keep trying to do our part to heighten community awareness of the problem. Outcomes are harder to come by, since our attention spans are short. 😉

    July 2, 2007
  26. When I was a preteen, I walked across the street from our apartment in Chicago to a Rexall ‘drug’ store and bought a paperback copy
    of “Manchild in the Promised Land” by Claude Brown for some light summer reading, I liked the title, but did not know what I was
    getting into at all. After reading this book, I remember saying
    to myself something about how drug addiction is not the life for me.

    I think it has been on required reading lists in schools across the country over the years.


    July 2, 2007
  27. Kathy Sandberg said:

    I am aware that the research sometimes takes issue with marijuana as a gateway drug. Similarly, I would guess others might take issue with alcohol and/or tobacco and many might say there are other mood altering chemicals that could be added to the “gateway” list. There certainly is some research suggesting that marijuana is at least a link to illicit drug use distinguishing it from alcohol and tobacco. Lest the point get lost in a discussion of what research we can find to support the inclusion or exclusion of certain chemicals, I would point out again the fact that heroin or other drugs are not the initiation place of mood altering chemical use. That point is significant, I believe, becuase it reminds us that our prevention and intervention efforts with regard to substance use should not wait until our kids are shooting heroin. Discussion should begin with our children in the same way as other health and safety issue talks…..early. Much of early prevention efforts never even mention chemicals but focus on healthy development; safe and dependable relationships; hopes and dreams for a fulfilling future; effective decision making and coping skills; and so on. As our children grow, best practices suggest we move on to sharing our values (both families and communities), setting firm limits, monitoring behavior and providing “a way back in” when kids make mistakes.

    July 2, 2007
  28. Anne Bretts said:

    In all the talk about gateway drugs, it’s important to remember the underlying fact that reaction to most drugs is an individual reaction. That means that I could use marijuana recreationally for years and never become dependent or have it be a gateway to other drugs, just as I could get drunk nearly every weekend in college and yet never become an alcoholic — or drink more than socially after college. Others can drink just a bit or begin smoking and spend a lifetime battling addiction. The range is just phenomenal.
    My dad was an alcoholic and chain smoker. I had no attraction to either substance, but have brothers who have in varying degrees. I can have alcohol in the house and not touch it for months — but ice cream is gone in a heartbeat. I know people who were problem drinkers at times in their lives and others who are alcoholics who can’t touch a drop.
    My point is that when we tell kids that marijuana leads to other drugs, and it doesn’t, kids lose faith in all the other information they get.
    It’s important to give kids accurate information about these complicated issues and teach them how to manage their personal health. We should not depend on simple blanket statements about drugs and alcohol. It’s really about getting in touch with your own personal balance and understanding your mind and body. That’s harder than “just say no,” but ultimately more effective.

    July 2, 2007
  29. BruceWMorlan said:

    Anne said

    My point is that when we tell kids that marijuana leads to other drugs, and it doesn’t, kids lose faith in all the other information they get.

    That may be true, but that is simply an indictment of an educational system that is unable to teach how the world works, in part because it does not work according to simplistic rules like

    Use gateway drug (like tobacco)
    Become meth whore

    Instead it is more like a diagram that I cannot show here, but that shows how

    statistically, if you use a low-level drug like tobacco when you are 13, your odds of hanging with the types who get addicted easily goes up, which means that your peer pressure to try the next step goes up because you are seeing more people who get something out of using. This (ask Madison avenue if you don’t believe it) means that you get a biased view of the world that makes it seem okay to jump to (say) alcohol. This increases your number of contacts with people who break the law (selling/transporting alcohol to minors), which means that … (you get the point).

    The challenge? How to teach all of that (which I believe is the underpinning of Annes’ complaint) to students who

    Are being raised by a culture that promotes free-thinking as a god without its necessary partner, critical thinking. Or worse, only with its lame-o cousin, critical thinking just for its own sake.
    Are being taught by educators who present black-and-white solutions because politics forces them to (see the related discussion on abstinance-only sex ed.)
    See being entertained as a right, not an opportunity, and who complain if the rec. center is not open 24×7. “Hey society! Entertain us or we’ll start using drugs and trash your cities.”

    July 2, 2007
  30. Anne Bretts said:

    What the heck, Bruce, did the drugs fry your brain? You don’t remember the enlightened message of ‘Reefer Madness’ or the thoughtful ‘kiss a boy and you’ll end up hidden away in a home for unwed mothers where we’ll take your baby’ message of the Catholic Church? Kids today have much better information — if their parents use it. Educators are not responsible for kids, parents and grandparents and churches are responsible and need to talk about reality. I hung with alcoholics and even married a couple and nothing would have made me an addict. Yeah, there are some things that can influence people with a propensity for the behavior, and that’s what kids have to learn — what their weaknesses may be and how to deal with them.
    Kids are no more spoiled or bored and destructive than earlier generations were — think of the hippies and the wannabes or the teens from ‘American Graffiti’ driving endlessly around the town square or the young thugs who ran the murdurous gangs of Capone’s day — or even Jesse James and company? They make today’s garage-robbing dopers seem pretty lame.
    I didn’t have time to be bored because I helped raise six brothers and sisters and did laundry and chores all day. Many kids of my dad’s generation left school after eighth grade to work in the mines and the mills. Today kids have no siblings, no chores, no jobs and no sense of purpose. It is up to parents to find meaningful things for kids to do, not just lessons and camps and organized play. Kids need to feel they matter, so make them tutor young ones, read to old folks in nursing homes, build things, do things.
    And Bruce, lighten up. You’re too young to be such a curmudgeon.

    July 2, 2007
  31. Griff Wigley said:

    From Police Chief Gary Smith:

    The Northfield Police Department will hold a press conference on Tuesday July 3, 2007 at 2:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Community Resource Bank in Northfield, Minnesota.

    The press conference has been called by Police Chief Gary Smith to discuss the growing problem of heroin use by local residents. The presentation will include an overview by Chief Smith of the issues of crime surrounding the use of Heroin and other prevalent drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine and the impact the property crimes are having on police services and the community.

    The conference will also provide a view of the patterns of a heroin user starting with their use, how they obtain money to buy the drug and where they obtain the drug and fence stolen items. Sergeant Roger Schroeder who heads the Department’s Investigations Division and the five-county South Central Drug Investigations Unit will present this overview.

    The conference will also provide the introduction of a three-prong strategy to reduce the influence of heroin in the community as well as the use of other drugs funded by illegal activity, mostly property crimes. Part of the announcement will be the introduction of the “Not in My Back Yard” Campaign that will work with local neighbors to prevent theft and other crimes and to aid police in ridding drug activities in the community. The Campaign is designed to be community-based to provide prevention through: 1). Sound crime prevention strategies and community education; 2). Stopping the access to the drug through aggressive drug enforcement and; 3) Removing the funding sources for drug purchases through “fences” and other means and the heightened awareness of treatment options.

    Both printed and electronic materials will be available to members of the Media. Due to the sensitive nature of some materials and information, press credentials are requested.

    July 2, 2007
  32. kiffi summa said:

    Re: comment #30 by Anne Bretts…… Anne’s got it 100% correct here in her last paragraph. Absolutes only very rarely work with teens, in my experience. They need to be treated with the same respect adults treat other adults with whom they discuss problems and that goes for discussing hard/difficult topics that are threatening for everyone, of every age.
    Youth is a lot stronger than we think; they have to be to get through the physical and emotional swings of their teen years.
    Help them deal with their problems in the open, and we all grow. There’s no shame in having problems…….only shame for a community that rejects the notion that problems exist.

    Read Anne’s last paragraph again……..

    July 2, 2007
  33. Scott Oney said:

    The Wednesday, July 4, Northfield News (out today, July 3) has an article about a new drive against heroin. Let’s hope it’s not too little, and not too late.

    One point in the article may require comment. Police Chief Gary Smith is quoted as saying the habit frequently costs $600 to $700 per day. I’m pretty sure he has the decimal point one place too far to the right; perhaps someone with knowledge of the local scene could post an update.

    July 3, 2007
  34. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for the heads-up on the Nfld News article, Scott. Police target heroin trend

    Heroin – a drug both vilified and lionized in music and movies – has sunk its claws into an estimated 150 to 250 young Northfielders. According to Police Chief Gary Smith, the drug is being injected by young people, mostly 15 to 23, who are resorting to property theft to support what’s frequently a $600 to $700 a day habit. Many of the addicts, he said, are also abusing another opiate, the prescription drug OxyContin. Both drugs are believed to be coming from Twin Cities dealers. In an announcement planned for release Tuesday, Smith reveals a three-pronged approach to the problem: Dry up the supply of illegal drugs, educate the public about the signs of drug abuse, and get the users into treatment.

    Thanks to another reader for this alert to a Pioneer Press article on Chief Smith’s news conference today: Northfield police to announce new campaign against drugs and crime

    July 3, 2007
  35. not given said:

    Hello again

    Scott, you are correct sir. Gary G was way off on the prices of the average user. I was a very heavy user, injecting anywhere from 1-3 grams a day. A gram costs $120 in minneapolis. Once the dealer gets it down to Northfield its closer to $300. The average dealer sells what they call “hundred bags” that being a third of a gram for $100. The average user does one at tops two of those bags a day. Gary is way off on his estimate. But let me clarify for him because he seems incapable. The average Dealer gets anywhere from $500-$2000 dollars worth of heroin in the cities to bring to Northfield a day. A DAY! Now if thats what he had said he’d have been a bit closer to the mark. But remember there are quite a few daily users (around 30).. so that $500-$2000 a day is just one dealer. And at my estimates there were three or so. Thats a lot of junk coming into Northfield, and the profits are outrageous even though most of it goes in the dealers arm or nose. I just thought i’d clarify for you Scott, and I’m very happy to help anyone in need of answers or a new way of life. There is more out there than that needle or next bump of dope.

    July 3, 2007
  36. minnesota nobody said:

    I personally agree with not given’s comments, having had relatives involved with heroin in Northfield. What I tend not to agree with is the fear mongering and staggering inaccuracy of Police Chief Gary Smith’s public commentary on the subject. $600-$800 a day? Maybe for the one or two seriously hardcore users in town, other than that these dealers, who aren’t typically high school kids but the children of wealthy citizens, business owners and to a lesser extent, unemployed junkies who live their lives driving to the city for dope, are basically hooking your friends, kids and anyone with some pocket money. Kids start out buying small bags, then work their way up as the tolerance rises. The fact that these dealers are continuously arrested and charged, yet bailed and released, or local business owners who ‘everybody’ knows sells dope can continue to operate with impunity. The cops even eat lunch at the guy’s place!!!

    so, to conclude my rant I pose this question: Do we have a competenecy issue amongst our police administration? A corruption issue? A burning desire to be a TV star?

    I suppose we’ll know when nothing results from “Not In My Backyard”

    July 3, 2007
  37. John S. Thomas said:

    Kare 11 and Fox 9 trucks in town, news articles on both.

    July 3, 2007
  38. Anne Bretts said:

    So back to the original post, is the problem really in the high school or among a handful of older teens and young adults? And who’s challenging the police department on its numbers?
    As for the danger to the larger community, lock your car, lock your patio door and your front door when you leave home and live in the real world.

    July 3, 2007
  39. John S. Thomas said:

    Here are some links to the press coverage.

    Fox 9

    Kare 11


    July 3, 2007
  40. Griff Wigley said:

    The Star Tribune’s web site has this article as its lead tonight:

    Crime follows heroin to Northfield

    I met the reporter, Herón Márquez Estrada, this afternoon at the news conference and told him about this discussion thread. His article ends with:

    Also, community blogs in Northfield have registered dozens of postings by students, teachers, parents and others in the community talking about the growing heroin problem.

    “If you ask some kids, they’ll tell you that the perception is that drug usage is a bigger issue in Northfield than in other communities,” one teacher wrote on the locallygrownnorthfield.org site. “It’s incredibly discouraging to be a teacher and hear of your students using heroin … and not a whole lot of public discussion about it.”

    July 3, 2007
  41. gary smith said:

    Anne’s question about challenging our numbers. We got them from those who are using and those who are treating the individuals who are addicted. We were conservative.

    July 3, 2007
  42. Parent of teens said:

    Northfield has had a big drug problem for many, many years. I moved to Northfield in 1999 to get my then 14 year old son away from the drugs in Burnsville, only to find out that the drug problem was far worse here in Northfield. One week after starting at the Northfield high school, he knew how to get ANY drug.

    Three years ago my daughter and her friends drank vodka and orange juice in class, on a weekly bases. My daughter said that if you didn’t cause any problems, the teachers would not do any thing about it. Nobody talks about these problems because nobody want to admit that Northfield’s schools are just like any other school, whether it be Burnsville or North Minneapolis.

    July 4, 2007
  43. John S. Thomas said:

    Ok, I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here.

    We have taken step one, and identified the problem.

    This discussion has been going on for 13 days now, talking about how bad it is.

    I think its time to move the discussion forward to the next phase, which is: “What are we going to do as a community, to solve this problem?”

    It will take a community effort to solve this. Law enforcement will do what it can to take care of it, but they cannot do it on thier own.

    I think it would be a prudent start to get the foundations of Chief Smith’s “Not in My Backyard” program published widely, and get the word out. Much of the theft prevention is easy, common sense stuff. It also has a component of “if you see something out of place, report it”.

    As a community, we cannot continue to stand on the sidelines and be complacent. We must act.

    I have already been taking steps to make sure my property is more secure, and watching over my neighborhood. I have made a point to know my neighbors, and thier habits, so that if something doesnt look right, it gets attention. That is just good practice.

    Today, there will be conversations with my 8 year old about this. It might be a tough converstation, but its time to start, as he saw the headlines today, and picked up “Crime” and “Northfield”.

    I would much rather keep his focus on music, nature, and Yugioh cards… not drugs. 😎

    We have a great community here, and a great cross section posting here are LocallyGrown. I challenge you then, to ask yourself, what can I personally do to make this situation better, and erradicate it from the community?

    I’m here. Tell me what I can do as “Joe Average Citizen” to help solve the problem.

    -John Thomas

    July 4, 2007
  44. Ross Currier said:

    I sent the following e-mail to City, Chamber and EDA leadership this morning:

    Reading the front page headline of the StarTribune this morning, where Northfield is summarized to the state of Minnesota as being overrun by heroin-fueled criminals, made me think that perhaps the NDDC, the EDA, and the Chamber of Commerce should just shut our doors and give up on efforts to recruit talented workers, high-paying jobs, and new businesses.

    I also pity Carleton and St. Olaf in their current work to attract new students when the parents read that the colleges’ dorms are under assault by drug-crazed addicts intent on stealing anything not nailed down.

    It’s hard not to feel like the last four years of our work hasn’t been shot to hell with a single headline.

    Have a great Fourth of July, we’ve got much to do come next week.

    July 4, 2007
  45. Cathy Malecha said:

    What is going on here? Are there really that many parents in Northfield turning their cheeks to the drug use in town? This problem has been on-going for a very long time. After having my two oldest children through NHS, I contemplate – very seriously, whether or not Northfield is still the place to educate my youngest three.

    Although difficult to admit, I myself had a child that experienced drugs in Northfield. I chose NOT to turn my cheek and ignore the problem, and I spent the hard earned money and sent him through a treatment program. Never, will I ever regret that. The harsh reality hits when you see these kids – from age 13 – 18, talking about the garbage that can be picked up from any Tom, Dick or Susan on the street. It’s not only Heroin! It’s the pot, the mushrooms, the ADD medications, cocain, crack, etc. Some of these kids will snort, shoot or smoke anything they can get their hands on!

    Take a long hard look at your kids – parents! Someone needs to start putting their foot down and make the changes. I’m tired of my vehicle being broken into and my mail being stolen – so that your child’s drug habit can be supported. So many in Northfield have been quick to stereotype many individuals in this town – and attach them to the drug problems here. You hear about the “south” end of town — but take a listen to the sirens and the police calls for a night or two…. Read the paper. You’ll see where the problems are.

    Stop turning your heads! Start being parents to your children! Someday they will respect you the way they should – and thank you for saving their lives. Believe me, THAT is priceless.

    July 4, 2007
  46. Paul Zorn said:

    I’m appalled to hear that there’s any substantial or organized heroin use in Northfield. I’m surprised, too, but that’s probably just my own naivete.

    Any illicit heroin use is bad, and the associated crime it generates is arguably even worse. Still, we need some realistic sense of the scale of our problem in order to avoid denial at one extreme or hysteria at the other. Measurement is obviously difficult in such situations, and I don’t question anyone’s good faith or competence.

    So much said, the numbers being mentioned don’t compute for me. 150-200 addicts with $500-$800 daily habits adds up to $75K-$160K a day, or something north of $30 million a year. Is this really possible? Today’s Strib reports, for example, around 250 total home and auto burglaries in 2006. Even if *all* that loot went toward heroin, it couldn’t pay for more than a few days at these rates.

    What am I missing?

    July 4, 2007
  47. Northfield resident said:

    Has anyone taken a look at the INSIDE of Northfield High School? According to MANY students, these dealers walk around the halls of NHS with drugs in their pockets. Oxycontin sells for big bucks there. So does Adderall. The teachers in our school know full well what is happening, but don’t do anything about it. Whatever you do Northfield, don’t ruffle any feathers. Too many are worried about giving up the names of these kids that are having the parties, those who are going on the burner runs, etc. Why? Because who is going to fund all of these non profit organizations that so many belong to if their children are found to be drug users? Whatever you do, don’t ruin a big name in this town! What a joke. What was the NPD trying to prove by having a NEWS CONFERENCE? Why not call a PUBLIC town meeting first and give the residents a chance to get involved before involving the state of Minnesota? Are they too trying to run to good, hard working people, with clean kids – out of town? It’s working on my end. I’ve had enough. Outraged. That’s exactly how I feel.


    July 4, 2007
  48. Anthony Pierre said:

    The drug problem in Northfield isn’t new. A good friend of mine is spending 2 years in prison because of it. I don’t understand why this is such a big story.

    Can someone tell me why this story got so much press? 3 indictments?

    was it because of this?

    from the strib
    >Police said they decided to go public in hopes of getting these dealers and >fences to stop doing business with Northfield’s addicts.

    Dealers and Fences aren’t normally law abiding citizens, and if you know who the dealers and fences are, please put them in jail.

    July 4, 2007
  49. Tracy Davis said:

    The level of hysteria is getting ridiculous.

    While not minimizing the problem of illegal drug use in Northfield, I’m questioning a lot of the assertions made here. First, I understand the difficulty in quantifying illegal activity unless you go by drug busts – of which, according to the Strib article, have been less than a handful, with the corresponding thimbleful of heroin.

    If you want kids to self-report usage, I question whether something so associated with peer pressure might not tend to inflate these anecdotal numbers.

    I also question the characterization of “alpha” kids. A jock and/or a kid who makes good grades may be viewed by adults as an alpha, but I don’t think that correlates into being granted the same status by their peers.

    I’m reminded of the 19th-century classic, “Extraordinary Public Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”, which offers an explanation for the way that normally reasonable people can get swept along by the hysteria of others.

    I have three children in school here – or I should say, had, until my eldest graduated last year. I’ll have two children at the high school this fall and I’m not terribly concerned about their safety. And it’s not because I’m naive or negligent; it’s because I really know my kids. And I know their friends. And in most cases I know their friends’ parents.

    Drug/heroin use in Northfield is a serious issue, but I don’t think it’s a huge social problem. There’s a difference.

    July 4, 2007
  50. Anne Bretts said:

    Wow, Ross. People are talking about a serious problem and your concern is how a single headline about it reflects on your public relations campaign.
    Get a grip, buddy. There are huge crime problems in New York City and it manages to be the business capital of the country.
    Don’t blame the media or the press conference. Your site here has fed the discussion that fed the news stories that fed the press conference.
    Northfield will recover. Fireworks and boating accidents will be on front page tomorrow and the media will move on to the next easy story. Perhaps then we can focus on getting some perspective and some realistic benchmarks so that six months from now we can know whether things are better or worse — and just what better and worse means. Think how great it will be to have a press conference about that. Great headlines, great PR.
    Remember, lots of communities are dealing with the same problem and have been for years. Am I the only one who remembers that every high school kid in the 60s was going to be drug addict?
    I’m not minimizing the problem here, but I’m always skeptical of the “everybody knows” anecdotes. The chief has given his best numbers on the use of this one drug, and some information on what to do about it. Perhaps people can focus on tackling this specific issue, measure the results, then determine the best approach and measure the impact on the next drug on the list. Along the way we can see how the city compares to others in these areas — and maybe learn something from their success or failure.
    The mayor has a youth task force on drugs and alcohol an the Healthy Community Inniative and other groups are in place as resources. So maybe the people here who are concerned can stay involved and make a difference.
    So where do we need to be in six months to say we’ve done more than talk?

    July 4, 2007
  51. victor summa said:

    Accolades to comments like Tracy’s, Paul Zorn’s, and Anthony Pierre’s and some others too for making some rather practical observations. It’s hard, coming down on the side of more liberal reasoning as they have expressed here.

    It’s also hard to not get irritated with what might seem an unwarranted attack on the community… and it’s especially hard to challenge personal testimonials… such as: ” I’ve been there with my kids… and I know what’s the real facts are”.

    Still, as Paul and Anthony both point out in painfully simple ways: The numbers don’t seem to add up… or “Arrest the wrong doers.”

    Then there’s the MEDIA! I tried to watch all the local TV outlet’s packages on this topic. All it seemed blew it out of proportion and reduced the topic to sensationalism – but… if their merely taking advantage of the Press Conference… you can’t fault them for covering the story.

    What you can fault them for is throwing in “file footage of dark hallway shots of unidentified arms and legs injecting . To the casual viewer this might purport to be actual footage from Northfield. One station used interview footage of a Drug Enforcement Agent’s comments. Were these (comments) the result of a timely interview about Northfield… or was this also anecdotal footage from the files… simply adding misinformation to the story? Who could tell. Fault the commercial TV outlets.

    It’s a hard call. Orange juice and vodka in the classroom? Drug sales in the school’s hallways. A Bridge Square gone wild? Cops at local eateries “turning the eyes away from Drug deals”. If all true, seems like a whole lot of eye averting going on!

    I recall when we lived in Lake Forrest Illinois; Lake Forest College was frequently accused by townies of “cover up” in the matter of reporting sexual abuse on their campus… to protect the school’s image, it was mused. Some of that syndrome has been discussed here on LG, “underreporting”. So, maybe the blogs and the blogosphere add to the problem along with the police process, the media… and the kids who are (or aren’t) getting out of control.

    Whomever said: “if the magnitude of the problem is as we’ve been told, perhaps we need a town meeting… not a press conference where press credentials are necessary to attend” ? That person was right.

    Clearly accurate and timely information is essential.

    I’d start with a group of adults who have the respect of teenagers… meeting with the Teens in a publicly televised (Access TV) open discussion – no names just facts and questions and answers. Let the kids chair the event and maybe let the kids pick the adults they want included in the dialogue. I’d avoid the Mayor’s Tack Force on Youth – don’t avoid those kids… but that politically correct facet of process… and I’d avoid the Cops and the professional social agencies’ involvement as well.

    That is reduce the “‘agenda” prone participants

    Let the NPD, the City Staff and the School District and the City Council, and the Sociologists sit in and observe.

    And I’d take it off the blogs.

    You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the local media. Are they even capable of covering such an issue with meaningful investigation and reporting? Don’t know.

    But I do know if Northfield takes the lead in the discussion rather than merely being the subject of the discussion, It’ll turn the problem into a positive.

    July 4, 2007
  52. mieon kirsestion said:

    The James brothers visit to Northfield was about 1000 times better than the current visit of heroin. Local residents broke out the shotguns to rid the evil James brothers. Maybe the guns need to brought out again! mieon

    July 4, 2007
  53. Holly Cairns said:


    You know, my daughter had a friend who had her cell phone and iPod stolen. That kid lives in Nerstrand and is a very sweet kid.

    Anyway, the thief called my daughter from the stolen cell phone (I think that is how it happened). Later, the police called my daughter and we were scared by the tone and questions.

    Now I get it– but I hope that my daughter isn’t considered part of any network… she’s a good kid by the way.

    But I guess it’s better to have inquiry and upfront discussion rather than letting the problem get worse. I think it is great that the police are open and upfront. More eyes are better in this situation.

    It worries me that there are “alpha” kids involved in this. We had heard rumors that a 4.0 kid we knew was using, but I thought I heard cocaine. I wonder– How can kids stay “alpha” on coaine, or on heroin? Especially heroin…

    I didn’t run into a lot of drugs at NHS, and I bet that you can still be involved there and not be “turning away” from it– in fact, the teachers my kids have had up there and at the middle school wouldn’t turn a blind eye just to protect a name (as said in post #51). And, if the business leaders are into drugs? ( as said in post #51). Wow- a smear of ALL teachers and businesses in just a few lines of text.

    Hmm, you who calls yourself “northfield resident” might do better by calling the police with any specifics, will you? Instead of throwing blanket accusations which make ALL look bad? That’s not responsible.

    AND, what about that person who is listed as “not given” and writes of specifics? I suppose you can decide it’s better not to say anything, but you could help a lot of folks in the long run by being a snitch. Heroin junkies = 30? God. That can’t be good.

    July 4, 2007
  54. Tim Parker said:

    I have taught about the increase in drug use and the crisis we are facing in Minnesota for years now. I saw it happen first hand in Los Angeles with crack and meth in the 80’s, As a law enforcement instructor for 20 years, I couldn’t help but get involved on the prevention side for community groups, churches, law enforcement, etc. What I keep saying is it is coming like a fire storm and if we don’t do something, we will lose a large portion of our next generation. Meth, Ecstasy, DXM, Heroin, Fentanyl… It’s out there and the use is increasing.

    I have met with the Minnesota Meth Coordinator and he quotes Carol Falkowski, who everyone in the state thinks is the sum of all knowledge about drug use. I have talked with Carol Falkowski who seems to miss the point on the actual dynamics to the whole issue. Listen people, asking a rehab facility director about the drug crisis is like asking the owner of a body shop if I should pay attention to my car’s brake problem. There is an increase in funding if the problem increases.

    What needs to happen is we need to get in the schools, the communities, the churches, the VFW’s, EVERYWHERE where people gather and fill them with factual information. “DARE” is not enough. Don’t sugar coat it, tell the facts whether you are talking with adults or young people. Give the kids a REASON to say no. And most of all, stop listening to those who want to use this issue for their political or financial gain.

    Community leaders, feel free to call me. I don’t have an agenda other than to save some kids the pain and downward spiral of drug use and the families that will be in a living hell because of it.

    Tim Parker
    Voice mail 888-572-7462

    July 4, 2007
  55. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Tim,

    Are you from Northfield? Thanks for being a resource.

    July 4, 2007
  56. Anne Bretts asked;
    So where do we need to be in six months to say we’ve done more than talk?

    Anne and I both like to get to the heart of the matter. First of all, I
    think the exact nature of the problem that should be dealt with should be
    defined and clearly defined.

    For me, it is not the addict, as I have no ties to the schools. And although I do not like to see drug addiction anywhere at all for the sake of the poor soul living that lie, it is not my priority. Live and let live.

    The problem for me is the way I have to live as a result of some criminal like how I am treated by others who are expecting me to steal from their stores when I walk in. One of the problems for the community is the fact that an addict who cannot afford to feed their habit with thier own funds or efforts is the addict who drags down anyone they can in order to further their quest to get high. Which by the way, I have heard, is never as good as the first time…the high is really just maintenance to feel like you felt before you ever started using. Kinda like chasing your own tail. For me, the crimes committed as a result of the addiction are the ones that bug the community at large the most.

    In Chicago, I have a friend who ran a rather large pawn shop which was dubbed “The Metaphysical Pawn Shop” where all merchandise was accounted for
    before any purchases were made by the owner. He knew there was plenty of
    business of a legitimate nature to be conducted and didn’t need to operate
    illegally. All questionable merchandise was called into a special police line to see if it had been reported stolen. If at any time the merchandise was found to be ‘hot’, the thief would no longer be able to trade there or at any number of similar places.

    In Chicago, we also had days where people could come in a register their
    bikes and larger electronic items with the serial numbers and photos. That way, both recovery and return, and tracking by pawn shop owners could be more complete. This makes it more difficult for the criminals to operate. Users are generally lazy and don’t like to go through a lot of hassle to
    move their hot items.

    In a town of 17,000, if 170 are using, that’s only 1%, which is really to be
    expected. Nothing is perfect, I don’t think. However, it can get to be more than that if no one cares. Let’s not be held hostage by that 1% either.

    Happy Fourth of July!


    July 4, 2007
  57. Anne Bretts said:

    Well, this is interesting. Googling around about this whole drug thing, I found that Northfield Hospital won a grant of $100,000 from SAMSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The hospital won the grant to “(1) Reduce substance abuse among youth and, over time, among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse and; (2) Establish and strengthen community anti-drug coalitions.” The grant runs from September 2005-September 2007, so there should be some statistics and benchmarks available in a couple of months. It will be interesting to see how the hospital folks measure today’s situation against the one they found when they went for the grant.

    July 4, 2007
  58. Penny Hillemann said:

    The news coverage of the past couple of days is the first I’ve heard of any of this, and I am quite impressed to see that this has been a topic of discussion here for some time before it hit the major media.

    Call me naive (though I grew up in San Francisco and Marin County, CA, in the ’70s and was exposed to plenty), but I am astounded to learn that heroin has any attraction for an affluent, well educated population like Northfield’s. I recently learned that one of my high school classmates died of AIDS contracted as a heroin user, but this came as a shock to many of us who convened for our 30th high school reunion recently. Even among the many heavy users of various substances at that time and place, the “I’ll try anything” folks, heroin (or anything injected) was mostly considered highly addictive, scary, and beyond the pale. We all remembered what happened to Jimi and Janis, right?

    Maybe it’s been too long since the dangers of heroin use were really publicized, despite the ubiquitous DARE program. Or maybe there are so many highly addictive, dangerous drugs around these days that heroin no longer stands out as uniquely dangerous. Relatedly, I’d be curious to know if young people being introduced to this drug are being told that it is heroin.

    I see several allegations here of one or more local business owners’ being known to be suppliers. Please report what you know to the police. Thank you!

    July 4, 2007
  59. Parent of user (currently anonymous) said:

    Emotions run high: Users accusing that no one is paying attention, parents appalled, biz reps worried, our elders calling for law-and-order, the social workers defensive. The point illustrated that EVERYONE in town has a stake in clearly and respectfully crafting the solution.

    As a parent of a recently-uncovered heroin user right here in Northfield, everyone should also be aware of our high-running emotions, our feelings of shame and inadequacy; how did we fail as parents, who can we blame for allowing these dealers to roam freely, why didn’t we question harder about nights out with friends?

    Compassion and respect will be the guiding principles that solve this problem, and all other problems where people feel isolated, empty, and alone. Ask how your neighbor is doing, smile like you mean it to the store clerk, walk to work so you can admire someone’s flower beds. And most importantly, find your way to contribute to our community’s effort to halt drug trafficking. All the pretty buildings in the world are useless if filled with people who fear and hate and judge harshly.

    My heart goes out to the other parents involved. I need to remain anonymous for now, but you are never alone.


    July 4, 2007
  60. Parent of user (currently anonymous) said:

    Parent, again. I would like to respond to Holly’s comment that her child was a good kid. I know she meant no harm, but it might be intimated that these heroin users are bad kids.

    That is simply not true. Their drug use is a dead-end way of dealing with the problems we all face: pressure, competition, feelings of not-fitting in and even unworthiness. And it is certainly less socially acceptable than other coping methods: shop-aholics, promiscuity, elitist cliques, etc. But, ALL kids deserve to be treated with respect and compassion. All kids.

    This is a time for us to connect with kids, not compare them.

    July 4, 2007
  61. Anne Bretts said:

    Parent of user,
    Thank you so much for your candid and heartfelt contribution to this discussion. I’m sure everyone here has the best intentions, even if some of the comments don’t reflect that. Know that we are concerned for you, your child and your family, and I would be honored to help any way I can. It is important to remember that all these young addicts are someone’s child, someone’s sibling, someone’s friend. They are in trouble and the ones who break the law must face the consequences, but they all are worth our best efforts. So parent, how can we help?

    July 4, 2007
  62. Holly Cairns said:

    Oops, sorry about that. I didn’t mean to say your kid was a bad kid– my kid is a good kid, though. 🙂 I talked with one of my kids today and her idea was that there are sometimes 2 and a half hours of homework for one AP class, and some kids are taking things just to stay awake at night to finish homework (which allows them to also do activities.) I talked to three other moms who argreed with that there was sometimes 2.5 hours every night for one class…

    I found at least one thing I can work on as a parent– I plan to call the high school and see if they will suggest to all teachers that there they should assign no more than 1 hour of homework for a class– even if it is AP. Come on, that’s ridiculous! 2 and a half hours of homework. SICK! But, I don’t plan to approach it as “oh, the school is causing this.” There are a lot of factors that cause kids to mess up, and homework is likely the least of the problems. But maybe a little less pressure for the homework can help. The other option is pulling my kids out of AP classes, I guess.

    This problem isn’t going to be fixed with one or two actions… let’s all work to see what we can do.

    July 4, 2007
  63. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh, and good idea, Anne. Parent of users and non users, does anyone have any ideas how we can all help?

    July 4, 2007
  64. Marty La Rue said:

    Dear Community,
    I am a student at a University in Wisconsin who just happened to find your blog on a late night web search. I read from the beginning and I would like to comment.

    I noticed a few things as a set of eyes outside your community circle. Please keep in mind that I am a parent of 4, and a Social Work Major. My personal experiences with addiction and dependence run deep ranging from family thru mere aquaintences. I am familiar with your community from a past job I did in your area, and I hold it as very comparable to the one I live in here.

    Of all the things I read, there were only a few postings that asked the question about what to do going forth. The problem has been identified, now what do we do to fix it? There have been a number of blame games I am sure mostly out of frustration, but I would offer that they need to stop. Being mad is a natural reaction especially by the people who feel like they are not involved because they have no children in the school system. What about the impact on the rest of the community? Please remember that there are other users of heroin and other drugs that are still unaccounted for in your community. Alcoholism, methamphetamine, cocaine…..the list goes on. Is there a Community plan in place to assist these people?

    To the parents of the children involved in the use, please try to remember that there is no set fault or specific reason, dependence comes from many areas and all people are different. It is not a failure on your part. Also remember that there are groups that are available to assist YOU with ways to get yourself ready to deal with the loved ones who battle addiction. Places such as Alanon and Alateen as well as others you may already have in your community.

    Pointing fingers at the local police chief about numbers, which by the way I read as figurative not exact, is futile, don’t you think that the price of 1 human life is worth the effort of a community to help solve a growing problem? I wouldn’t care if my kids and the kids in my community were using drugs that were free….I would want them to quit. NOW! Does the price of damage need to be quantified in order to get the right people involved? The poster who said they used 1-3 grams per day as a heavy user next valued the heroin at $300 per gram by the time it came to your community. That’s $900 per day for just that ONE individual. Do the math and yes, the impact to your community with time for law enforcement, damage from theft, counseling, education and paying for what is sometimes inaccurate news will easily stretch into the millions of dollars. The price affects all of you. The cost shouldn’t matter. They are YOUR KIDS and their community.

    Thank You all for enlightening me on this situation, I am going to start looking into my local communities and local governments to try to find the comparisons for here. I think that the light you have shed on this issue may be able to spark the interest of our sleepy bedroom communites on this side of the river. I would like to try to get ahead of it before I find out about my children the way some of you have already. I will be watching more from your blog. Thank You for letting me post my windy comments.

    God Bless You All!


    July 5, 2007
  65. Griff Wigley said:

    I talked to Police Chief Gary Smith this morning and he’s expecting that there will be an organized community response to this issue, maybe as soon as next week. It’s not yet clear which organization will take the lead (HCI? Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use?), as it’s not the responsibility of the police dept.

    I plan to talk to Supt. Chris Richardson, who was at the press conference, to see what his take on all this… and maybe some school board members.

    Anyone planning on attending next week’s meeting of the Mayor’s task force?

    Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month; special meetings are occasionally called. Meetings are held from 7:00 – 9:00 pm at the Northfield Community Resource Center (NCRC), 1651 Jefferson Parkway.

    July 5, 2007
  66. Curt Benson said:


    There is a School Board Meeting at the High School Media Center this Monday, July 9th at 7 pm.

    The Board’s website doesn’t list an agenda for the next meeting. I looked at the past few months agenda’s and meeting minutes and don’t see any mention of drug problems. (I’m guessing that will change.)

    The meetings have a time set aside for public comments.

    July 5, 2007
  67. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for that heads-up, Curt. I phoned Supt. Richardson this morning. He said that although the issue is not on the agenda, he may add it and if so, will let me know. In the meantime, he’ll continue talking to staff, parents, and others to get a better sense of the situation, especially a confirmation of the numbers of current high school students involved.

    July 5, 2007
  68. Griff Wigley said:

    For those of you who’ve posted anonymously here, could I speak with you by phone or meet F2F — on or off the record? Second best would be email or IM.

    Office: 507/645-8319
    Mobile: 507/319-5541
    griffinjay at gmail dot com

    July 5, 2007
  69. Griff Wigley said:

    I got this email from Andrew Haeg, Senior Producer and Analyst with the Public Insight Journalism project at MPR/American Public Media:

    We’re doing some follow-on reporting about heroin use in Northfield, and are putting out a query asking for knowledge and insights from folks who can help us (a) better understand what’s behind the spike in heroin use in Northfield, (b) what the community will do to respond, and (c) whether or not the situation is or will be isolated to Northfield. Could you post our query to the Locally Grown website? http://tinyurl.com/yudt6r

    I know Andrew as a colleague and I think it could help to have MPR do a more in-depth story on this issue. I encourage people to contact him and/or use the form on their website where the introduction reads:

    Are high school kids turning increasingly to “hard” drugs? MPR News wants your help understanding why kids in Northfield are turning to heroin, what the impact has been, and how the community is responding. We’re also interested to know whether young, otherwise upstanding high school kids in other parts of the state are increasingly using hard drugs like heroin.

    July 5, 2007
  70. Anne Bretts said:

    Well, national media attention makes it more important than ever to get more data. I accept the police estimate of what they have encountered, but has anyone talked to Ms. Falkowski or other treatment professionals? I read her report and the comment on Northfield is so brief, it would be valuable to see what she used as data. It also would be good to see what the Dakota County center is seeing in terms of use and treatment and how Northfield compares with other cities. Is this just an isolated spike due to specific issues (presnece of a core group of dealers), or is it the foundation of a broader trend?

    July 5, 2007
  71. Anne Bretts said:

    Sorry, meant to say probable national media attention.

    July 5, 2007
  72. Holly Cairns said:


    I wonder if the MPR people and others will feel like many of us in Northfield probably do– until recently, I walked around town and didn’t know a thing was going on. Kids who go to the school probably don’t even know specifics unless they are directly involved.

    Need to know basis. My own kids are wary of saying anything because they don’t know rumor from fact, (etc.– who wants to tell an adult about this, really).

    I hope the interviews make things better here instead of worse.

    Curt, thanks for the school board information. I think move forward with educational goals (yes, an idea that has been stated here and elsewhere many times).

    What is good curricula to use… educational professionals probably have a the best idea. As for me, I remember watching Sid and Nancy and getting the idea that heroin was a bad route to go… hopefully our kids aren’t watching similar things or that movie and deciding that the Sex Pistols’ Sid had it good.

    I notice (NNEWS, which we don’t get and had to pick up) that police experts have already stated goals: 1. These are the possible causes 2. Here are the goals 3. This is what we plan to do. And NIMBY stuff. I’ll have to go read that again.

    Point to make: Perhaps many facets of our community can do the same. Outline cause and effect, and see what difference can be made (not the blame game which is something else). Perhaps school system persons can get get together and ask: Is there enough education about heroin and hard drugs in general? Is there too much stress placed on our kids, or not? What are realistic expectations to place on us to help in this situation?

    Church folks can ask things like: Are we offering situations where kids feel comfortable and welcomed? Do we offer activities which kids value as worthy? Can we make a difference in this situation?


    Maybe the community could connect together on this– verbally outlining the actions being taken and clearly stating objectives so kids and adults can see what people are trying to do. A meeting of the minds– with the results being made public.

    Interviews are interesting, but not helpful unless used for educational purpose… right? And how do we separate fact from fiction? Be careful, MPR. I listen all the time and I won’t be happy if you take the wrong angle on this.

    July 5, 2007
  73. Andrew Haeg said:

    You may have seen earlier a comment from Sea our Rochester reporter Sea Stachura, who will be heading up to Northfield to work on this story. I talked to her and asked Griff to pull her comment down, so we have one point of contact (the online form) … instead of two.

    Anyone who responds via the form can remain anonymous. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your insights that way, you can call Sea directly at 507.282.0910.

    July 5, 2007
  74. Jim Haas said:

    Someone in this thread asked about drug testing data from the local jail. I don’t have that, but I do have some data from the local probation department. I’m the director. We routinely test adults and juveniles who are under our supervision, which of course doesn’t include all (maybe not even most)drug users in Rice County. These data are from the lab and are for the first six months of 2007. We also use some on-site urine and saliva tests (not included below), but if the on-site test is positive for anything besides marijuana, we almost always get a lab confirmation.

    So — lab test results for people on probation for first 1/2 of 2007:

    159 samples sent to lab
    6 positive for amphetamines
    3 positive for methamphetamines
    5 positive for cocaine
    1 positive for opiates (including heroin)
    66 positive for marijuana

    205 samples sent to lab
    25 positive for amphetamines
    13 positive for methamphetamines
    16 positive for cocaine
    3 positive for opiates (including heroin)
    89 positive for marijuana

    Jim Haas

    July 5, 2007
  75. Marie Fischer said:

    Just to stick this in: The Key was hoping to have a community forum, open to the public, about the topic of heroin and other drugs in the community. The main focus would be talking with the youth about this, and adults could exchange ideas and questions. The Key has such a wide variety of youth, I think it would be very informative for some adults to get youth input and vice versa.

    July 5, 2007
  76. victor summa said:

    Jim Hass’ comments are very interesting – and if i’m reading them correctly, lead me to an interesting conclusion (or at the least, THOUGHT)

    Jim said:

    “We routinely test adults and juveniles who are under our supervision, which of course doesn’t include all (maybe not even most)drug users in Rice County.”

    While he added doesn’t include all, maybe not even most drug users in rice county, one might draw the conclusion that of the 159 Juveniles tested, all these were under the supervision of the Probation Department, and therefore might well be assumed to be at risk juveniles… and might then have a higher incidence of drug use in that narrow category as opposed to the general teen population. Since he’s only looking at 159 individuals – county wide and of those only 81 tested positive for anything, and ONE for opiates… what might these numbers be saying?

    Barely half of the “at risk” kids in Rice county use any drug, and only 1 uses opiates.

    He goes on to say: of adults under the Probation Department, 205 were tested, and 146 tested positive, (some 70 percent… ) and of that number only 3 individuals showed use of opiates, about one tenth of 1 percent.

    If my math is accurate (Paul Zorn might verify this) can we (dare we) conclude , the the press is blowing this issue out of proportion? And perhaps law enforcement is too.

    If the numbers are as low as I calculate… then I’d say: at the very least, The Key (Union of Youth) is doing a rather good job with its peer pressure process… and while I’m certainly not suggesting we turn a weak eye to this issue… Northfield is not on the brink of teen age societal collapse.

    As most of you have asked or suggested, we (adults and concerned teens) need to keep this on our RADAR, but we need not panic, but instead, react rationally. I’d like to see the Key conduct the Town Meeting that was alluded to by Gary Smith (see my earlier post # 55) and I’d hope it was well documented in video and cable-cast frequently, no matter the conclusion of the video… so this event might be a model for other communities battling with: Tell us how we can help” pleas.

    Just as I’m posting this I read Marie Fischer’s post RE: the Key – sounds like a plan!

    July 5, 2007
  77. Scott Oney said:

    Jim Haas–

    Thanks for the numbers. They give us a good first estimate of what’s out there in Rice County.

    It looks like marijuana’s bigger than everything else put together, and opiates, although out there, are in about last place. This probably conforms to most people’s intuitions; at least it rings true to me.

    There’s one thing to note concerning marijuana vs. opiates: The test for marijuana measures use over the past several weeks, whereas I think opiates clear faster, so we can’t use these figures alone to derive a specific ratio.

    July 5, 2007
  78. Scott Oney said:


    Those were samples, not individuals. Given that they were over a 6-month period, I would assume that some came from the same individuals. And although the individuals involved are the ones that have given the most reason for concern, they’re also the ones that should be struggling the hardest to test clean, as, in many cases, their liberty may be at stake.

    Also, the juvenile and adult results were reported separately. The total number of samples was 364, and the number testing positive for opiates was 4. Or are you implying that, umm, like, dope is OK for us grown-ups?

    July 5, 2007
  79. victor summa said:

    no, I’m not saying dope is okay for grownups or any other group. And I admit the 6 month facet of Jim Hass’ comment was missed by me – but it (the six months) seems to me to even lessen the concern for “rampant” use. And, a little use is not good – especially among our youth.

    You’re informed remarks certainly indicate that you know much more about drug use and its real dangers than I do. But… I’m inclined to think media and professionals with an agenda and the entertainment venue as well, all blow this kind of issue out of proportion. I do believe there are problems for teens in this town – and most if not all are adult made. So, it is our adult responsibility to clean it up. I’m all for that – and simply suggest that a good way for Northfield to get a handle on this (an understanding) is to give the youth a voice in the dialogue – if not the leading voice.

    While I fault the press for their “road kill” attitude (methods?) I also feel that good media can contribute to the fix — by insuring good information with no agenda. The pictures on the local TV stations are misleading (as is the one in the initial post here on LG) we need to keep a clear eye on the issue and the potential fixes. (no pun intended)

    I rush to erase any implication in my remark (above) addressing your “superior” knowledge of the issue over mine. I certainly did not want to leave the impression that I thought you were informed by use! You’re informed it seems at a level I’m not. EXAMPLE: I’m not able to draw the conclusions you did about how fast one drug will clear a person’s system, over another drug.

    But, If I have any slight area of expertise anywhere in here it might be as that of a media professional who believes both in the power and the fear of the information delivery process.

    Much of what has been said here is anecdotal – do-gooder and unfortunately sometimes anonymous. While the latter is likely necessary in all of the cases… it makes for morphed information. While Anne Brettes may fault Griff and LG for “weak’ (my term”) journalism skills, I don’t, as I see this venue as an opinion venting vehicle… far more versatile than the newspaper’s Opinion Letters section.

    Finally, could you clarify your closing paragraph?

    Referring to the Hass comment, It read…….

    “Also, the juvenile and adult results were reported separately. The total number of samples was 364, and the number testing positive for opiates was 4. Or are you implying that, umm, like, dope is OK for us grown-ups?”

    I realized they were reported separately – but regardless, the numbers of what I called “at risk” persons seems lower than the media portrayal of our situation. Taking the entire 364, that reduces the entire users of opiates to one tenth of a percent! That’s why I’d like to hear from the KEY and the other N’fld youth.

    What is the more accurate imbedded implication of Jim Hass’ statistics?

    July 5, 2007
  80. Scott Oney said:


    In the paragraph you’re talking about, I just meant that they took 364 samples from a group of people–we don’t know exactly how many–over 6 months and 4 samples showed that the individuals had used opiates (not necessarily heroin) in the last who knows how many days. I would guess all of the people tested had been ordered by a court not to use anything, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect all the samples to test negative. But they didn’t, so if it’s turning up even there you know opiates are out there.

    As for the adult/juvenile ratio, it’s 3:1, but with such small numbers that you really can’t conclude anything. But if they’re mainly testing people between, say, 15 and 30, then given an even distribution by age you’d expect more positives for the adults (18-30) than juveniles (15-17).

    I hope this clears things up.

    July 5, 2007
  81. Robbie Wigley said:

    Jim in post #29 I would just like respond with a comment..or observation based on my own experience, working with kids in the Twin Cities and raising children here in Northfield. The statistics and information being shared about use, is based on a paradigm that does not seem to fit the situation we are dealing with. The kids that seem to be involved are “off the radar”. They are not the ones being tested. They are reportedly the stellar students that are athletes, scholars and leaders.

    Who tests them for drug use? Why would any one even consider doing it? In an incident going back to when my own children were at the high school level… it was a known fact that one of the star athletes was dealing and using. No one even considered this boy as a possibility… nor would they have taken it seriously, even if it was reported. But the kids knew who he was and they don’t snitch.

    These are the kids we are failing. One of the problems, as I see it, are the kids apparently involved, are not behaving in a way that would give a parent, teacher or anyone else a clue that they are in trouble. They smile, they go about their day and they are achievers. Do we need to start by re-evaluating the criteria that many use to define “at risk” kids, possibly looking at pressure and expectations (peer and otherwise) to excel, be leaders, be popular, be college bound.

    I agree that blame is of no use… and we need to listen to those who have been there. Discounting the issue, defending organizations and schools, becoming defensive and arguing over numbers serves no purpose except to sideline the problem and redirect the attention to our own needs.

    I feel so much empathy for those parents facing this… It could or may be anyone of us… no matter how hard we try to be on top of things and how much attention we give to our kids. We need to support them is such a way that there is no need to be nameless… we need to circle the wagons.

    July 5, 2007
  82. Holly Cairns said:


    Robbie that was a great post. Wow.

    I’ve been mulling over sharing this:

    I learned we know a juvenile who went to rehab for heroin usage. I thought back to a recent conversations I had had with someone from that family: I asked about a belly ring and that mom and I discussed belly rings and the pain of it all. And we laughed.

    YOu know, I didn’t know about the heroin rehab until a few days later. But what if I were that family– are they feeling we all know and are looking down on them and therefore asking about belly rings or any topic? Not so with me, if that mom is reading this. In fact, I know you have a great family and I loved having your kid in my Sunday school class all those millions of years ago.

    Neat family– stellar kids, loving environment, smart and good grades? If it can happen there, look out everyone.

    Actually, I think the circle the wagon idea is the best thing I have heard so far.

    July 5, 2007
  83. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh, and I think that is my last post here until I hear from community leaders about plans, etc. Time for me to just listen, I think. Maybe see you at the Key meeting although we don’t have specifics. Thanks for the invite Marie.

    July 5, 2007
  84. Lori Martin said:

    We can’t compare the young people to the hippies or any other generation and tell ourselves it’s really no different now. It is different. It’s different than it was ten years ago. I’d highly recommend reading the new book “Generation Me” for some greater insight into the focus, pressures, and general reality of the current generation of young people. I’m on the edge of this whole generation. I’ve seen the drug usage change and simply get more scary. Rehab is almost trendy. That’s what pop culture portrays. But the reality of drug addiction is really sad. Less homework isn’t the answer. It’s one idea though. But chances are that those who are willing to get high in order to finish an assignment are putting more pressure on themselves than the teachers are. If you’re interested in really understanding what’s going on, get to know the young people in your lives…and look into “Generation Me.” This is useful research. I’d recommend it for any parent, teacher, employer, or any young adult. It provides research and insight into a generation (shaped more by culture than family) that has some great strengths but is also facing some serious unhappiness and fear.

    July 6, 2007
  85. Christine Stanton said:

    I grew up in Northfield and have raised my children here. My youngest child will be a junior this coming fall. One of the posts that stood out to me was the comment about boredom being a possible reason for kids turning to drugs. When I was growing up, I would have to say that boredom was a main reason we turned to alchohol and sometimes pot for entertainment. A weekend “kegger” was something fun and exciting to do. There was not much else to do in Northfield. No, “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment” was exciting enough for teenagers.

    Now, years later, there is still not much to do for teenagers in Northfield. What it takes to excite teens in this day and age has become an even harder task. The Key is a only a start.

    I have been very discouraged over the years that Northfield voters have turned down attempts to make kids a priority in our town. We have a beautiful Senior Center and activities for retired persons seem to abound. (I realize that there are mainly funded by private donations.) What about the kids? We do have a beautiful new pool. What if we had a great YMCA on the same premisis to go with it? That would be a great place for kids to go the other 9 months of the year in Minnesota.

    Northfield is good at talking about issues–debating them and analyzing them. We are not very good at doing something about them. Yes, discussion is good, and I am glad that the drug problem in Northfield has been revealed by the media. Pretending that an issue does not exist will not make it go away. Neither will just talking about it. I hope the spotlight that have been placed on us will force us to make some positive changes here in Northfield for all our kids. “The children are our future.”

    (Yikes! No spellcheck! Next time I will have to remember to cut and paste.)

    July 6, 2007
  86. Anne Bretts said:

    Kids are bored? Kids in small towns always are bored. So are kids in big cities and in suburbs. There are lots of things for kids to do, but part of being a teen-ager is sitting around and complaining about how miserable their lives are. It’s how they figure out what they want to do, instead of what someone makes them do.
    That said, there are plenty of things kids in Northfield can do. The YMCA is busy organizing programs right now at the Armory, so you can volunteer to teach an activity or help supervise one. A separate building will come in time, but there’s a huge amount of underutilized space in town right now.
    Kids can bike or hike or canoe or fish or go to the pool or create art or music or volunteer to help with kids or old people. They can form book clubs or rent movies and hold film festivals, evaluating the work of different directors.
    They can learn about nature or do any of a hundred things that kids in towns without great parks and rivers and trails can’t do.
    I’m sorry, but I am so tired of people saying we have to build another expensive building or create an expensive program to entertain bored teen-agers and prove how much we value them. God, I sound like an old codger, but creating kids who expect to be entertained is what is causing this problem. We all face periods of boredom in our lives. Learning how to turn boredom into opportunity is what helps kids become healthy adults.

    July 6, 2007
  87. Tracy Davis said:

    Brava, Anne, I couldn’t agree more!

    July 6, 2007
  88. Anne Bretts said:

    Thanks, Tracy.
    While I’m on a roll, I’ll go ahead and post my reaction to the idea that this generation has it so much harder than any other.
    Each generation feels this way, but I can’t imagine a more lucky time to be alive.
    My great-great grandparents lived through the Civil War and slavery and all the accompanying horrors. My grandparents lived through the horrific poverty of the Depression and the knowledge that medicine was so limited that at least one of their siblings wouldn’t live to adulthood. Just walk through a cemetery and see all the tiny tombstones and you will be heartbroken at the way loss was so much a part of life. These were not reckless teens who drove into trees in drunken boredom, but innocents who died from a germ or tumor no one even sees today. Others were children who died working on farms or in dangerous factories.
    My Dad saw hundreds of his friends and fellow teen-agers killed in World War II, only to return to a world where everyone believed we would die any day in a nuclear blast. Many teens threw their lives away because they believed they would not grow old. I lived through the draft, seeing brothers and friends in terror of being one of 50,000 killed in a far-away jungle. I am old enough to know the frustration of being denied colleges and jobs and opportunities because I was a woman — and others denied them because they were black or Asian. I am in awe of the struggles of the generations before me, humbled by their accomplishments and elated at the opportunities available to my kids and grandkids.
    And I am sorry — and more than a little angry — that kids today have no sense of the wonder at the breathtaking possibilities of the world in which they live. We Baby Boomers, in our efforts to free ourselves of the restrictions of our parents’ society, have cut our children loose from its strengths and values.
    And now I will unplug for a while go back to the real world.

    July 6, 2007
  89. Rob Hardy said:

    There is surely truth in what Anne says; I wish I could post for you a wonderful Margaret Atwood poem about how being bored as a child turned her into a poet. What worries me is that smart, creative kids see drugs not as an escape from boredom, but as a means of expanding their creative powers. My nearly sixteen-year old son said to me, half joking, “Think of the great songs I could write if I did drugs.” He listed his favorite artists, beginning with Elliott Smith, and pointed out that they were all drug users. I pointed out that most of the people he named had died tragically young. Young people don’t think so much about that significant down side. They think about the possibilities. Drug use may be an often tragically misguided offshot of what is truly wonderful about the young: their sense of unlimited potential. How do I impress upon a sixteen-year old the truly terrible consequences, when he (age-appropriately) wants to focus on what he sees as the exciting possibilities?

    July 6, 2007
  90. Christine Stanton said:

    “Yeah, when I was a kid…,” is a common reaction adults have always had to comments from kids. I do not think the question is who has had it the hardest. As far as the big million dollar complex, no, it is not necessary, but what message do we send when we have a beautiful Senior Center? Is it okay for the “older” persons in the community to have it, but not the kids? I agree that kids do not know how to entertain themselves. I didn’t either at times when I was growing up. Maybe boredom is a part of kids figuring out what we want to do when we”grow up,” but we can give them direction? The list you gave of the opportunities in Northfield for kids is great. So, why do we have a problem? Maybe we need to look at all possible soultions before we knock them down. Do you have any suggestions?

    July 6, 2007
  91. Anne Bretts said:

    OK, Christine, we have slipped way off the topic of drugs, but I’ll answer your question. the senior center is nice, but have you looked at the very, very nice facilities devoted to kids and teens? There are soccer fields with misting stations, barely used playgrounds, baseball fields and a football field used just a relatively few weeks a year and an ice arena, also with limited use. The schools have weight rooms and pools and theaters, all of which could be used more of the year if parents and kids worked to raise a little money for rent and supervision.
    The senior center it is just one small wing of that large building. It includes a plain meeting room, and a small weight/equipment room designed for older adults, some of whom train less vigorously than young people. There is a pool, and my understanding is that it was made because older adults need warmer water than the young people need to practice in at the very nice school facilities. And the center is open to anyone over 50, so it serves a broad swath of the population.
    This really isn’t about us and them, young versus old. It’s just about finding solutions together instead of demanding someone else to provide them.

    July 6, 2007
  92. Griff Wigley said:

    I got this email from Supt. Chris Richardson:

    Griff, I have had a chance to talk with Joel Leer, Jeff Eckhoff and Marnie Thompson from the High School and Sarah Shiippy from Omada Services and we have put together a response that I’ll share with the Board Monday night.

    July 6, 2007
  93. Christine Stanton said:

    Sorry, Anne. I did not mean to focus on young vs. old. We are all the Northfield community–young and old. Right now it is our community against the drugs.

    July 6, 2007
  94. Christine Stanton said:

    Rob had a very good post. Maybe we should be asking ourselves how we can nurture those positive energetic, and creative qualities of our youth. As a parent of a Northfield teenager, I would welcome any suggestions.

    July 6, 2007
  95. Do we really need to provide kids with more entertainment to keep them from
    being bored. I don’t think so. Sorry to say, ‘when I was a kid’, but I believe it applies here.

    When I was seven, we lived above a dry goods store, somewhat like the Jacobsens’ store that used to be on Division here in town. My mom and dad worked and my sisters were much older and out doing their thing. I was like an only child, so I used to go down to the store and ask if there was anything I could do. Stevie, the lady owner, set me down in front of a set of sewing thread drawers, prolly, 20 drawers filled with all the colors of the rainbow and more. I would painstakingly replace each thread that customers had over the past month or so pulled out misplaced over and over again. I was not paid for this. Child slavery!!! NO! This activity helped me to be sensitive to color, develop my eye for art that I have today.
    Invaluable training. Stevie also showed me how to garden and take care of

    When I was ten, I was a sacristy girl, which meant I set up garments for the priests before mass. It was a great honor for which I was not paid in money, but where I learned the richness of ritual and orderliness and sacred
    states of mind. I spent an hour to an hour and one half two times a week performing this task and would never have traded it for anything. A valuable opportunity.

    When I was eleven, I used to babysit my bff’s three little sisters while
    she went swimming at the Y. Her mom paid me 50 cents an hour and told me
    to try and keep them quiet, as they lived in an apartment. It was nearly impossible to do that, as they ran around and around and around the whole time I watched them. However, it began to prepare me how to deal with children which prepared me for my teaching position for grads 1-4, once again, invaluable lessons.

    When I was fifteen I went to work for one of Chicago’s largest floral
    stores. I cannot tell you how much fun and what hard work that was at
    times, like around the holidays. I learned so much there. I did some
    accounting book work, floral designs, greenhouse chores, inventory of
    pottery and vases, etc, and how to deal with the public during times of
    grief and elation, as many of the calls florists get are for funeral and
    wedding arrangements. I delivered wedding flowers to churches every weekend, where I learned to navigate the city, pre-gps, and find churches
    as well as grooms hiding behind bushes, in small boiler rooms and what have you. I learned that every father of the bride must drink whiskey, no matter what time of the morning, ah, but I digress. 🙂

    Point is, me and all my friends and their friends had jobs. We worked and it was fun. And when we got our little paychecks, we spent the money on things we needed like clothes and shoes and paper and books. Gee, imagine, we never suffered at all. Accomplishment is the best drug of all.

    Why not let these kids do something for themselves? I am sure this is occurring somewhere around here, but I don’t see it at all.

    Sorry if I bored anyone with my ‘when I was a kid stories.’


    July 6, 2007
  96. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s Supt. Richardson’s response which he’s also given to the Northfield News:


    The administration and staff of the Northfield Public Schools and Northfield High School are very concerned about the information about heroin and Oxycotun use that has been presented recently by the Northfield Police Department. While we are aware and very concerned about any drug use by some Northfield High School students, we are very troubled about what appears to be the lack of clarity in news conference information, the exaggerated presentation by the Star Tribune of the number of current high school students involved, and the inference that the school and school district have not taken a proactive stance in addressing drug abuse issues among our students. Finally, we are very concerned that neither the Northfield Police nor the Star Tribune was willing to check the facts about our current students or about what we are doing to address this issue.

    Our Role as a School District

    Our first concern is always for the safety of the students in our schools. To promote that environment, we have tried to address student drug abuse through consistent enforcement of drug free behaviors by our students, support for students and families who find themselves involved in drug addiction, and prevention activities that promote connecting students to caring adults and classmates to promote an environment of belonging and drug free behavior.

    Lack of Clarity

    During the Northfield Police news conference held Tuesday, it was stated that “anecdotal information would indicate that somewhere between 150 and 250 individuals” are currently heroin or Oxycotun users and that these individuals are “anywhere from 15 to 23 years old.” Evidence as to the actual number of individuals involved was not provided and the number of current Northfield High School students, age 15-18, was never given. No effort was made by the Star Tribune or the Northfield Police to get factual data from the school district or the chemical health professionals who work with us on actual numbers of current Northfield High School students referred for treatment. Further, the “48 hour “snapshot” of a heroin user given by Sergeant Roger Schroeder described an individual who had graduated from Northfield High School. It did not make clear that this individual was actually in his mid twenties, had been out of high school for several years and had not been using heroin while in high school. In addition, actions described by Sergeant Schroeder of drug users across southeast Minnesota, were inaccurately attributed by the Star Tribune as being solely those of youth in Northfield.


    For many years, school district policies have been in place that result in suspension or expulsion of students for possession or use of illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco on campus. In 2006-07 these policies resulted in two high school students and four middle school students being suspended from school. Of these incidents on school property, two were for possession of marijuana, one for possession of alcohol and three for tobacco.


    Support programs have also been in place for over five years. Every current student who has been caught using or possessing illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco, whether at school or in the community, or any student who has been identified by the Student Support Team has been required to see a support professional hired by the school district. Based on the results of those sessions, students may be assessed and supported in finding appropriate treatment and rehabilitation programs. During the 2006-07 school year, approximately thirty or 2% of our current high school student body who went through the required sessions were identified for further evaluation and out patient or inpatient treatment with support from school administrators and counselors. Of those thirty students, approximately fifteen students or 1% of our current high school student body, were treated for heroin or Oxycotun use. At the same time approximately forty youth and young adults who were not enrolled in the Northfield Public Schools were supported by other community agencies in getting treatment.


    Northfield Public Schools has taken a major role in working with community and county agencies that are actively supporting drug prevention. The following are just some of our efforts in this area:

    * Funding partner and active involvement in the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative

    * Partner in the Rice County Family Services Collaborative and the Rice County Chemical Health Coalition working to prevent youth use of alcohol and other drugs throughout Rice County. Using best practices from around the country, the Coalition has developed a comprehensive, research-based plan to address youth substance abuse in Rice County. Action Teams focus on particular aspect of abuse prevention.

    * Funding a contract with Sarah Shippy, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor from Omada Behavioral Health Services, to spend over 1 day per week in the schools providing drug abuse prevention information to high school health classes, meeting with each student identified as having substance use issues, supporting students returning to school after treatment, and providing teacher training sessions.

    * Administered annual surveys of youth substance use and risk/protective factors to youth in the middle and high school (Minnesota Student Survey every three years and HCI survey in off-years); results compiled by Roger Jenni

    * Active involvement in the Northfield Chemical Health Task Force.

    * Supports the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use – City Council-appointed positions; membership consists of local citizens, including 14 high school-age students, committed to reducing youth alcohol and drug use. This group works to raise community awareness around youth alcohol and drug use, examines existing policies and practices within the community around youth use, and develops and implements recommendations. They partnered with the Minnesota Institute of Public Health to administer a Community Readiness survey to 600 Northfield residents to assess community norms on this issue and are planning an informational campaign to share results with community sectors. They worked with the Rice County Attorney’s office and Northfield Police Department to support parents in preventing risky behaviors during the prom/graduation time, implementing parent education campaign via postcards through the summer about preventing substance use, and working cooperatively with the Parent Communication Network to promote active and responsible parenting. Finally, they have conducted court monitoring of cases where adults provide alcohol to minors and assisting with and supported compliance checks to alcohol vendors.

    July 6, 2007
  97. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve deleted the text and YouTube video on Incarcerex that I included in the original blog post and removed the phrase ‘war on drugs’ from the blog title. With over 100 comments, the message thread was loading slowly and hopefully this will speed things up a bit… as well as help keep the discussion Northfield-focused.

    July 6, 2007
  98. Holly Cairns said:

    Hmm, that’s not exactly what I wanted to hear from the school system.

    I agree it might not be as bad as it appears but I would appreciate another informational section which included or highlighted change from what was done before.

    Questioning the police and numbers: Police officers seem to present less information than they could, not more than is needed. And I care if it is ten kids.

    Heroin. We’re not talking about media attention due to marijuana use. We need to move forward and show the kids that we mean business about this whole thing.

    I like the prevention list so far but I think what we used to do has to change– even if only to address this as a serious issue.

    July 6, 2007
  99. Griff Wigley said:

    MPR’s Tom Crann interviewed Hazelden’s Carol Falkowski yesterday on All Things Considered.

    Northfield’s heroin problem

    The 8 minute 50 second audio requires Real Audio player (free). The text intro to the audio reads:

    Northfield, Minn. is known for being a quiet liberal arts college town, but this week, the town’s police chief announced a startling drug problem in the local high school. Chief Gary Smith says more than 150 of Northfield High School’s students are hooked on heroin. In addition, more than 250 current and former students may be involved in an informal drug ring, bringing in the drugs from the Twin Cities.

    The Northfield problem was mentioned last month in the Hazelden Foundation’s report on Twin Cities drug abuse.

    Carol Falkowski is the director of research communications at the Minnesota-based Hazelden Foundation, which provides drug and alcohol addiction treatment for teens and adults. She is also the author of the drug abuse report.

    Falkowski joined All Things Considered host Tom Crann on the phone from Colorado, and she says many of the students hooked on heroin at Northfield High School are actually high-achievers.

    July 6, 2007
  100. Scott Oney said:

    A lot of posts here have dealt with kids, the community, and our schools. I’m wondering where people fit pushers into the equation. Maybe one reason so many people are buying drugs in Northfield is that there are a lot of people here selling them.

    For anyone reading this who uses or has used heroin, how long did it take for you to find some after you first decided to try it? Or did it work the other way, that is, did someone offer it to you before you had much interest in it? (Heroin is the main topic here, but it would be interesting to hear of people’s early experiences with other drugs as well.)

    July 6, 2007
  101. Scott Oney said:

    Regarding the quoted news story in #104:

    One hundred fifty kids at the high school “hooked”? Is the Chief coming unhinged under pressure, or is he trying to make the whole discussion sound stupid so people will tune it out and he can go back to the status quo? (In all fairness, I haven’t heard the audio–we can hope he’s being misquoted here, but probably not.)

    I’m sticking with the more believable estimate provided by “Not Given”–30 daily users and about 100 occasional ones, mostly in their immediate post-high school years. This is cause for concern, certainly, but no reason to hurry up and sell your house!

    July 6, 2007
  102. Gloria Smestad said:

    It is shocking to think that Northfield students, who we all think should ‘know better’ have been suckered into drug lifestyles. If the numbers are less than 100 or more than 100 in the overall community, or 60 or so in high school, something should be done.

    I recommend being aggressive and getting drug sniffing dogs on campus, patrolling. Why be timid and let things get worse–take strong, responsible action and let everyone know you are serious about this, not just making a gentle, token liberal effort so that no one will feel bad about their choices.

    Use some intelligence and muscle before this generation which appears to have idolized ghetto culture completely disintegrates.

    And yes, I live in California. Periodically there are drug-sniffing dogs on campuses from middle school on up. Many schools do not even have lockers for books because schools do not want the students to have storage for illegal substances, etc. And kids who get caught get hauled away, as they should. Tough lesson? Can you think of a better one?

    July 6, 2007
  103. Curt Benson said:

    I think there needs to be an explanation of when and how Smith and Richardson communicated about this problem. Did Smith blindside Richardson with his press conference? The two have completely different stories.

    (BTW, Tracy’s post #53 is worth re-reading.)

    July 6, 2007
  104. Lori Martin said:

    As for boredom:
    1. This is not the problem.
    2. If this were the problem, finding more ways to entertain kids would not be the answer. This generation has entertainment at their fingertips. The problem might more likely be that they do not know how to handle themselves if not entertained or high.

    Kids are naturally curious and excited about the world. Good teachers and parents encourage this. Oddly enough, more of us are a bit guilty of squashing this with our own judgements, expectations, and giving in to our kids too many times. It was pretty difficult to explain to my daughter that she was not getting a cell phone in 5th grade when her friends all had one. I run into these sad “everyone else…” arguments too often. It has been a challenge. But so far my kids still know how to have a good time outdoors. They also know how to interact with other kids very well. I’m trying to help them grow in their abilities to think creatively, solve problems, and build good relationships with others. It’s not easy everyday because I feel I’m fighting against a powerful, superficial culture. We have t.v. limits and I’d like to get rid of the t.v. all together. There are a few days a week the kids simply don’t have time for television. But it’s hard to avoid junk within the first minutes of turning the thing on. I’m not an expert, but I’m quite certain entertaining our kids more is not the answer. Spend time with them. Encourage them to invite their friends over and get to know their friends. As early on as possible, let them explore the world for themselves instead of sitting them down in front of the television or playstation.

    July 6, 2007
  105. Anne Bretts said:

    Curt, it would seem that you are on track. There’s an old saying that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. And it seems that we are stuck on statistics.
    It took about a minute earlier this week to compute that are 300 kids per grade, and even if everyone remained in town after graduation, that would be only about 2,500 people ages 16-23. So having between 150 and 250 users would mean between 1 in 15 and 1 in 10 people are using (an even higher percentage if you believe that many kids leave town after graduation for college or jobs).
    So, the low-end figure of 150 users would correlate somewhat with the 100 users the former user reported in an earlier post. And that number would be about 10 per one-year age bracket, still a little higher than the figures reported by the last Minnesota Student Survey and the school district (understandable given that many users are older or not enrolled and that the schools might miss some nimble users). The chief said some heroin users have habits costing up to $600 a day. Clearly not every user spends that much, or the thieves in Northfield would have to generate $2.7 million a month, a revenue stream that would be the envy of most legal businesses here.
    The bottom line, so to speak, is that it’s important to use numbers carefully and try to find common ground in interpreting them. In a small town, with a small population, being off even a little on an estimate can change the perception of a situation. Our burglary rate may double, but doubling a tiny number means we need to be very cautious but we don’t need to panic. Think of it as a tornado watch. Things could get bad in a hurry, but we’re not there yet.
    It means that just a couple of dozen dealers, related users and a few dozen more curious teens in over their heads can skew the numbers pretty dramatically in a short time. Given that everyone is working with estimates and best guesses (there is no way to get an accurate number of such an illegal and highly personal behavior), it’s important for everyone to keep things in perspective. And while it’s comforting to discount the police figures as high, the message is important. I watched Duluth remain in denial while Twin Cities gangs became entrenched.
    In short, just because you haven’t seen the funnel cloud, you should pay attention to the forecast.
    It seems time for all the city, school and treatment officials to have a good chat to reconcile the statistics, then help everyone figure out what needs to be done and by whom. Regardless of the number of users, it seems that supporting families and kids in trouble, locking doors and cars and improving communication at all levels would be good first steps.

    July 6, 2007
  106. L. Larson said:

    I definitely think that providing alternative recreation to the drug issue is a really important priority. The key factor is providing an appealing alternative, one that will naturally attract our youth without outside influence from the adult community (meaning parents telling children to go check this out).

    Young adults/teenagers are very quick decision makers when it comes to deciding what is hip and what is not. They usually rely on the opinions of their peers as their primary source for influencing information. Most high school students are also VERY skeptical of any adult-created activites. Whatever is created to capture their attention will only get one chance at a first impression. If the first group of kids that hears about it doesn’t like what they hear, the entire groups opinion will be like dominoes all falling in one direction (this is not to say they aren’t capable of forming their own opinions). We can build all the recreation facilities we want but if they are perceived as “lame” by the target crowd then its all just a huge waste. No one will use them.

    Swimming pools, weight-lifting gyms and such are all fine and dandy if you’re a ultra-secure person who feels great in a swimsuit and has the confidence to walk around in one in front of the most physique-critical part of society. I know I am not comfortable doing that. High schoolers can be a tough crowd to please.

    I also think that our high school students interests are far more diverse than a youth center can cover. Look at all the different areas adults pursue for recreation. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of different forms of recreation out there for adults. Adults don’t all flock to one centralized location for the majority of their recreational activities, why expect the youth to do it?

    Students spend all day packed into a centralized building for education, by the end of the day they want to get the heck out of there. They don’t want to go to another big centralized building for recreational fulfillment. They want to break free and do something different. They want to get away from the pressures associated with school. Packing them into another centralized building may seem like a great way to deal with all of them at once, but this issue needs to be dealt with in a very different way.

    Simply entertaining the youth is taking the path of least resistance. This path almost always leads to the least fruitful reward. Rather, we should teach our youth how to create or pursue their own fulfilling activities. Boredom can be a good thing (in moderation), it stimulates the mind to construct a solution to the boredom. When we hand the child entertainment at the first sign of boredom, we deny them the chance to learn how to deal with boredom -and how to pursue a positive solution.

    July 7, 2007
  107. Rob Hardy said:

    I’ve been living in Kenilworth, England with two teenagers this year, and am about to return to Northfield. Northfield is the important issue, but let me step back for a moment to say something about England.

    According to a study conducted by the Institute for Public Policy Research, “Britons are more likely than other Europeans to blame young people for antisocial behavior.” Whereas 65% of Germans, for example, say they would be “willing to intervene if they saw a group of 14-year old boys vandalising a bus shelter,” only 34% of Britons would intervene. 39% of Britons would cross to the other side of the road to avoid a confrontation. According to the study, 1.7 million Britons last year “avoided going out after dark” for fear of teenagers. On Halloween, 58% of British homeowners turn off their lights and hide in the back room to avoid trick-or-treaters.

    Britain likes to blame the importation of “American gang culture” to this country, and clearly we need to address a culture that celebrates drugs and violence. We can’t, like so many Britons, simply blame young people and retreat to the opposite side of the road in fear. We can’t fall back on blaming the children for creating the problem, or the police and the schools for failing to solve the problem. We have to engage with young people ourselves, as parents, as friends, as a community. We’ve been talking about the problem “in the high school,” as if kids are shooting up in French class. The high school is a community that brings teenagers together, but it’s only a part of the larger community to which we all belong. We’re all responsible.

    With all these comments, perhaps it’s time to set up some sort of separate online community forum (linked to LocallyGrown) that would facilitate so much discussion.

    July 7, 2007
  108. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Northfield News:

    A tale of addiction: A recovering heroin user tells her story

    Gina isn’t alone in Northfield. She said police estimates of anywhere from 150 to 250 users living in and around the city are accurate. That number, she said, includes kids who believe that using occasionally minimizes the severity of their problem…. What troubles Gina are the newer addicts – the 15 to 18 year-olds – she now sees getting hooked. Where she felt shame and angst over her addiction, they seem proud. “It’s not like when I used – I didn’t want anyone to know. All their friends know.”

    Editorial: Too early to point fingers over the heroin problem

    Allegedly, many of the young people who use heroin here are current or former high school students. But that does not in any way lay the responsibility for this on the school. Of course kids this age using heroin in this community go to Northfield High School. Most kids this age of all stripes go to the high school. In the same way, just because it has been reported that a few of the students using heroin are good students, doesn’t mean that it’s just the good students in Northfield who have turned to drugs. One or two or a few, perhaps, have, but many more have not. To target one group of students as the problem is too easy. We need a lot more information than we have now to target anyone.

    This is a serious problem, but we have to be careful about the conclusions we draw from the information we have. Some news coverage seems to imply that this is a problem of affluence, that these are kids with wealthy parents from a wealthy community who have too much money to do whatever they choose to do. Some of the same stories also tie the recent rise in crime here to heroin users becoming thieves to support their addiction. This, of course, seems to contradict the earlier argument of rich kids with lots of money who experiment with drugs. And crime here has also been linked to methamphetamine use. So which is it?

    July 7, 2007
  109. Griff Wigley said:

    June 12 CNN story: Deadly $2 heroin targets teens

    A cheap, highly addictive drug known as “cheese heroin” has killed 21 teenagers in the Dallas area over the past two years…

    Moncibais then asked how many students knew a “cheese” user. Just about everyone in the auditorium raised a hand. At one point, when he mentioned that the United States has the highest rate of drug users in the world, the middle schoolers cheered…

    School officials and police have been holding assemblies, professional lectures, PTA meetings and classroom discussions to get the word out about the drug. A public service announcement made by Dallas students is airing on local TV, and a hotline number has been created for those seeking assistance…

    Drug treatment centers in Dallas say teen “cheese” addicts are now as common as those seeking help for a marijuana addiction. “It is the first drug to have even come close in my experience here,” says Michelle Hemm, director of Phoenix House in Dallas.

    July 7, 2007
  110. Parent of user (currently anonymous) said:

    I wonder, along with everyone else in town, why our children are turning to drugs. Why my child turned so readily to drugs. That is the simplistic question asked as we struggle alongside the “answer”. More recreational facilities, more responsibility, less school pressures. I am now wondering if the question is inaccurate, and that is why these proposed answers feel a bit empty.

    I am amused by Bright’s ruminations about her childhood; but didn’t we all resolve (decades ago!) not to go down that path? I hear all the time a romanticization of simpler times, simpler ways of living. We grew up with stories from our elders bemoaning the changes, changes, etc; and few of my relatives felt anything less than extreme powerlessness to confront or halt the changes, changes that very few “approved” of. Where did that powerlessness come from? Surely human activity is determined by humans! But, we all went along, and have all gone along for eons.

    And so I propose the question to be: why succumb to feelings of powerlessness?

    In earlier days, people’s roles were more rigid, decided, agreed upon. It turns out, though, about half the population, i.e. the women, moved into the mindset that that wouldn’t work for them any longer. Of course, many women still stayed at home and, in fact, that has become more fashionable as of late. I don’t want to digress now to the rights and wrongs of the women’s movement, suffice it to say the general trend that emerged was a change.

    Although no historian, I would argue all of recorded human activity, i.e. our history, is the record of change. We changed locales in search of food, we changed governing structures, we changed societal economic relationships; change, change, change. And while changing we also recorded violence, victories, oppression, and righteousness. We fought because of kings, gods, territory, and more righteousness.

    So who is more right in this situation? Why does it matter? Lock them up, lock ourselves down, we are all losers, we all suffer the losses of freedom, mobility, connection, compassion and love.

    Here is my today answer, assume tomorrow’s answer will change! Put the “solution” for this problem squarely back in the hands of the children. Tolerate no drugs, no righteousness, no slacking. Encourage and help them cultivate responsibility, cooperativeness, and an appreciation of our unique differences. Provide, because as adults we hold the keys to all the meeting rooms in town, space for our young to grapple with all that confront them: self-image issues, academic competitiveness, boredom, a polluted Cannon River. As adults we can also offer “recording” services, i.e. we can be the scribes assigned to document self-government as it unfolds. We can also offer wisdom and experience, but only if asked. They will be in charge and empowered. Let’s agree to give change a positive twist.

    July 7, 2007
  111. Griff Wigley said:

    Marie indicated in comment #80 above that the Union of Youth is considering taking a lead role in response to this. She was also one of three young people interviewed in this article in yesterday’s Northfield News:

    Drug-use figures no surprise to students

    Guerber, Hartin and Fischer agreed that if change is going to happen, it’s not going to start with the police, but at places like the Union of Youth – a haven for youth with a zero tolerance drug policy. In fact, they said, it’s already in the works to set up a support group of sorts at the Union of Youth for drug users, parents of users and others with questions.

    Joshua Hinnenkamp, Executive Director at the Northfield Union of Youth, has this letter to the editor in the same edition of the paper:

    “Don’t worry parents, your kids can’t afford a $600-a-day habit. Only rich thugs and desperate criminals robbing the community can afford this habit.”

    Unfortunately this isn’t reality. Reality is that your kids can get a hit of heroin for as little as $10 to $15, which is a similar price to let’s say a “dime bag” of weed. Lock your doors if you must, but this won’t make the problem go away. If you really want to help, we need to start some real dialogue about this problem. Heroin has been a part of this community for a long time and while it has been escalating as of late, I remember kids scoring heroin on the streets of Northfield in the mid 90s. Maybe as a community and as a nation we should spend less time and money battling marijuana and refocusing this time and money battling all drugs. As the director of the Northfield Union of Youth (The Key), I open our doors to anyone wishing to have a real dialogue on this issue. Please e-mail northfieldunionofyouth@gmail.com.

    The paper also has an article on the treatment options: Local treatment programs lacking for heroin users

    Sarah Shippy, a chemical and behavioral specialist at Northfield’s outpatient addiction center Omada Behavioral Health Services, believes the time for Buprenorphine to come to Northfield has arrived. “It would be great if we had this medical treatment to withdraw safely in our community,” said Shippy. “Now I have to tell patients to get it elsewhere. I refer out.”

    Buprenorphine, which can be taken intravenously, through a patch, or in tablet form, helps lessen the effects of heroin withdrawal, which, though rarely life-threatening, can be an “incredibly uncomfortable experience for users,” Grant said. Doctors who can prescribe the medicine have to undergo training. Once licensed, a doctor can only administer Buprenorphine to 30 patients in the first year, then 60 patients per year after that.

    Through various action teams, the Rice County Chemical Health Coalition, created in 2004, has been working to prevent youth use of alcohol and other drugs, including heroin. The coalition is currently hoping to bring Buprenorphine treatment to Northfield. According to coalition staff member Katherine Sandberg, the healthcare-provider team, is making plans for Northfield area doctors to attend a Buprenorphine licensing session at the University of Minnesota on Sept. 15.

    FYI, despite the wording of that headline (it could mean that there aren’t enough heroin users to fill the local programs), I thought the Northfield News did a good job yesterday in its reporting.

    And Northfield.org has two recent blog posts on this issue:

    Ongoing collaborative efforts to reduce youth substance use by Zach Pruitt.

    NIMBY makes a comeback – Nfld in the News by Cynthia Child.

    July 8, 2007
  112. Here are a couple of things to ponder.

    1) The mind is mainly a problem solver. If there are no real
    problems, the mind tends to create some.

    2) The following excerpt from the Washington Post:

    Brain Immaturity Could Explain Teen Crash Rate
    Risky Behavior Diminishes At Age 25, NIH Study Finds

    By Elizabeth Williamson
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 1, 2005; Page A01

    By most physical measures, teenagers should be the world’s best drivers. Their muscles are supple, their reflexes quick, their senses at a lifetime peak. Yet car crashes kill more of them than any other cause — a problem, some researchers believe, that is rooted in the adolescent brain.

    A National Institutes of Health study suggests that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25, a finding with implications for a host of policies, including the nation’s driving laws.

    “We’d thought the highest levels of physical and brain maturity were reached by age 18, maybe earlier — so this threw us,” said Jay Giedd, a pediatric psychiatrist leading the study, which released its first results in April. That makes adolescence “a dangerous time, when it should be the best.”


    July 8, 2007
  113. Anne Bretts said:

    Zach Pruitt of the Healthy Communities Initiative posted a short story on Northfield.org, along with a pdf report by the Rice County Chemical Health Coalition http://northfield.org/node/3316.
    The report is long on goals and short on data, given that the coalition has been in place since 2004. And it seems that with this coalition in place, people in the coalition — and the public — shouldn’t have been caught off-guard by the heroin story. Yet the July report doesn’t mention heroin use, let alone concerns about a heroin network.
    These are all good people, and I think everyone is trying, but something is missing. Again, it seems that there are services and resources in place for families, and money being spent on task forces and coalitions and awareness. What we don’t seem to have are coordinated and agreed upon data that can be tracked to see what the baseline use is, what the goals are for reduction and whether the goals are being met. I realize these are hard numbers to compute, but how else do we know how big the network is at any given point, and whether anything we do now will shrink it? If the network is 250 users now, what was it six months or a year ago? Are their quarterly updates to coalition members to review and coordinate data?
    I’m all for community involvement, but the hard reality is that, especially for the young teens at home, this is going to boil down to families banding together to make sure their kids are supervised, that they have adults beyond their parents to use as mentors. And I know it’s hard but parents have to stop complaining about peer pressure to give in to their kids and start exerting some peer pressure to keep the indulgent parents in line — and intervene for those kids when the indulgent parents don’t.
    This is like the problems of unemployment, alcoholism and suicide among the elderly, domestic abuse, etc. We can say it’s a community problem, but the real work is going to be done by the people involved.

    July 8, 2007
  114. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m going to take a stab at crafting a community straw poll/informal survey on this issue. I think it might help us better prepare for our radio show on Wed. with Chief Smith and Supt. Richardson. But hopefully it’ll also encourage more people to contribute information as well as their concerns, opinions, and suggestions. We have many people following this blog discussion thread but a comparative few contributing.

    I’ll put up a draft of it here as soon as I can and then ask for suggestions/feedback on how to improve it.

    Also, thanks much to three of the half-dozen or so anonymous posters who’ve contacted me.

    July 8, 2007
  115. John said:

    As one of the heroin users perhaps I can offer a different perspective on this. I started using heroin with my friends about six weeks ago. It started out with us all just being curious. We wanted to know what it was like. We were bored (so, parent above who says boredom is not the problem, I disagree entirely) and were looking for something to do. We found one dealer who worked with my friend, and he got us our first heroin. We bought from him a couple of times, and were fairly impressed with the stuff, but he was ripping us off by 300% at least and we knew it. It was by mere coincidence that we met our next dealer, whose smack was far, far more pure (I would be willing to bet >98% and I’m in a good position to judge such things). He also gave us fair prices, and we bought it like candy. We all started off saying, “Just out of curiousity, let’s try it a couple of times.” But, the stuff really is amazing, and we ended up using it more and more often. I’ve finally decided to quit, but not all of my friends have. It’s difficult.

    Well, I totally lost my train of thought because I’m in Blue Monday on the public computer, but feel free to ask me questions and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.

    July 8, 2007
  116. Holly Cairns said:

    John, are you still there?

    It worries me that this drug doesn’t let go, and it you rehab it, you’ll find it’s waiting. At least that is what my Dad told us– he was an undercover snitchy kind of guy once long ago.

    He walked in and two of his friends were dead– their tongues had swelled up so they had suffocated. My dad felt a lot of pain about that.

    He didn’t talk a lot about that and didn’t do the drugs, himself, but was on the fringe. His father and he lived on a porch after his mother died… long story.

    But his stories scared me. Why aren’t you scared of this drug? It makes me cry to think my kids might try it.


    July 8, 2007
  117. Griff Wigley said:

    John, since you identified yourself as a current heroin user and you used both a first and last name for your post, I’d like to verify your identity. I’ve removed your last name in the meantime. I hope you understand. Your contributions could be really helpful here but we need to be careful that our blog isn’t used to incriminate yourself or anyone else.

    July 8, 2007
  118. John said:

    I’m not going to say I wasn’t scared the first time I tried it, but as soon as it started to kick in those fears were assuaged. All our lives police and parents were trying to tell us that heroin is the worst thing in the world. If you do heroin, you will be living in an alleyway eating garbage and shooting up AIDS. They made it seem so unpleasant, why would anyone want to try it? But, they’ve been telling us that about all drugs when that clearly isn’t the case. We found out they were wrong about marijuana, so they were probably wrong about heroin too. And, indeed, there were no short-term problems caused by it. We used it on and off for the first two weeks or so without consequence. It was only later that things got more serious, and by that point, it was too late.

    There are two points that need addressed. First, it’s parents and police trying to convince us not to use by spreading misinformation. Seriously, if they would stop lying to us about pot we’d be much more inclined to believe them about other drugs.

    Second, parents need to actually talk to their kids about their drug use. If a kid is too afraid to tell their parents that they’ve even tried smoking pot for fear of irrational retribution, then how can the parents get mad when the kid lies? I realize that I’m speaking to only a portion of the parent population here, but swift, harsh discipline isn’t the only way to express displeasure with your kid’s actions. If you want open communication with your kids, don’t punish it. If you find out your kid uses or has used heroin, try simply telling them that it worries you, that you know people who have had their lives ruined and you don’t want that to happen to them. Leave it at that. Knowing that your parents are disappointed in you but still care about you is a far more powerful motivator than knowing that your parents are mad at you.

    I know that the above thoughts are rather haphazard and unorganized, but they had to come out somehow.

    P.S. That “cheese heroin” thing is irrelevant in Northfield. It’s all of very high purity here.

    July 8, 2007
  119. We found out they were wrong about marijuana, so they were probably wrong about heroin too.

    You hit the nail on the head. So many teens I know really do use that logic. Honest, accurate drug education would make a significant difference.

    July 8, 2007
  120. kiffi summa said:

    Secrecy ………….. a huge part of the problem.For years, in regular community youth programs, the kids have been saying that you could buy ANY drug in various places in town, one of them being the parking lot at the high school. And yet when this is publicly said, the questions are not asked, to the speakers, by the relevant adults present….. Do YOU want this situation to continue? How much of your freedoms do you want to give up to “protect” others? What do you think we should do about this? Should there be police monitoring the parking lot? Should kids be allowed out of the building at all times of day if this is a problem? Should everyone be resticted in their freedoms because some people abuse those rights? Is it a “right” to buy drugs in the high school parking lot? And a whole lot of other questions that would have begun a healthy dialogue..

    But we always seem to get stymied by the attitude that if we ACCEPT the fact that a degree of risky behavior is going to occur, as a normal part of growing up, we CONDONE that behavior. I remember vividly being cautioned by several people involved in the same youth/adult groups as I
    have been here in Northfield, not to EVER say it was OK to drink and drive. Well, sorry, but my reply is the same now as it was then. I knew my three teenagers growing up in Lake Forest, IL, were going to experiment with drinking, and sometimes when they were driving. And I was fearful for them. But I felt it was much better to have them experimenting at an age when they were at home, and when incidents occurred we could talk about it, and we could express our parental POV’s in a rational back and forth discussion……….rather than saying we had zero tolerance for all “risky behaviors” and closing the door to open communication.

    I’m not in favor of preaching total abstinence, on any subject, when it is an irrational and unrealistic position to take. I agree with Victor, the kids at the Key, and all others ( sorry, can’t remember all 100plus posts) who have said the kids of this community should lead whatever
    discussion comes out of this . Many of them know the facts, they are the experts on the street perspective. Let the adults listen, and listen, and ask a lot of questions. And then the adults can ask what is the most helpful tack to take.

    July 8, 2007
  121. Angelique Dietz said:

    Whatever direction the Northfield discussion will take, the public HAS to insist that the police provide accurate information. It now tosses numbers around as if they are irrelevant to how we are going to solve the problem, let alone live our daily lives.
    So, what is it “150 kids hooked”, or “as many as 250 current and former Northfield high school students could be involved” (and have habits of up to $800 a day!), or, is it the number that the school district provides: about 15 high school students known for heroine use in 2006-07???? These are widely different numbers and very relevant if we don’t want to waste time in helping these young victims of drug abuse.
    If 1 in roughly 8 high school students (the 150 of 1300 students) is hooked, that means that my sophomore daughter is likely to find a friend shooting up when walking into the bathroom. When she hangs out with a dozen of friends or so, are 1 1/2 using heroine but hiding it from her and now she can’t trust them anymore and no friend can trust her anymore (after all, she and her friends are so-called ‘alpha’ students in the school)?
    We cannot base our discussion, nor any solution to the problem, on the impressionistic numbers we have been provided by the police department.
    If Northfield is home to rougly 250 kids and young adults hooked on heroine, with habits up to $800, everything the community has tried has failed. If we have about 15 heroine users, that is extremely regrettable and my heart goes out to the individuals and families that have to fight their addiction, but it means that in a city of our size, something is working well to keep most of our kids healthy. Having the right numbers to base our discussion on is crucial for identifying the nature of the problem and finding help and developing prevention programs.
    Police department: when starting this discussion (which I think is a good one to have for our community), you owe us accurate information. I can paint dramatically different pictures for our community when we either have 150 or 15 kids in our highschool of 1300 using heroine.
    I’ll check the newspaper on Wednesday for accurate information. All individuals and families effected deserve that.

    July 8, 2007
  122. Holly Cairns said:


    The swollen tongue thing is not misinformation.

    Purity? Come on. What the… who knows what you are buying– that’s the nature of street drugs. Or, do you get the drugs from someone that is a “really good guy” and wouldn’t harm you?

    July 8, 2007
  123. John said:

    I don’t recall commenting on the swollen tongue thing; perhaps it was a misunderstanding. As for the purity, impure drugs tend to be off-white to tan, hygroscopic, and grainy (like table salt). Pure drugs tend to be bright white, dry, fine, clumpy powders. Pure drugs are easily water-soluble, impure drugs are not. Based on weighing the substance with a scale accurate to 0.001g, our heroin matched the dose-response curves of known pure heroin. The >98% is just a guess, but I’d say it’s pretty close. Either way, the point was not to start an argument about purity, it was just to point out that it’s the real deal here. Not “cheese” or whatever.

    July 8, 2007
  124. Anne Bretts said:

    So, John, you’re so damned smart you can tell the purity of a batch of heroin and negotiate with professional dealers to get the best price and yet you didn’t know heroin would make you feel good? You believed the crap in drug education classes and thought it would be horrible the first time? You were so bored you had no choice but to try heroin?
    Give me a break.
    If you’re as bored as you say, you’ve undoubtedly seen every lame cable show about every celebrity who ever recovered from drugs and how hard they had to work to get clean because even years after getting sober they still dream of getting high. What have you been watching, HGTV?
    You’re bragging about how much you know and where you are while you’re bragging just for the excitement of seeing whether the cops will come or your parents will come or all the grown-ups will turn to you for guidance. You’re not a heroin junkie, just an excitement junkie. You and your friends were sure you’d be the ones who could play with heroin and not get caught, the same way you’re sure your girlfriends won’t get pregnant and you won’t get a bad dose of heroin or a wrongly identified pill and pass out and choke on your own vomit. You’re smarter and tougher than Joplin and Hendrix and Morrison and Downey and Sizemore and all those people in the police scare stories and all the thousands of others who did get caught. That’s the real high, getting away with it.
    You want your parents to know just how much you’ve jerked them around and played them and made fools of them, so you used your name. You want them to understand and not punish you. Of course you do.
    So, I’ll give you a break and pretend I buy that story. Now that you know the truth, what are you going to do about it, besides freaking out adults and embarrassing your parents and grandparents and everyone in your family?
    Tell your parents, tell the parents of your friends. Turn in the dealers. Do something that matters. Get a job. Get a life. We’ll help you and your family any way we can, but you need to quit pretending to take a risk and really take one.
    Grow up.

    July 8, 2007
  125. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi John,

    I was estimating your intelligence to be pretty high until I read that last post.

    You can’t tell the purity.

    I worked with a kid who handed out acid, but he ended up killing one of his good friends. She died of many complications, including a high fever.

    By the way, you should sit your parents down and tell them what you need from them. If you can’t do that, you are the one that is responsible.

    Good luck to you as you move through life. There aren’t any do-overs, and so you’ll be sorry, someday.

    July 8, 2007
  126. Griff Wigley said:

    Anne, I don’t see how your lecturing John helps him or this discussion. And you seem to be assuming you know his motivations. I think it’s best to assume he’s wading into the discussion here with the intention to help. And I think it’s best to use a tone that engages rather than alienates.

    Holly, I think you can disagree with him without the put-down about his intelligence.

    I value both your contributions to this discussion but I think you owe John more respectful responses.

    July 8, 2007
  127. Parent of teens said:

    Why does having the exact numbers matter so much to so many people? If only 15 people have a heroin problem, does that mean the community does not need to worry or help?

    In all reality, Gary Smith and Chris Richardson will never know the exact number of heroin users in Northfield, having the exact number will not make the drug problem go away, trying to find the reason why people turn to drugs, will not make the problem go away either.

    Maybe if more adults started treating teenagers like ah I don’t know maybe a Human Being. Too many adults have a low opinion of teenagers in general, adults tend to prejudge teenagers by their appearances, not by getting to know the person.

    To #127

    “I’ll check the newspaper on Wednesday for accurate information.”

    You do that, because everyone knows the newspaper is always “right”

    July 8, 2007
  128. Will Oney said:

    It amuses me that you think because a friend of a co worker died from a bad batch of LSD that John would be unable to determine the purity of heroin. A common dose of LSD would be anywhere from 50-100 micrograms. a microgram is ONE MILLIONTH of a gram. Because of the miniscule size of a dose of acid combined with the fact that it would be dissolved in water and put on a blotter or in a capsule cutting LSD with any other substance would be pointless. The purpose of cutting a drug is to increase the volume thus increasing profit. In all likelihood this girl was given a chemical completely unlike acid and died as a result of misinformation, improper dosage etc. Secondly its ridiculous to call john unintelligent because he claims he knows what he’s buying, I guarantee you that the average heroin user would know more about such things than some parent speaking out of fear and ignorance. Did he not he not say he had quit? I would say that him doing this when all his friends continue to shoot up would take a great deal of will power and intelligence.

    Anne Bretts-
    Although turning in those who sell smack would indeed help the problem no one in their right mind would do so as this would undoubtedly cause harm to be inflicted upon you. As for turning in your friends, the sad truth is you can only help addicts/users who have the desire to change. Shipping your kid off to rehab wont do any good as they’ll probably just start using again first chance they get.

    July 8, 2007
  129. Angelique, you came down pretty hard on the police but as a former user (of National Intelligence Estimates) I have to tell you that what you perceive as distortions and falsehoods are the natural consequence of any organization trying to balance the desires of people for immediate information versus the desire to give out the definitive answers. The process of estimation is not helped by the fact that the rules for estimating that the Chief has to work with are often designed to estimate total population in a steady state system, whereas the Chief is working in an inflationary (growing) system of users and dealers. The market is still pretty dynamic here in Northfield, but it will settle down into an equilibrium eventually.

    Our questions should be directed more toward what equilibrium we (the people) want. Do we want ACLU-baiting lockdowns and drug sniffing dogs roaming the aisles of the schools? Do we want the surrender tactics of the east coast cities? Do we want the quiet desperation and denial of a metro suburb? I challenge anyone to find examples that have worked in our environment of privilege, wealth and entitlement (as evidence by some of the apologists I see posting here). Present those examples with documentation so we can all get smarter. Then we can make choices not about whom to hang for the fact that we are not what we thought we were, but instead choices about where we want to end up and what means we are willing to use to get there.

    In the meantime, in the short term, we can at least do some simple and smart things to cut back on the flow of money. Lock those cars. Lock those homes. Don’t shrug off that young adult who rings your doorbell at 3 in the afternoon then claims to be on a quest for a party game. If you have kids, don’t think that your little Johnny or Suzie are not aware of this one.

    July 8, 2007
  130. Christine Stanton said:

    Okay, I am back. There have been some interesting posts over the weekend. The “unknown” numbers are still concerning, but John’s posts put the number of users in the same bracket as the police reported. I would have to agree the even experimenting is “using.” The scarry thing is that no one thinks they will get “hooked.” The post about the tornado watch was a good analogy. The number of users would help us define whether we are in a watch or a warning.

    As far as the comments from the school, I am concerned that the school soulds like it feels the need to defend itself. It is hard to have good dialogue when someone is on the defensive. I also agree with the post that says we cannot blame it on the school.

    I do not want to beat a dead horse into the ground, but I still believe the issue of boredom is relevant. When I made that statement I was not making a judgement on why kids are bored, but that they are. It is true that they should not be bored, but they are. The posts regarding boredom being a good thing for growth definetly have merit. It is also true that kids do not know how to entertain themselves. Many of their activities are very structured and supervised by adults, which leaves little room to experiment with boredom in a safe environment.

    As far as parentaI involvement, I would be more than willing to supervise the weight room so kids could use it, but I know my kid would not want to use it if I was there.

    When I brought up the YMCA facility vision, I was thinking of a place that would have opportunities for multiple interests, maybe even multiple rooms for kids to hang out with groups that have the same interests. Maybe even room for The Key. (The comment about kids being “fickle” is a good one.) To me the YMCA is not just for sports activities. It would be a safe place for kids to simply “be.” Sure, there would be athletic opportunities, but in my vision the YMCA would be much more. This discussion is not about prompting the YMCA, but I felt it was an “inclusive” option–not limited to special intersts.

    The Oxford American Dictionary defines bored as feeling tired or unisinterested by being dull or tedious. Northfield does have many opportunities. Is it possible to get our kids interested in what we have, or do we need to give them new opportunities? I think the answer is both. However, telling them they should not be bored doesn’t help. Neither does telling them it is their own fault they are bored.

    July 8, 2007
  131. Christine Stanton said:

    Sorry. “Fickle” was not the word that was used. It was “skeptical.”

    July 8, 2007
  132. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s a rough first draft, PDF, of a straw poll.

    It’s an informal straw poll (unscientific) designed to better understand the problem of illegal drug abuse in the Northfield area and engage local citizens in helping to work on it.

    I’d really appreciate suggestions on how to improve it, both my wording as well as questions that need to be asked.

    July 8, 2007
  133. Ross Currier said:

    Now back from a much-needed, and, I think, well-deserved, break in Winnipeg, it’s a return to the grind and the blogosphere. Pretty amazing that I lived without the internet for almost five whole days, eh?

    It looks like there’s been some more comments on the heroin story, my mail box is full of them. I did my best to move quickly through these latest ideas. It seems like the discussion has moved to quantifying the issue and offering some next steps. I have thought more about it myself and now return to my original concern.

    First, someone once told me that there is no bad publicity. So, that front-page article in the Strib will let the state know that Northfield’s got good brains, good schools…and good smack. Perhaps it will motivate some people to relocate their creativity, their family…and their liquidateable assets to our community.

    Second, the article did have the effect that I feared, at least in one case. On our way to a night in Itasca State Park, my family stopped in Wadena for some Dairy Queen. A couple, probably in their fifties, with the paper on the table in between them, was talking about the article, as they finished their ice cream treats, “Isn’t that terrible what’s happened to Northfield?”

    Third, my reaction to this big news event was similar to Paul Zorn’s, the numbers just don’t add up, at least to me. I received a phone call from a woman at WCCO. She told me that she had been told that crime downtown had tripled over the past year or so. I thought about it for a minute and then said that I had heard about three break-ins last summer, and, yes, maybe that was three times as many as the previous year, but that I didn’t feel that a crisis of crime characterized our community. She thanked me and hung up. Obviously, I disappointed her.

    Fourth, it seems to me that those who are crying out loudest in the wilderness about this crisis have the most to gain from it, whether an community organization that gets a temporary budget boost or a media organization that sells a few more ads. Not that I question the sincerity of those organizations in pursuing their missions, it’s just that I seem to perceive a different reality. Paul, maybe they’re running their calculations using different equations from you and me.

    Fifth, certainly if even one high school student is doing heroin or one downtown store-owner suffers a break-in, it is a problem. However, characterizing our public schools as filled with hop-heads or our town as being overrun by criminals is pure balderdash. I believe that the biggest drug problem in our schools is the same as when I graduated thirty years ago – alcohol, and, in spite of all the dramatic changes in our society over these same thirty years, I know too many people in town who still don’t lock their doors. Perhaps I’m not the only one perceiving a different reality.

    Sixth, a more specific follow-up to my earlier comment, where were the other voices and other perspectives on Wednesday? I was visited by a man from KARE11 that afternoon. He asked me about the crime wave in downtown. I told him that I was aware of three incidents last summer but that retailers seemed more concerned about the price of gas that the risk of break-ins. I asked him if he’d walked around downtown and what was his sense of the situation. He smiled, laughed and said, “You’ve got a pretty nice little town here”. I did my best with WCCO and KARE11, who talked to the Strib?

    Finally, let’s get back to business-friendliness, community development and a broad-based vitality. As I contemplated this earlier topic, I began to muse on how much the thoughts, words and images of our citizenry can shape the world’s perception of our community. One group says it doesn’t want cul de sacs, a second doesn’t want student housing, yet another group doesn’t want complacency about crime. Mix these expressions with other thoughts, ideas and opinions, release it all to the media and Northfield is known as the “quirky” city, where a planning commissioner calls subdivisions “crap”, a citizen complains about bodily fluids being spurted on sidewalks, and the police chief says we’re being overrun by drug-crazed criminals.

    I’m not calling from Babbit’s blind boosterism (yes, I passed through Sauk Center on my way to Itasca). Certainly I’ve been known to offer a constructive criticism or two. However, I do think that our community’s considerable creative and intellectual assets are too often focused on extremely effective expository explorations of the negative while silently taking the many, and often under-appreciated, positives for granted.

    Like many other topics we so thoroughly explore in Northfield, I think that this heroin-spawned crime epidemic gives a distorted, inaccurate, and potentially destructive impression of our community. Sure, the media, or the government, or the public schools, or big business, or our medical system, or fill-in-the-blank, bears some of the responsibility, but I think that we also bear some responsibility for undermining our own best efforts by our less-than-positive framing of the issue.

    In fact, we’d probably make better progress on all issues with a more balanced evaluation of our strengths and weaknesses and our challenges and opportunities. I think that we might, and should, be able to turn Northfield’s talent for analysis and communication more to our advantage. The world may be listening; let’s keep that in mind as we continue to address our issues.

    July 8, 2007
  134. Paul Zorn said:

    I’m interested in knowing what people think, but several parts of the draft questionnaire seem problematic to me. A lot of the questions ask about stuff on which most people (including me!) can’t be expected to have well-informed opinions. I have no real idea, for instance, on whether the Nfld police use “good enforcement practices related to illegal drugs” or whether “high-achieveing Northfield students are treated more leniently”. True, others might know more about some of these things than I do, but my hunch is that the ratio of knowledgeable responses to mere hunches will be low. I’d put questions 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, and 15 in this category.

    July 8, 2007
  135. anonymous said:

    I am one of the heroin users in Northfield.

    I am remaining anonymous to stay out of trouble with my family (I don’t think they know I’ve used), the community, and mostly the cops. I would like to bring some clarity to the discussion, and encourage anyone to ask questions.

    I would like to add the I stopped using quite recently. Several of my friends continue to use, although I wish we could all just stop. Heroin is an expensive habit(never $600 a day), smack dealers are annoying and withdrawals suck- quite the opposite to the warm and good feeling of heroin.

    It was strange, I had never been offered heroin or seen anyone use it before my friends and I decided to try it. My drugs use is mainly out of curiosity, experimentation, and excessive boredom being in Northfield. I’m just trying to enjoy my time until I can be completely independent, travel, and go to college.

    My use started rather innocently. One day my friend and I discussed how we were both curious and wanted to try heroin, (We both ended up liking it alot) so later that night we found a dealer. He proved to unreliable, so we moved on to a dealer who had the pure heroin john mentioned earlier.

    The increase in crime is not directly related to heroin use. I not aware of anyone the steals merely to fund their heroin use. I know that people are car shopping and roaming dorms out of complete BOREDOM… mainly looking things to steal, something interesting, or some alcohol.

    July 9, 2007
  136. Lori Martin said:

    Hello John, if you are still around here,
    I hope you decide to stay away from that stuff. I’m a recovered addict of 16 years and I think I understand what you are saying about “misinformation.” I know my daughter is now hearing all about the horrible effects of smoking…stinkiness, lung cancer, etc. Truth is, every kid knows that one cigarette won’t kill you. Neither will 20. As for heroin, people have died on the first dose (overdose) or the fifth. But the strength of the drug aside, young people need to simply understand how scary addiction is. You very likely can survive a drug for a while and maybe for a bit it even feels good. But can you survive addiction? The nature of addiction is that you are NOT in control. As for boredom, I would still like to challenge your thinking here. Boredom implies something is supposed to jump out and make your life interesting. That’s your job. You can choose heroin and or you can open up you imagination. Creativity does not allow for much boredom. Each time I got high, I became progressively less creative. At the time I thought my life was very exciting. Looking back, it was very boring…get high, think about getting high again, find money to get high, let relationships and talents and interests fall by the wayside as I’m distracted by thoughts of getting high again. Get the money, get high. Come down from the high. Think about getting high again. Distracted by thinking about getting money and getting high. That is all pretty boring in retrospect. John, I wish you well. Challenge all those ideas you have about drugs being fun or even just something to pass the time. If you’re a “fun” person, you don’t need drugs. Now that you are trying to stay away from that stuff, you could begin to find this out for yourself. It is possible to be bored in any city or desert island in the world. I’ve gotten high in Paris, New York, Rome, and even up in the Rocky Mountains (my escape to nature plan). Problem seemed like boredom, but it was more like simply not feeling comfortable enough in my own sober skin. My thinking has changed to something along the lines that only boring people are bored. And I’m NOT telling you that you are boring, because I don’t know you. I’m only suggesting you call into question the “boring” excuse because that can follow you wherever you go. And consider that drugs are boring, aside from that fleeting high. Like I said, it’s the same thing over and over and over and over. Blah. It’s the whole drug life that looks boring to the outside or from the other side. Maybe you are starting to see this. I can hear you are seeing it differently. You’re wise to step back and really look at it for what it is. You can be a great help to your peers…some who really do risk ending up in prison or dead (I was lucky to get clean in prison). At the very least, they risk not being able to figure out how to enjoy life and feel comfortable in their own skin. Maybe that’s what the DARE people forget to mention. Being comfortable in your own skin and content, without any chemical additives, is a pretty sweet way to live. Best wishes.

    July 9, 2007
  137. Lori Martin said:

    To last “anonymous” (post 141),

    I’m not from Northfield (interest here because my niece attends school in Northfield). But I’m pretty sure blaming a town for anyone’s heroin use doesn’t really help anyone get free of the drug. They’ll have an excuse to use heroin until they move. And most likely, they will be “bored” in a bigger city also. Drug use can start out of boredom. But to keep away from the slippery fact of addiction, it’s useful to find a hobby or figure out how you can simply entertain yourself. I appologize if this comes across as grouchy, but blaming Northfield will not help those users out there looking for a reason to continue to feed their addictions. Somehow people are experimenting with drugs and getting addicted in the most “exciting” cities on earth right now. So we need to look deeper and just get honest. I can choose to do some coke. But I can’t blame anything or anyone but myself. I actually would hate to think that simply living somewhere could control my thinking and behavior. If I’m really a free thinker, I can make my own choices. The minute I blame some external force or cicumstance, I’ve actually given up control. I’ve basically asked to become dependent on something else. Just being myself and owning up to my choices would imply personal responsibility. It sounds dull, but that’s freedom. The other end, blaming, implies dependence.

    July 9, 2007
  138. Griff Wigley said:

    Anonymous wrote:

    > I am one of the heroin users in Northfield.

    Thanks for chiming in here. I’d like to meet with you or talk to you by phone. Please contact me via email or phone:

    Office: 507/645-8319
    Mobile: 507/319-5541
    griffinjay at gmail dot com

    July 9, 2007
  139. Griff Wigley said:

    I met with a mother who has first-hand knowledge of the problems among high schoolers. She thinks that abuse of prescription drugs (Vicodin especially) is more widespread than heroin, that it’s often due to parents who’ve had surgery who then leave their unused prescription pills at home. Kids take them and either use them or sell them.

    I talked by phone with a teacher who has first-hand knowledge of the problems among high schoolers. Her frustration is that it’s difficult to know how to intervene when you only have snippets of information and the student’s performance/behavior is within the norm.

    July 9, 2007
  140. Griff Wigley said:

    Paul, thanks for the straw poll design feedback. Would it help if each section was introduced with something like:

    How knowledgeable are you about the community’s programs dealing with drug abuse? 5=Very knowledgeable. 1=Not at all knowledgeable.

    July 9, 2007
  141. Drugs and gangs in Northfield?

    This is a request for all of you. I am in charge of finding out more about gang related activities in Northfield, specially as it relates to the Latino/a community but also in general. At Las Familias last monthly meeting we set-up a special meeting for July to look at the gang issue specifically. I am working on getting a feeling from the community leaders and members at large regarding this issue, any facts that you can provide will be great. On a separate track, Las Familias network of organizations are putting together an inventory of youth related/targeted programs and their schedules, our goal is to inventory the programs and gaps in the schedules, and compare them to the scope of the problem.

    I am not interested in starting a discussion on the gang issues, I only want to gather facts and annecdotes from people who have faced this issue in Northfield.

    I know this is a separate track from the Heroine use issue all over the Northfield news sphere, but you all know that gangs and drugs normally go together in any city where these issues are emerging, so if you would like to contribute, please send us information via this discussion forum or e-mail me at:

    regimarroquin at homail dot com

    July 9, 2007
  142. Scott Oney said:

    I usually agree with Katherine Kersten, but her column in the Star Tribune today (July 9) shows that even she isn’t above making poor choices and giving in to peer pressure once in a while. By relying mainly on information from last week’s press conference, which was thrown together in a hasty attempt to cover for police incompetence, or worse, over the last 2 to 3 years, she’s managed to get just about everything wrong about the heroin situation in Northfield.

    Some posts here have questioned the need to talk about numbers. You can’t solve a problem until you understand it, and one way to do that is to measure it. And the steps needed to confront a core group of two or three dealers aren’t the same as would be needed if we had 250 kids here randomly driving off to the Cities to spend their $800 a day. I still admire Ms. Kersten, but it looks like she really got burned on this one.

    July 9, 2007
  143. anonymous said:

    By the way Lori Martin.. I’m not blaming Northfield at all. I chose to do Heroin because I wanted to know how it would feel. After about a 2 month experiment, it proved to be pretty harmless in my case, however I decided to stop.

    July 9, 2007
  144. Penny Hillemann said:

    Unlike Scott, I usually disagree strongly with Katherine Kersten — I think she frequently gets her facts wrong and I find many of her assumptions appalling, so much so that I can rarely bear to read her column — but today, accuracy of the facts aside, I think she gets a lot of it right. The public media — ads, music videos, movies, TV shows, video games, titillating teasers on the covers of mainstream magazines at the supermarket checkout — create what seems to be a mainstream ethos that is the complete opposite of one that affirms personal dignity and encourages people to have too much respect for themselves to seek easy thrills — chemical, sexual, fantasy violence, etc. — that often come at a significant personal and societal cost. The “cost” is not necessarily a ridiculous claim that you’ll end up in the gutter if you smoke pot, but it’s still a slippery slope that moves people away from preferring to be clear-headed and purposeful in building a meaningful life. Lori Martin’s wise comments based on her own experience really underscore the emptiness of a life based on seeking the thrill.

    With a drug like heroin, I would think the very knowledge that it produces an extremely pleasurable high would be enough to make most people determined never to try it. Because that’s all you need to know to be aware that trying it just once or a few times would be really risky — the risk being that the memory of the pleasure would call to you again and again. It’s hard for me to understand how anyone can take that risk, knowing how many people become addicts who never thought they would, unless they simply don’t value their lives, their autonomy, and their futures — in which case, that’s another very serious issue to address.

    I appreciate all who have chimed in with details of their own experience. Obviously, my saying “I just don’t understand it” doesn’t move toward solving anything. Your sharing your experiences and motivations does. Thank you.

    July 9, 2007
  145. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi everyone,

    Sorry John for being disrespectful about your intelligence.

    John, you wrote 90% about how great the drug is (including how pure Northfield’s heroin is)– but you said you were going to stop. Or you did stop. In the back of my mind I wonder if you’re moving on to pushing? Isn’t that what a pusher is? Someone who doesn’t take, himself? But then again, you might just be a student trying to get through life and also trying to leave the drug behind. If that is the case, good luck and I think you’ll need more than just you to help you get off the drug.

    Will, that person I worked with was my student, not my co-worker. I used to teach social studies. As for your defense of the drug– I find it funny that you are so sure of the quality. Afghanistan regulations are pretty good (isn’t that where these drugs might be coming from? And doesn’t that sound like the money could be funding people we don’t like?)

    Anyway, I can’t go to tonight’s school board meeting. Parents, if you go, let me know what happens.

    July 9, 2007
  146. Jim Haas said:

    Ms. Kersten forgot to mention that Northfield has been represented by Republican legislators for most of the past two decades; that one of the colleges is a faith-based institution; that Rice County is so fiscally conservative that it consistently ranks last or next-to-last among Minnesota counties in its per-capita property tax burden. None of these things has anything to do with the heroin problem, of course. But neither do titillating music videos or shallow freshman orientation skits.

    July 9, 2007
  147. I have been fortunate or unfortunate enough to have glimpses of what happens to people in a less fortunate parts of the world than that of Northfield. In the ghetto, in Chicago, men and women do drugs to escape their hopeless lives. They don’t care if the drugs are illegal, in fact they prefer it that way because even jail is a better alternative to the lives they lead. That’s right, better and safer than the lives they lead everyday. There is a reason drugs are illegal and have been illegal for decades. They take over your life. They become your life and they screw up your life and health eventually.

    Once, I drove through the ghetto with a friend on a very hot summer afternoon. People were all around, fire hydrants opened full away.
    A man on the curb looked at our car and proceeded to walk in front of of the car as slow as he could manage. We stopped and let him pass, it was that or hit him. I asked my friend, why would someone do that? He said, that’s all the recognition this man will get today. Empty lives filled with drugs. It CAN get as bad as they say for some people.

    We don’t make laws for individuals, we make laws for the good of the whole country.

    People lead very different lives all around the world from the life here in Northfield. When Penny wonders why people would even try a drug like heroin, she makes it clear that it can be hard for people like her, whom I like and admire after our short meeting, and online readings, to imagine what is going on in other people’s heads. It’s a big mystery! There are all kinds of people thinking all kinds of crazy, wild, weird, and/or wonderful things.

    And for Afghanistan, my impression is that farming poppies and other drug crops is the way sober people make an honest living.
    We are trying to help them find better ways to make a living.
    Like all the embroidered shirts and blouses we see these days.
    Heroin also comes from Mexico and cocaine, of course, from
    South America. Many people depend on these cash crops. People
    used to go to jail, might still. When I asked someone who used cocaine that moms of some little babies are being jailed in Columbia so that you could get high and btw, change personalities for the worse, what do you think?.. it was like, not my problem, jack! As I said before, the drug does the talking. After a short time of using, you have lost the person you once knew, no matter where they are from.

    Although these are not solutions I offer, because there is just one…the user must decide to quit and needs a good environment to do that, whatever that means…jail, a month in the country, or a good loving family, whatever it takes…I hope to foster some understanding to all the sincere people who want to be involved
    and helpful.


    July 9, 2007
  148. Hi, I’m a producer for a national cable network, and I’m collecting information on the situation at NHS. I spoke to Griff earlier this afternoon and he suggested that I post here.

    I need your thoughts on what’s going on here, whether it’s being underplayed/overplayed, and what should be done about it.

    If you’re a user, we will not ask for your name for any reason. You will remain anonymous and your identity will be protected.

    (952)232-6107 x 801



    July 9, 2007
  149. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve created a Northfield Community Straw Poll on Illegal Use of Drugs. See the blog post and then consider taking the poll, even if you’ve already commented here. Thanks to Paul Zorn and others who emailed me with your feedback on how to make it better.

    July 9, 2007
  150. Will Oney said:

    Sorry I misunderstood your post. The fact is I’m not so sure about the purity of heroin in this town, I have only seen it up close twice. What I am sure of is that it is not hard to tell the good drugs from the bad for reasons which John already explained (solubility, texture, effect etc.). And as for your comment about Afghanistan, I assure when heroin does get cut the farmers are not the ones doing it. These people simply recognize that the poppy is the single most profitable cash crop they can grow, If the heroin that they were selling was impure then It would not be purchased by people investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring it back to the US. Think about it if you were buying $100,000 worth of heroin would you take their word for it? No you would have it tested. Any cutting that would be done is happening in the states and is being done by dealers and distributors. This plus the fact that removing the cuts from heroin is a procedure so simple a 10 year old could do it makes it very foolish to say that there isn’t very pure heroin out there and that a user wouldn’t be able to distinguish such heroin from that which had been cut.
    Secondly I believe that This heroin problem which strangely enough was brought to the medias and as it seems to many parents attention only very recently can be largely blamed on the prohibition on drugs. If marijuana were to be legalized and manufactured by legitimate companies the same way alcohol and tobacco(two substances infinitely more detrimental to your health than pot)are several things would happen.

    • Firstly marijuana would become much harder for minors to buy. When I smoked pot, a bag was but a phone call away, and if that particular dealer was out, I’d just have to call one of the other half a dozen marijuana sellers I knew. Alcohol on the other hand was infinitely harder to come buy, and partly for this reason, and because alcohol is liquid poison, I rarely consumed it. Provided that the pot that these companies would provide was both high quality and well priced, people growing weed for distribution would not be able to stay in business.
    • Secondly The reason that is both 100 times more important and more relevant to this discussion, If Kids didn’t get pot from dealers, they would not be put into contact with the unsavory folk that get these kids hooked heroin for their own financial gain (I’d like to hear from heroin users if and see if this is the case).

    I know that everyone who actually read this is thinking Legalize marijuana?? Outrageous! And that you all want to solve the heroin problem in Northfield and not take on the drug problem of the entire US just this moment. But the fact is that Gary smith proposed plan and most of the ideas brought up in this discussion will fail miserably. You can send 100 kids to rehab have Sarah Shippy talking to kids 24/7 and bring in the drug dogs and turn schools into prisons but it isn’t going to do any good no matter how much you want it to. We’ve been waging a war on drugs since 1937 and we are still losing. Lets give up on what we’ve been trying for 70 years and what we all can see doesn’t work and try something new.

    July 9, 2007
  151. Griff Wigley said:

    Misc notes:

    Thanks, Holly!

    Thanks, anonymous #141 for phoning me. Let us know how it goes. I’m worried that two days is not long enough to know whether you’ll have more serious withdrawals.

    I won’t be able to make the school board meeting tonight. Can someone else go and report?

    July 9, 2007
  152. Penny Hillemann said:

    Correction to an earlier comment of mine — I’d always thought Jimi Hendrix died of a heroin overdose, but a little follow-up research proved that to be wrong. Sorry about the misinformation. According to Wikipedia, Janis Joplin’s death was attributed to an inexperienced provider who actually cut the drug “too pure.”

    I don’t think there’s been any discussion here of whether needles are being shared — a practice that itself, of course, carries pretty serious risks. Gary Smith was quoted as saying this is happening: http://wcco.com/topstories/local_story_184194246.html.

    July 9, 2007
  153. concerned parent of Northfield teen said:

    I just talked to my high school teenager about the use of drugs in Northfield. (As far as I know, he/she is not using.) He/she mentioned that drug use and deals take place downtown. Many of them under the foot bridge by the Key. Hmmm… I thought the Key was a “safe” place for our teens. I am not looking for responses that defend the Key, or blaming the Key. I just want to know if his/her comments are correct. If they are, we need some more police foot trafic along the river. I never see the police there.

    July 9, 2007
  154. Paul Zorn said:

    Check this out … one of my favorite blogs. Our supposed heroin epidemic is at the top today. After July 9th it will presumably move down the stack, but you can still search for Northfield.


    One point the author makes in passing is worth noting … Kathy K has had problems with Northfield for some time. See, e.g.,


    As a St Olaf faculty member (and Macalester parent) I’ve long been bemused that KK keep dissing St Olaf, of all places, for excessive liberalism. What about Carleton? And Macalester?

    July 9, 2007
  155. Paul Zorn said:

    I have no information (and hence no opinion) on whether racism, examined or unexamined, plays any role in the current heroin-related discussion.

    But the posting by “Medgar Evers” caught my eye because another, well-known and heroic, Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963. Is the present Medgar Evers a namesake?

    If so, welcome, and thanks for your thoughts. If not, why use a pseudonym?

    July 9, 2007
  156. Rebecca Tofte said:

    A message for Anne Bretts

    As a former Northfield resident of 13 years (not including my years at St. Olaf) I have a great amount of concern—-and probably some perspective because I’m no longer a resident, but yet, a concerned party…..

    Your judgemental comments and lack of empathy for the users, families and community leaders amazes me.

    Northfield is not without its problems, secrets being one of the greatest–rumors and judgement the next, in my opinion.

    Your arrogance and seemingly knowledge on just about every topic is puzzling.

    Please consider the wisdom of what I call “the elders” of the community…..Bardwell Smith, Dixon Bond, Jane McWilliams, the Summas and Paul Zorn(although you are younger than some listed….you have great wisdom and unlike others are not afraid to share your opinion).

    It disturbs me, to think that a few people are setting the stage for some bad p.r. for the community (Ross C.—I share your concerns).

    Come on Anne, do you really know your “audience”?

    This is not a time to “grandstand”. It is a time to pull together—no judgement, just care and concern for your neighbors….they could be suffering and just learning that their own children are using.

    You are all blessed to live in such a vibrant, wonderful community…take care of eachother.

    In the words of my beloved son who lives in Missoula Montana—what the hell is going on in Nfld?


    July 9, 2007
  157. Mark Waldeland said:

    On the subject of pseudonyms, Paul, I’d have liked to know who’s behind “the cucking stool” blog. At least its author — “Spot” from Edina — forthrightly identified himself as a “lefty blogger,” just in case any political ingenue was having trouble pegging him on the ideological spectrum.

    Katherine Kersten may be manifesting a conservative bias when she brands St. Olaf as liberal. And whatever its degree of liberalism, from all accounts it’s undoubtedly not as liberal as Carleton or Macalester. I’ve noticed, though, that at least one Ole of recent vintage isn’t too sanguine about St. Olaf’s putative even-handedness.

    Writing in the Manitou Messenger (for whom she was sports editor), Julie Gunderson’s column included this indictment:

    “Somewhere between ingesting the same mundane one-sided class lectures for the gazillionth time and reading the same equally biased texts, liberal indoctrination had taken hold. I was the victim, caught in the hallways of academia that once honored the ideals of truism and enlightenment but now insisted upon being an institution of stodgy liberalism. Suddenly what I feared happening to me the most – being a conservative my whole life because I didn’t know any better – was happening to me in reverse. I was becoming a liberal just because I wasn’t being taught any better. The effect of a classroom void of intellectual honesty is the stifling of political discourse.

    “It’s a disease rampant among liberal ideologues and one that I have encountered numerous times. For instance, I was surprised earlier this semester when I returned to my dorm to find two pro-choice flyers taped to my door. No big deal, right? Well, the kicker was that they were taped right over a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker and strategically placed right above a pamphlet espousing my own pro-life views. With a quick glance around at the other doors in the corridor, I noticed that mine had been singled out. I should have guessed that my mere presence as a conservative and the representation of conservative ideas was bound to offend. It’s a perfect illustration of the Left’s favorite tactic – self-denial. Not only do liberals deny themselves a chance to even consider that another side exists, they don’t even want to have to look at it. They would rather cover it up.

    “This concealment is evident whenever I strike up a casual conversation with a liberal, bringing up my opposing opinions. Most often they go on the offensive, attacking me for my beliefs instead of defending their own. . . ”

    I note that Gunderson’s jeremiad was written in November 2003. Maybe her account was too subjective, the painful result of feeling like a stranger in a strange land. And even if her assessment was oracular, maybe St. Olaf classrooms have become models of political egalitarianism in the last four years.

    If Kersten, an unsympathetic outsider, unfairly disses St. Olaf, how are we to view an insider’s perspective?

    July 9, 2007
  158. Norman Butler said:

    Sorry to be a late participant in this discussion on drugs. However, are we talking about illegal drugs? Or presribe drugs? Or addictive drugs? Or a drug culture? Or what?

    The ‘gateway drugs’ have been desribed as pop, diet pop, coffee, tobacco, alcohol, marijana. Not so. Moreso, ridalin, prozac, viagra, and the countless drugs advertized everyday on….your TV…and as taken surreptiously, or not, by…your parents, and other relevant adults…and peers.

    Drugs are good for you..is the massive message. They are plentiful and available. For a price (always!). Chemicals are…oooooh…nice. Chemicals.r.us. Why on earth are we getting so bent out of shape? Or am I missing something??

    July 9, 2007
  159. Spotty said:

    Thanks to Paul Zorn for the link to Spot’s post. Heroin is obviously bad, bad stuff. But the Meredith Wilson approach (apparently advocated by your chief of police) does not lend itself to thoughtful consideration of the problem. To an outsider–although one who has a pup at St. Olaf–it seems that the chief’s presser was more calculated to create hysteria than solve a law enforcement problem.

    And based on the fact that this comment will be–what? number 165–Spot says hysteria is what you’ve got.

    As an earlier commenter said, if you’ve got the goods on people as the chief says, why not have a little enforcement, and then talk about it? Maybe the goal is to scare kids away from heroin use without creating records for them–which is a goal that Spot would agree with, by the way–but it certainly doesn’t seem like that’s the purpose.

    July 9, 2007
  160. Spotty said:

    Since Spot raised the question of Kersten’s apparent dislike of Northfield, in view of a comment back a couple, he should explain why. Kersten did her freshman year at Carlton back in the late ’60s. She hated all the anti-war stuff and fled after either after the year or just a semester. Spot has this on pretty solid authority.

    July 9, 2007
  161. Paul Zorn said:

    Mark Waldeland (see posting #165) picked up on two points I’d made earlier message:

    1. Re use of pseudonyms on this list: The list “rules” (just above the window in which we write notes like this) expressly asks for first and last names, and most of us (including Mark Waldeland) have complied. For obvious reasons there are some exceptions in the present conversation, but the basic principle that we should take responsibility for our own opinions—by attaching our names—makes good sense to me in a community conversation. Blogs like The Cucking Stool operate by different rules, for better or worse, and we have no control over that.
    2. Re liberalism vs. conservatism at St Olaf: That’s an interesting conversation for another day, but a bit tangential to present concerns. Mea culpa … I shouldn’t have brought it up here.
    July 9, 2007
  162. Mark Waldeland said:

    Mea culpa accepted, Paul. I’ll also refrain from any further comments about Katherine Kersten’s or St. Olaf’s politics.

    But what about the pseudonymous “Spotty” on this site? Shouldn’t we both enjoin him to shed his anonymity and to join us in eschewing tangential political comments?

    July 9, 2007
  163. Curt Benson said:

    I attended the school board meeting tonight. Besides the board members, there were seven people in the audience. At least three were employees of the school district–for example, a new principal who was introduced to the board.

    There was time allotted for members of the public to make comments. No comments were made.

    Supt. Richardson started the meeting with a recap of his response to Police Chief Smith’s press conference. It was basically the same as the press release which is posted above (#101).

    Richardson also told of how he was notified of Smith’s impending press conference. Smith emailed him at 7 pm the night before the conference. Richardson did not see the email until 2-1/2 hours prior to to the conference. (Editorial note: I presume the guys with the TV cameras had a longer lead time than 2-1/2 hours.) Richardson said no one from the school system was consulted before Smith announced his plan to deal with drugs in Northfield. He also said that as far as he knew, no other community groups that might be concerned with this issue were consulted either.

    Supt. Richardson said that he received a call today from City Administrator Al Roder (Smith’s boss) asking him if he thought the School Board might want to meet in joint session with the City Council to discuss the way Smith handled the press conference. School Board members agreed that they would like such a meeting, but no date was set.

    More editorial notes: I know that Mayor Lansing was also not made aware of the press conference until a few hours before it occurred. I know that person that Smith reports to at the city, City Administrator Al Roder was out of town the week of the conference. I don’t know if Roder was consulted–I’d presume not.

    It seems the Police Chief formulated a plan unilaterally for solving Northfield’s drug and resultant crime problems. He then held a splashy press conference, again consulting no one.

    I’m told that Smith’s rationale for announcing his plan in such a grand way was to serve notice to Twin City’s drug dealers and fences that their Northfield customers are “burned”. He thinks this is going to scare them from dealing with Northfielders. Does he think the crooks are going to check IDs and turn away those from Northfield?

    July 9, 2007
  164. Griff Wigley said:

    To Medgar Evers, I’ve moderated your post since you didn’t use your real name nor a real email address. Contact me via email and let me know if you’re willing to accommodate. griffinjay at gmail dot com

    Spotty, I’ve let your comment stand for now but I’ll send you an email to confirm who you are. I know that you don’t use your real name on your own blog and wouldn’t want to reveal it here. A way around it for you would be to just post your comments to your own blog and link here, as we have pingbacks/trackbacks enabled.

    You both have valuable contributions to make here so I hope we can find a way to keep benefiting from them.

    July 9, 2007
  165. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for that school board report, Curt. Very helpful.

    Regarding your comments about Chief Smith’s intentions for doing the press conference, City Administrator Al Roder wrote this in his weekly report, City Hall Insider, posted by Doug Bratland on Northfield.org:

    A press briefing was held on Tuesday to address the concern of the use of drugs by younger individuals, specifically heroin. The intent of providing the information regionally was to attempt to prevent the ability of local users traveling up to the Twin Cities to purchase drugs and “fence” stolen property.

    July 9, 2007
  166. Christine Stanton said:

    Thanks for the update on the school board meeting, Curt. Well done. I thought about going, but decided not to. (I do not feel I missed anything.)

    A thought that has been occuring to me is, why would our our local Police Chief create this so called “hysteria?” Here are a few possible reasons I have been pondering:

    1. We need to scare the dealers so they will not deal with Northfield residents. (This is what has been the proposed reasoning by our Police Chief. After reading Curt’s post, this seems a bit ridiculous.)
    2. We have a big drug problem and nobody is taking it seriously, or nobody wants to admit it.
    3. The Police Chief wants attention.
    4. The Police Chief wants more funding.

    Reading the post (#163) from Rebecca how she feels Northfield tends to be secertive, I am conerned about the posibility of reason #2. Reading her comment about rumor mongering, I would hope that our Police Chief would not be a victim of this.

    I then go to my last two possible reasons. If these have anything to do with why our Police Chief chose to do the interview without consulting anybody, we need a new Chief of Police.

    Needless to say, I do not think that means we write the drug problem off as mere “hysteria.” Good things can come out of bad things. Like Rebecca said, “It is a time to pull together—no judgement, just care and concern for your neighbors….they could be suffering and just learning that their own children are using.” (Thank you for your post Rebecca.)

    I guess my judgement on how the Chief handled the situation is pending his reasoning. The only way I would be supportive of his action is if his reason for doing so was #2. In order for me to have proof that #2 could be a reason, I would need to find out how many kids are really using heroin in Northfield. (The numbers are important in this case.) If #1 is really the reason, I question his judgment.

    Does anyone have any other ideas of possible reasons I am missing for why our Chief of Police is bringing Northfield’s heroin problem to the media?

    July 9, 2007
  167. Gilly Wigley said:

    As someone who hangs out, as well as staffs at the key, I wouldn’t be surprised if the so called “drug deals” happened on the river walk, under the foot bridge. But, I don’t think the key should be held responsible for that area. The key has an commandment (ordinance) on smoking/drug usage within so many feet from the key. And although that may not be enough to stop a teen from doing/dealing drugs. The key is doing its best. Being that there is only one staffer at a time per day, that staffer has to be there at all times. They can’t be responsible to “patrol” the river walk every hour – two hours, from 3:30 – 10.

    Sure, getting the police to patrol that area more often might help for awhile. But sooner or later they will just find another area to do their deals. I also think, that if that if the police are in the area more often, teens that are doing nothing but say skateboarding on the sidewalk over to Erberts. Or popping a single trick on their way to the key, are going to get harassed, or in a better word bugged, because the cops aren’t finding what they’re looking for. When they shouldn’t be worried about the little things. And I’m not at all saying the Northfield Police are have nothing to do and would abuse their power. The Northfield police do a great job.

    But as an example:
    I have a little Razor scooter that I ride EVERYWHERE. To work in the morning and back home in the evening, from work to the key when I staff. I even rode it from my house, to Fashion Fair with 8 hangers of clothes draped over the handlebars to sell. This is my mode of transportation. I can carry things on the handles and a back pack on my back. But, its small enough that I don’t have to ride it home if I get offered a ride, or leave it locked up. I can ride it on the side walk where its safer, and hop off and walk it, when people are on the sidewalk. Now one day I was at the key with it, and someone asked if they could take it out for a spin. While they were scootering along the side walk, a police officer stopped them and told him that he couldn’t ride it on the side walk, and if he continued, they would take it away from him.

    Not once in my using this scooter, have I ever been told I couldn’t ride it on the side walk.

    Sorry to get slightly off topic.

    July 9, 2007
  168. Gilly Wigley said:

    I also wonder about the Arb. Frequently when my friends an I try to take a late evening stroll in the Arb, we get stopped, because the Arb closes at a sertain time. But I know that its more than just that. A much as the Northfield police and the Carlton security patrol the area. I also wouldnt be supprised to find that to be a hot spot.
    There are plenty of times that I’d love to spend an evening laying in the grass on one of the Lyman Lakes ponds at Carlton. But cant, because of what happens/has happend in the Arb.

    July 9, 2007
  169. John said:

    Mmm.. I’m a dumb, cocky kid sometimes, I admit it. That aside…

    It’s the end of day three and I haven’t used it. I’ve been trying to quit for perhaps three weeks and I kept getting hung up, sometimes I just craved it really bad, sometimes social situations brought it up and it was too easy to say yes, but even with just minor use and abuse it’s plain to me now how hellish a life like that must be. What worries me is I don’t think my friends see this, and that’s why I posted in the first place. I’ve talked to them about it briefly in the past, and it seems like some of them honestly don’t care!!! They’ve been busted by their parents, shafted by the law, and… nothing. From an economics standpoint, there’s the supply and the demand, and we need to work on both fronts in order to accomplish anything. Supply is fairly easy, you bust a few key dealers and all of a sudden the town is dry. I know one of the main suppliers, he makes a run to the cities each and every day, sometimes twice a day, to pick up grams upon grams at a time. When he gets back, he gets a hold of all of his regular customers to let them know he’s got the haul. He sells a bunch and uses the rest. Wash, rinse, repeat. Even if it was only him that stopped dealing none of my friends would have anywhere to get it from. But demand… If enough people want it and one of the suppliers goes down, someone else will come to take his place. There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants it now from wanting it, they’ve already made up their mind. The issue now is to stop the next potential group of customers from ever starting, and the current user base should diminish fairly quickly, for obvious reasons.

    July 9, 2007
  170. Gilly Wigley said:

    The issue now is to stop the next potential group of customers from ever starting, and the current user base should diminish fairly quickly, for obvious reasons.

    First off John, I realy appriciate your posts on this issue. It helps to have first hand info on the issue.

    I have to agree with your last statement in your post #176. All we have to do now is to figure out how. And its not going to be an easy solution…

    July 9, 2007
  171. Marie Fischer said:

    As a short response to #160, the worst that it can be is some older kids smoking (tobacco) or some erberts employees on a break. We definitely don’t condone any smoking near the key, but if people take it off of our property and out of the sight of a staffer, we can’t really do anything to prevent it. i’m aware of the kids who do that, but we can’t be guarding out there as well. If we had the money, we could pay for an extra staffer to maybe take care of things like that. I honestly don’t think it’s the biggest problem though. there are dozens of parks and alleyways around town that are perfectly secluded for just the thing, but I really don’t believe it gets any worse than cigarettes (if that’s any consolation).

    That wasn’t very short was it?

    July 10, 2007
  172. Christine Stanton said:

    John, I would be interested to hear any ideas you have about how we might stop the next potential group from starting.

    July 10, 2007
  173. Christine Stanton said:

    I appreciate the comments from the staff of the Key. The story about the razor scooter is enlightening. When someone earlier mentioned all the great things to do in Northfield, I thought about the Arb. As a parent, do I now have to worry if my kid says they are going to the Arb?

    As far as the Polic Chief’s press conference, another thought has occured to me. Isn’t saying that there is a big heroin problem in Northfield revealing that the police might not be very good at their job? I am still a little confused as to why they are not arresting the suspects if they know who they are. Isn’t posession illegal?

    July 10, 2007
  174. kiffi summa said:

    There has been a lot of thoughtful comment. a lot of hysteria and handwringing, and almost zero comment from all the various govt, quasi-govt, and social agencies which we, as citizens, have put in place. If I recall correctly, an early comment from Sandberg/Pruitt, and one or two from Jim Haas.

    I realize their practical need, from their POV, to come together and issue an agreed to statement, however………I think the level of public input here requires an organizational response, even if it is in the nature of “why we ‘re not commenting yet”.

    I’m not referring to the school district, which has initially made a statement; I’m referring to all the social work agencies that are in place to deal with substance abuse issues. It’s past time for them to have entered this dalogue, and in a meaningful way. If you don’t yet know what the “official” message is going to be, just say something “human”. You are SOCIAL work agencies, after all; and I don’t mean that as harshly as it sounds.

    And is it possible for the Northfield Hospital to give some statistics that are relevant to this issue? There was a two year grant referred to way back in the comments.

    July 10, 2007
  175. Holly Cairns said:

    When is the meeting Marie refered to in post 80:

    Just to stick this in: The Key was hoping to have a community forum, open to the public, about the topic of heroin and other drugs in the community

    I thought I’d address marijuana:

    It’s my idea that society is in constant swing– back and forth, left to right, right to left. Since majority rules, laws and action should reflect a flux of change rather than a constant opinion.

    Someone argued that the war on drugs caused Northfield’s heroin use, and that person also argued that legalizing marijuana would help to end heroin use. At least that’s how I read it.

    Let’s look at the feasibility of legalizing marijuana to end heroin usage: The bottom line is that marijuana users tend towards apathy in general (my opinion again) there won’t be a large effort to legalize and so the plan to use marijuana legalization to end heroin use probably isn’t going to work, or won’t work fast enough for us to help kids in trouble right now.

    Also, I think marijuana leads to an erosion of a person’s personal life. The majority agrees with me or has their own reason for why it should not be legalized.

    I’m wondering about the logic used here– you who argues so much for the drug marijuana, how can you argue that legalizing one drug would LESSEN the use of heroin? To me, that sounds like “wash the carpet so the yard looks cut.” Some kind of nonsense.

    July 10, 2007
  176. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Kiffi,

    I am with you. Where is the action? I want to see meetings where leaders get together and outline specific objectives– and the plan to reach those objectives. Not what we already do, but what we plan to do. The police probably can’t say much or they’ll thwart efforts already in action. But there are many other community groups which could come together to make a difference. If the kids know we’re all together and going in one direction (Zero tolerance and tough love), that might be good.

    It’s my personal idea that fear of the drug will help people avoid the drug. Show pictures of people who suffocated from a swollen tongue. Etc. (That’s just one of the things I would do for drug education).

    Ask the youth what they need– seems like the Key needs at least one more person down there. It is the oldest youth run organization in America? Well, give it money and put it on the map! Better yet, give it a voice– a real seat of power on the council, or something. Etc.

    Where’s the church in all this? My pastor never called me back when I called and left a message asking “what can we do about the heroin issue…”

    Who’s employing kids in town? Can they help?

    July 10, 2007
  177. John said:

    It’s not that legalizing marijuana would curb heroin usage. It’s that a more open and accepting drug policy would probably actually lead to less drug use. Whatever marijuana is, it is not the demon drug that the DEA would have you believe it is. I touched on this briefly in an earlier post:

    …it’s parents and police trying to convince us not to use by spreading misinformation. Seriously, if they would stop lying to us about pot we’d be much more inclined to believe them about other drugs.

    And I’d have to disagree about marijuana users being lazy, at least, certainly not all of them. The folks at NORML (norml.org) have made great strides towards the legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana.
    [/end off topic rant]
    It’s the fact that drug use is so taboo in our society that pushes it underground where no one knows about it, and where no one can DO anything about it. If users weren’t so afraid of the legal and social consequences of using, more of their friends/family would know about it, therefor more social pressure would be in place to curb their use. Peer pressure is by far the most powerful motivational force that I know of. Envision, if you will, a hypothetical situation in which we set up some kind of needle exchange, where we also distribute informational literature about safe needle use, addiction and rehabilitation, that kind of thing. Users coming in to get their needles would have to interact with other people, who obviously care about their well-being and are just trying to help them, and who also want them to STOP. Sort a, “Look, we really don’t want you doing this but we understand you’ve made your choice, if you’re going to do it then please do it safely! And if you decide to quit, we’re here for you.”

    Finally, there’s the fact that there are some people who simply aren’t going to stop. Statistically speaking, if, in the middle of the Bell curve you have people who are more or less apathetic towards heroin but will likely never try it, and off to the right, you have people who are dead-set against it, then by its very nature you will have people who fall to the left, and may decide to use it their entire lives. There’s not much we can do about them, and we’re just going to have to deal with it.

    1. Tell the truth about drugs in health class. Not, “All drugs are bad and the first time you use you WILL die, or go insane, or get raped, yada yada.” I’m not kidding, have you been in a high school health class?
    2. Don’t make a huge deal out of drugs in real life. Zero tolerance is dumb, and clearly doesn’t work. Tolerance, not demonization, of the people who do use, and help available to them, is probably the best we can do.

    July 10, 2007
  178. Let’s try dispelling some of the myths about drug use…like it makes you more creative. A little history, if you don’t mind. Most of us have heard of Jimi Hendrix, the guitar player who ‘revolutionized’ that instrument. Well, if you look into it a bit deeper, he had taken all of his riffs from the old blues players that came before him…Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf. These old blues players got their riffs from several sources…they used to sit around and listen to the yard birds cackle and caw in their backyards. They would often repeat their wives and children yelling and laughing. Sometimes they would get something off of a classical record and re work that until it sounded good on their guitars.

    You don’t need no stinkin’ heroin for that. You need time, effort, experimentation, enthusiasm and passion for the love of sound. You need to be part of the earth where you are, and you need to want to learn and observe everything about it with clear eyes and a ready mind.

    That’s where you get creativity. Observe your world, interpret it using the newest technology or the oldest, basic instruments, whatever appeals to you,
    and then show us what you can do.

    Yeah, supposedly, the Rolling Stones did a lot of coke. Could be a myth or not, and I did read that they just had their blood exchanged to get off the
    drug. Very costly procedure…in the tens of thousands of dollars. And look at them. They look awful, much older than their years and much less
    vibrant than any elder I know.

    When you see your heroes, your celebrities, your role models, they aren’t using drugs, for the most part. They are keeping as healthy as they can.
    Being on the road touring is very draining, very stressful and cannot be
    done over weeks and months unless you are as healthy as possible. Nourish your body and brain with good water and healthy naturally growing food, exercise and right thinking. That’s the drug combo I shoot.

    Hope this helps.


    July 10, 2007
  179. Dan Bergeson said:

    I’ve been lurking through this discussion and stymied by the whole notion that the drug problem may be partially caused by boredom amongst teens. Then while getting my car’s oil changed yesterday, I ran across a story in USA Today indicating that less than half of American teenagers have summer jobs this year, the lowest percentage on record. This is down from a peak of 67.7% of teens 16-19 working in 1978.

    Some of this fall off is attributed to increased competition in the market for lower paying, part time jobs, but some of it is due to a rise in household net worth across the board. I don’t know what the statistics are for working during the academic year, but it might be worth checking out.

    Read the whole story at http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2007-07-08-teen-employment_N.htm?csp=34

    I’m not sure any conclusions can be drawn from this observation, but it seems to me to be relevant.

    July 10, 2007
  180. Holly Cairns said:

    Overview: Kids are using heroin. Heroin usage, in any form, is not acceptible.

    Goal: Completely eliminate heroin in our community

    Action: Take Zero tolerance approach. Jail time, no needle exchange, urinalysis, etc. Also, preventative: education, staffing, opportunity, listening, counseling, change

    July 10, 2007
  181. Anthony Pierre said:

    Zero Tolerance has never worked. It is the easy way out. It absolves the administration from actually making decisions.

    July 10, 2007
  182. Holly Cairns said:

    Thinking more about consequences: Is jail time is too harsh? I meant for the pushers, not just for possession. Come to think of it, who knows the consequences of heroin possession, in varying amounts?

    July 10, 2007
  183. Holly Cairns said:

    So Tony, are you arguing for some tolerance?

    Or discretionary action?

    Holding those in authority accountable? Just wondering.

    July 10, 2007
  184. Holly Cairns said:

    Never mind. I Googled zero tolerance and Wiki didn’t present a good picture of it. Let’s just put cordial police everywhere.

    July 10, 2007
  185. Anthony Pierre said:

    All 3

    There are extenuating circumstances sometimes, and using zero tolerance in those cases is irresponsible.

    Authority should always be accountable, always.

    Instead, lets move the other way. Legalization. We saw alcohol prohibition didn’t work. Drug prohibition doesn’t work either for the same reasons.

    Legalize it, tax it, regulate it.

    Put the tax dollars toward paying for education and health care.

    This will never ever happen because too many powerful people are making too much money off of prisons and insurance. That is a different discussion for a different blog post.

    July 10, 2007
  186. BruceWMorlan said:

    Hmmm, I see a lot of people suggesting that we need to listen to the youth a lot more. But I am a known curmudgeon, and would point out that there are good reasons why a tribe listens to its elders first. Maybe we have been listening to the wrong group. I think we need to listen to the youth to hear their issues, but I’d wager that the village elders can offer better solutions. (Caveat, I am old).

    July 10, 2007
  187. Tyson Wigley said:

    When I first heard of the heroin problem in Northfield and that it involved the more affluent and privileged students, frankly I wasn’t that surprised. While some may not want to acknowledge it, there is a certain status symbol associated with heroin. It’s the expensive drug of rock stars and celebrities. Meth on the other hand is cheap, readily available, and more associated with “trailer trash” and is definitely not the drug of choice for the image conscious.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this wave all started with one person, someone influential and capable of acting as “the tipping point” for a large group of students. Anyone who’s read Malcolm Gladwell’s books will know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing special about Northfield. Any other community, regardless of its economic status would be susceptible to this if one of these influential individuals chose to experiment with heroin. These are the same individuals who start fashion trends or fads. In this case it just happened to be something a little more destructive.

    Growing up, my personal fear with this drug or any other hard drug like meth, or even coke was I would not have the will power to stop when I wanted to. You could say I knew myself well enough that I wasn’t to be trusted with something that has such a powerful physical addiction. I hope the individuals who are serious about quitting swallow their pride and actively and immediately seek out help and/or assistance in getting off the drug. It will take some serious, yet admirable courage to do so. Otherwise my guess is they’ll go through phases of telling themselves they don’t have an addiction, it’s under control, and that they can quit when they want to, before they realize they can’t.

    As for the “zero tolerance” stance, hasn’t it been “zero tolerance” for years now? I think we’ve all seen how well that works. I guess we’re a nation obsessed with the “war on” policy.

    July 10, 2007
  188. Christine Stanton said:

    I agree with Kiffi that it would be nice to hear some more statements. The artice posted by Tracy (#183) from St. Cloud states that an organization–Not in My Back Yard–has been established. Maybe we need to find out how we can get involved in that organization. Those who have not been asked , but feel they have something to contribute, could volunteer. That is what I plan to do. I am no expert on the issue; however, I want to do what I can.

    July 10, 2007
  189. Christine Stanton said:

    Here is a link about Not in My Backyard.

    I like how it stated that they wanted to put a “positive spin” on Not in My Back Yard. The name–Not in My Back Yard–definetly has a “zero tollarance” ring to it, but I am still going to find out more about it.

    July 10, 2007
  190. Christine Stanton said:

    Here is another link. (Maybe I am behind the eight ball on all of this, and you have already read it.) Even with the skepticism about NIMBY intentions, I want to find out more about it.

    July 10, 2007
  191. Angelique Dietz said:

    Lots of interesting and also uninteresting and irrelevant contributions in this blog – so I might as well add my two cents …
    It is a fluke of history and natural history that alcohol and tabacco are legal drugs in western societies and hennip and opiates and cocaine are not. No matter where one stands personally on the issue of using these various mind altering substances (personal use, tolerance, regretful acceptance), a fact is that pot, heroine, coke, etc, are illegal in this society and that causes a social problem because all interacting with the market of supply and demand are acting in the criminal sphere. Users are still widely viewed as criminals and sinners, people to be afraid of, lepers, not as people who need acceptance as the people who they are or chose to be or were pressured in being. Parents may scream and panic and come up with ineffective punishments, police point fingers (although somewhat crookedly and wiggely in our Nfld case), others start pulling their hair.
    When drug users feel we accept them as people, although not their behavior, they may come forward and seek us out for help. Some blog contributors (are they the younger ones?) calling for zero tolerance speak as if Northfield and this genreation invented the abuse of mind altering substances! Wake up! There is plenty of information out there about why, for example, Johnny Appleseed was so popular because his apples produced a highly alcoholic cedar, the only alcohol available to some of the settler community — and so on and so on throughout the history of mankind. There is no civilization without alcohol or other drugs being part of it.
    So — what may help an fight abuse and keep our young people away from crime? Getting the police out of the way now that they have raised the issue and let them pick up the dealers they seem to know about. Law enforcement, plain and simple. All others in our community should stop addressing users as if they are criminals or stupid or people to fear, accept them as people, create an environment in which they dare to come forward to at least one supportive adult in their lives (either at their home, a friend’s home, school, nurse, youth leader, health care provder, etc), and address the problem one individual at a time.
    At the same time, community and school efforts can always have a good look at themselves and see if they are doing what they hope they are doing and adjust their programming to a changed and more challenging environment from what we had before — but really, is it that different? When I came to town 21 years ago, I was told that every middle schooler knew what drugs to get where. Earlier a blogger pointed out alcohol as the drug of choice. I am inclined to believe that is the case and since that is one of our legal drugs in our society – I’d say ‘good luck’ in addressing that problem.

    July 10, 2007
  192. Ross Currier said:

    A response to “a concerned parent of Nothfield teen”, or comment number 160.

    First off, if I ran this site, I would not allow anonymous comments. I think that it encourages irresponsible behavior, much like the music videos that Kathrine Kersten watches.

    Second, you say, “He/she mentioned that drug use and deals take place downtown. Many of them under the foot bridge by the Key.”

    Lots of things happen downtown, probably a few drug deals. However, I bet drug use and deals take place in your neighborhood too, maybe even in your home.

    More importantly, I assume that you are referring to the pedestrian bridge over the Cannon River, which you link to The Key. In fact, the bridge is closer to Edward R. Jones, the Contented Cow, the Northfield Arts Guild, Erbert and Gerbert’s, Archeo Paleo, Jerry’s Barbershop and a half dozen other entities than to The Key.

    You go on to say, “I am not looking for responses that defend the Key”. Why not? You have linked the drug deals to The Key through your comments. Once again The Key needs defending.

    In my four years as Executive Director of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation, I have seen nothing but good things come from The Key. Their kids work in the retail shops, their programs provide an incredible variety of creative activities for youth, they provide youthful eyes on the street, and they are always pitching in to participate in community events.

    In every meeting between the Northfield Police Department and the NDDC Block Heads discussing crime downtown, the officers state that The Key is part of the solution, not part of the problem. I think that the same is true for this emerging “war on drugs”.

    Finally, you close with, “we need some more police foot tra[f]fic along the river”. Why didn’t you just say so in the first place.

    I think that you owe The Key an apology.

    July 10, 2007
  193. Josh said:

    First off, I speak only for myself and NOT my bosses, the board members of The Northfield Union of Youth. First in comment to response #160 involving the Key being a “safe” place: the “concerned parent”, who I wish would give her real name, says she isn’t “looking for responses that defend the Key, or (blame) the Key.” Well, when you bring connotation into a sentence it can be good or bad. I will presume that this comment was meant to be negative and that a response is warranted, no matter what the writer’s unmentioned objections. The Key is a safe spot. No one is allowed in The Key under the influence or allowed to bring any chemical into The Key. If you are at The Key you are drug free. Here is the problem that many people have with our organization, a problem that has given us bad reputation at times: much like the high school and Art Tech, and local businesses, we don’t discriminate against who comes into our building. Yep, we allow anyone age 12-20 into out building. Thus people from all walks of life: poor and rich, short and tall, male and female, shy and outgoing, those with a drug-free history and those who have used. This, and the fact that it is Youth Run is what makes this place work. The organization does punish those break our rules, but we are also forgiving. Maybe this is the philosophy that would be best used for users and abusers. It works for us.
    Point 2: I do agree that there probably are people who deal at the River Walk, just like there are people that deal at perhaps a nighbor’s house, outside of the high school, on college campus, near the swimming pool, etc. Let’s not condemn these places and let’s also not condemn Froggy Bottoms and Basil’s Pizza and The Key and The Cow for being by a riverwalk that can offer some cover of darkness for dealers. We call the cops when we see it and we expect the same of other local businesses.

    July 10, 2007
  194. Jim Haas said:

    Shucks, I wanted to be the 200th post, but just missed.

    I wish I’d never heard the phrase “zero tolerance.” I can’t think of a single instance in my 35 years of work in which zero tolerance has actually been practiced (usually it’s just a tough-sounding simple-minded empty phrase) or, if practiced, has had the desired effect. Almost every system of enforcement or discipline — from the faimily unit to a school to a city or state — is built on rules that are subject to interpretation, discretion, judiciousness, considerations of justice and proportionality and circumstance. There are very few absolutes. One of the problems, of course, is that too much discretion can lead to unfairness, discrimination (the bad kind) and even corruption. But discretion and critcal thinking and problem solving are part of being grown up. The kid who brings a Leatherman tool to school because he does farm chores each morning may have violated the school’s weapons ban, but he is not the same as the one who brings a knife to school to intimidate a rival gang member. If the school had a true zero tolerance policy, both kids would be treated exactly the same way.

    Zero tolerance assumes that we have the absolutely perfect solution. Non-negotiable, non-debatable, unquestionable. Every time. Every case. Every kid. I’m sorry, but I do not think we have achieved any such state of perfection.

    I also get tired of the simple view that drug users won’t quit until they really want to. There are degrees of motivation, and sometimes those who care about a person can help that person get more motivated. Sometimes police and judges can help people get more motivated, whether through education or treatment or punishment or some combination. Usually, it’s just life — and the unappealing fact that life sucks when you’re always desparatley looking for that next high — that motivates people. Lost jobs, damaged relationships, car wrecks, financial troubles. Eventually, most users wake up and figure this out. Sometimes they wake up in jail, sometimes in the hospital, sometimes on their own front porch. Often, the best the “system” can do is speed that process up a little.

    In general, I don’t like global solutions to individual problems. And drug use — while harmful in many ways to the community — is mostly an individual problem. One man’s cieling is another man’s floor. Or something.

    July 10, 2007
  195. Sorry, just wanted to add a last name to post 202 and mention that I am the Executive Director of The Northfield Union of Youth (The Key). Sorry for the sloppiness.

    July 10, 2007
  196. :) said:

    I’m a teenager living in Northfield who has used a variety of substances, including heroin, and I believe the main reason is boredom. There truly is not much to do here. The Key has some things to do, but most of the time the things they offer are things that are easily done at home. They have some great activities like crafts, cooking(which i think they stopped?), and many other things. I’m not saying the Key is a bad thing, it’s wonderful just that it can’t be the solution to kids boredom. The YMCA? I didn’t even know we had one until I read someone else’s posts. Tell kids to get into activities because it will stop them from using? nope…i’m a varsity athlete of more than one sport and that never stopped me, or anyone else who plays sports. You don’t tell on people who drink, smoke, or do any other sort of drugs. It’s just not acceptable behavior at the high school, anyone who rats other people out is hated by anyone who uses ANYTHING for a long time, so no one does. If the city does have things it provides for the kids to do, it needs to make sure they know about them. Our swimming pool is not all that it could be…it’s more catered towards younger kids not teens. There’s only so many times you can go off the diving board before it gets old. I’m not saying the city is at fault for kids using drugs, but they could do a lot more to help. Kids who use any sort of substance might be doing it for excitement. Perhaps if Northfield had other ways to take risks and have fun for teens it would lower the drug use. Kids can be as well informed about drugs as they want, the users actually tend to know more about the risks than the kids who would never EVER use, but they still will use if they have nothing else to do. Even if the city isn’t going to make anything or spend money to fund activities the kids would do…they could at least give them ideas of fun things they could do. Sometimes just having ideas is all you need, it’s not that you don’t want to do anything else it’s that you truly can’t think of anything. If this makes kids seem lazy and like they need to be entertained i’m sorry, but that’s a way the city truly could help and i believe it would make the biggest impact on drug use.

    July 10, 2007
  197. Tyson Wigley said:

    I’m not one to buy into the boredom excuse. As people have already mentioned, boredom is everywhere. Big cities, small cities and cities with unlimited activities for youth of all ages. If every teen who was ever bored did heroin or any other hard narcotic, we’d have a lot bigger problem on our hands. So would the rest of the country.

    The boredom explanation, in my perspective, is the excuse for being unable to articulate the “why” of doing any drugs, or anything that’s deemed risky for that matter. Anyone who has ever watched Jackass, a skateboard or snowboard video, or spent some time on youtube has seen some pretty risky behavior that could’ve resulted in some very serious consequences. People ask “why” all time. Most of the time, you’ll get a shrug and a “we were bored” or a “why not” as an answer.

    The bottom line is kids and teens don’t think about the consequences. Or maybe they do, but only for a fleeting moment before it’s brushed aside like a nagging parent. It just so happens some of the consequences of their actions are more severe than others, and carry worse social stigmas.

    July 10, 2007
  198. One last post, before I get fired. I totally understand where 🙂 in post 205 is coming from and I do understand that The Key is definitely not for anyone. But I must disagree with the contention that The Key offers programs that can mostly be done from home. This is especially not the case from those coming from low-income and troubled homes. I know of no homes that offer a weekly Book Club (mondays at 5:00), Art Project (6:30 on Tuesdays), Writing Workshop (weekly during the school year), Breakdancing, Cooking Class (every other friday at 5:00pm), skatepark meetings (wednesdays 5:00), plus weekend concerts, mentoring options, gardening, community service opportunities, and most of all the only place in town where youth can call their own. Anyone and everyone ages 12-20 is welcome to participate and get involved with The Key. If you don’t like what The Key offers, come to weekly board meetings (Wednesday at 3:45pm) and we will help you get a new program or opportunity started. Once again, everyone ages 12-20 is welcome to get involved and help shape The Key. Please check out website at http://www.unionofyouth.org for more info. We are only as strong as the youth that get involved. And if you are an adult in the community get involved as well. We could always use help with programs and there are many opportunities to become a mentor for a wide variety of youth. Email http://www.unionofyouth.org to get involved. Becoming a mentor is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have and can really change your life as well as a younger person’s.

    July 10, 2007
  199. :) said:

    Tyson, I do not think you can say boredom has nothing to do with it. You seem to think teenagers cannot see ahead. And I didn’t say that boredom caused kids to use opiates. I’m saying that it WAS the main reason I used. You don’t have to believe it, but it is a huge factor in kids using. And even if teens don’t think about the consequences of their actions all the time, they do know the why. Boredom is a cause of using, I would know from experience. Not everyone has deep emotional causes to why they use.

    July 10, 2007
  200. Brenda Thompson said:

    It seems that only adults say that boredom could not possibly be a factor and all teens posting here think it could be. Perhaps you should look at that.
    As an adult it’s very hard to see how teen feel and their perspective on the world, so try to listen to how they feel and why they use substances instead of giving reasons for why they use and why they shouldn’t feel the way they do.

    July 10, 2007
  201. Penny Hillemann said:

    Just about any parent and anyone who was ever a child can give multiple examples of times when the young person was bored and nothing the parent suggested was of any interest. Sometimes a malaise sets in, whether for half an hour or a month, that makes nothing sound like any fun, or worth the effort, unless it’s something on the order of a free day at Valley Fair. I think we can all relate, on some level.

    I think coming up with a list of suggestions of things to do in Northfield is a fine idea, and when someone in a receptive mood consults it it might be just the thing. I’d be happy to participate in brainstorming such a list. (Reading leaps immediately to mind!) Where shall we post it?

    But often it is likely that someone who claims to be bored will also claim to find anything that’s suggested to be too dull, too mainstream, not cool, not their style, too young, too hard, too simple, too vigorous, etc., or just be resistant to doing anything that’s not their own idea or that they can’t do as a group with their friends. That’s human nature, particularly in adolescence, though, as Bright suggested, there are ways to consciously try to change that mindset if you are bored of being bored. (“You need to want to learn and observe everything …with clear eyes and a ready mind. That’s where you get creativity.” — Post #187 )

    Northfield’s pro-volunteerism organization, 5th Bridge, has a list of 300 ways to make a difference by volunteering your time. See http://5thbridge.org/opportunities. Maybe that’s a good place to start for someone who is truly looking for positive things to do, and I do believe there are people who are.

    Sorry if this is a repeat of anything previously posted, but I see that Northfield’s Healthy Community Initiative has a statement about the heroin issue on its home page, and encourages those who would like to get involved to contact HCI or Rice County Family Services Collaborative. See http://www.northfieldhci.org.

    July 10, 2007
  202. Griff Wigley said:

    Three reminders:

    1. MPR is looking for people to help them do a story. See post #73 or go directly to this page.

    2. There’s a Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use meeting tonight at 7:00 pm at the NCRC. Zach Pruitt emailed me the agenda:

    I. Brief Overview of Youth Alcohol & Drug Use – Mayor’s Task Force action (as part of Project Prevention)

    II. MTF Response/Input into Community Discussion about Drug Use in Northfield, including heroin

    The meeting is in room SS106 of the Northfield Community Resource Center (1651 Jefferson Pkwy).

    3. Over 55 people have filled out the straw poll since I posted it 24 hours ago. Most everyone is contributing comments with it, which is really helpful. If you’ve not yet taken it, please consider doing so.

    July 10, 2007
  203. Tyson Wigley said:

    My problem with the boredom explanation is that since it’s rare for adults to start engaging in this type of risky behavior (drugs, jackass style stunts, etc.) you would be led to believe that they are never bored. I can assure you there are plenty of bored adults out there, and they rarely choose to start engaging in this behavior if they hadn’t already started.

    I’m not saying you weren’t bored at all. I completely believe that you were. I also believe you don’t need some profound reason as to why you chose to use.

    Maybe I should have linked to this in my last post, but here’s a an article that appeared in the Washington Post about a study by the National Institute of Health that suggests a region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25.


    The article focuses more on driving, but I believe is very applicable to all forms of risky behavior by teens.

    For me, this is a big piece of the puzzle in regards to the “why” part of the equation.

    July 10, 2007
  204. anonymous heroin user said:

    I posted earlier as anonymous by the way.

    I think the way to stop almost all the heroin use in town is to catch the dealers. There is ONE dealer in town that provides heroin to probably more than twenty users. I cant rat on them because if anyone found out my life could end.

    The community needs to find a way to catch this dealer. If they were caught I would’nt have to worry about trying to stay clean anymore. I would have to be clean, and my friends would have to be clean too. I really have no other way of getting heroin.

    I agree that the community should brainstorm a giant list of activities that are fun and acceptable. I turned to heroin because it was easy, once you’re smacked you don’t need to think of something to do because you’re so high you can just sit there for hours not doing anything. Basically a high vegetable.. not very appealing to the rest of the world

    July 10, 2007
  205. Christine Stanton said:

    Would The Key be intersted in adding a list of things to do to their website? It might be a good place to start.

    July 10, 2007
  206. Gilly Wigley said:

    In response to #205 post.

    The Key has some things to do, but most of the time the things they offer are things that are easily done at home……They have some great activities like crafts, cooking(which i think they stopped?)

    As Josh said, we have something almost every evening for youth between 12-20 to do. Do you know how to make lamp work beads out of glass? Do you have the money for the materials? Do you have the materials and enough people to make life size rafts out of recyclables and race them down the river?

    Here’s a list of things that the Key has done in the past for art project, cooking class and more:
    -lamp work beads
    -hemp jewelry
    -Ice candles
    -scavenger hunt
    -screen printing shirts
    -mask making
    -bicycle sculptures
    -life size rafts built and raced down the river
    -melted plastic sculptures
    -little boats out of recycled things, raced down the rive
    -chicken fajitas
    -chicken curry
    -ginger citrus spice cookies
    -carrot cake
    -twisty bread and cheesy spread

    My question for you is, if you had the materials/space and the money to do any of these at your own house, or a friends house, would you? Or would you say ‘well I can do these anytime I want, I want to do something that I cant normally do.’ the only want what you cant have kind of thing.

    July 10, 2007
  207. #214 wrote this:
    I agree that the community should brainstorm a giant list of activities that are fun and acceptable. I turned to heroin because it was easy, once you’re smacked you don’t need to think of something to do because you’re so high you can just sit there for hours not doing anything. Basically a high vegetable.. not very appealing to the rest of the world

    And from Bright;

    Which brings me to my next set of myth busters…I can sit and get all
    vegitized without drugs. I can get that warm feeling and heavy limbs
    by laying next to a hot fire for a few minutes…oxygen almost eaten up
    by the flames, heat unbearably hot…don’t need drugs for that. Oh,
    and how about that lack of fear…well, unless you have a serious mental/
    chemical imbalance, anyone can learn to overcome fear and use it to do
    fine things for the world. Put that on the list of things to do in Northfield.

    Here’s my top ten list from the top of my head:

    Create your own board game. get it? Bored, board?

    Find new ways of making sound, using any thing in your immediate vacinity
    and then start a band using the new sounds only.

    Stage a peaceful protest against the War on Terror.

    Learn how to build a lean to for emergency survival shelter.

    Go on a Spirit Journey in your backyard for a week.

    Write down everything you eat for a month in a journal…every single bit.

    Talk to the family dog for an hour a day. Play with the dog or cat
    for an hour a day.

    Build a garden at waist height so your elders can visit and work with it without bending over.

    Design your own clothes, make them, and/or have a fashion show.

    Think big and then think a little bigger. Look into the future and plan a new world for you and your kids.

    Bonus #11

    Imagine how it would be living in the biosphere.

    All these ideas can be found in some form on the internet. Go for it
    and let us know what you came up with!


    July 10, 2007
  208. Anne Bretts said:

    St. Olaf has an amazing page on its site listing all the “things to do on a date in Northfield.” Some are dumb, some corny, but there are lots and lots of things that would work, whether you’re on a date, with a group of friends or alone.
    Good point on one of the posts on brains not being able to make good decisions until 25. That research does explain a lot. And it’s important to remember that adults, even very successful ones, have drug and alcohol problems. Why should we expect high school kids to make better decisions than their parents and ministers and teachers.
    I am concerned however, that after nearly a month, we’re not seeing parents organizing, meeting, working with the experts. It seems that the parents who know their kids are using already have learned the answers the hard way and a lot of others seem to be in denial, same as the kids who think they’ve got it under control. And if these are the alpha kids, their parents are the ones who know the most about how to network and get the job done. They also are the ones with facilities (homes) and the ability to instill in their children the skills needed to deal with boredom.
    I’m still not convinced that a big waterslide or any other ‘thing’ will entertain kids enough to keep them off drugs. These are kids that seem to need a massive amount of external stimulation and adrenaline, so any external entertainment will wear thin quickly. They have to find a way to feed their need for excitement in a way that won’t get them killed. The good news is that most do. The bad news is that in every generation, some don’t.

    July 10, 2007
  209. I the interest of fair play and gratitude, I should also suggest #12, Throw a street party for the men and women of this city/country who give their lives to protect us from danger and help us through natural and manmade disasters.


    July 10, 2007
  210. Robbie Wigley said:

    Why are we assuming that “bored” means “entertain me”?

    This is a question for the youth posting… is that what you mean?

    I would really like to see the focus start moving towards listening to the youth and what they have to say in the way of suggestions, needs, ideas… with the adult role to creatively “question” and try and help them solve these many issues.

    It seems that most of the time when something is posted by a young person.. there is a quick response with suggestions, or slightly veiled sarcasm with reasons why they shouldn’t be bored. Do we know what is meant by “bored” in their eyes?

    This is starting to take on a sense of shame, which doesn’t help to stimulate conversation.

    July 10, 2007
  211. will oney said:

    Also, I think marijuana leads to an erosion of a person’s personal life. The majority agrees with me or has their own reason for why it should not be legalized
    Holly, while I agree that some users of marijuana become preoccupied with using, This is no reason to keep it illegal, if you actually think that the current laws regarding pot actually stop anyone from smoking or help society in any way you are extremely naive.

    It’s my personal idea that fear of the drug will help people avoid the drug. Show pictures of people who suffocated from a swollen tongue. Etc. (That’s just one of the things I would do for drug education).
    Sorry to be the one to break this to you but the bullshit scare tactics never have and never will prevent drug abuse at all. This is essentially the method that health classes have been using forever. What makes you think that by upping the intensity that it will suddenly work? In reality kids will see these pictures, be mildly grossed out, realize that they know ten kids who shoot up every day whose tongues are fine, and try heroin. If you try to scare them by saying “do heroin and your tongue will swell up till you die!” then anything else you try to tell them about actual risks of abuse is going to fall on deaf ears. Sure occasionaly someone overdoses and dies but there are dozens of reasons more relevant to teens as why not to use.

    July 10, 2007
  212. Christine Stanton said:

    “This is starting to take on a sense of shame, which doesn’t help to stimulate conversation.”
    Thank you for the post, Robbie!

    Blaming, shaming, pointing fingers, defending…none of these will get us anywhere. I was very impressed with the Mayor’s Task Force meeting tonight. The above verbs were not the focus of the conversation. Instead, their was a diverse group from different areas of our community who shared the same concern–our kids. No, not your kids, their kids, or my kids but OUR kids. There was a definite feeling that we are all in this together. The only group I did not see directly represented was law enforcement. However, the group works with law enforcement and has made a significant contribution to supporting ZAP (Zero Alchohol Providers.) I have heard about this effort through the grapevine (though I did not know what it was called) and know it is making an impact on breaking up and preventing underage drinking parties.

    One thing that was revealing to me is hearing that the informal survey taken in the schools (I believe initiated by the Community Health Initiative) showed that perscription drugs were easier for kids to get than alchohol or marajuana. Parents who have surgery are many times sent home with pain killers. Many times they do not use them all and get left and forgotten in the medicine cabinet. There was some discussion about how parents enable without even realizing they are doing it. (By the way, the connection between the survey and left over pain killers was made at the meeting. Communication can be very helpful!)

    There are some good efforts already in place to address underage and illegal drug and alchohol abuse in our community, but everyone at the meeting was aware that more needs to be done. The existing efforts and new efforts need support. Numbers aside, this is a problem in Northfield.

    For those of us who want some numbers, much of the data cannot be compiled because of crossovers. For example: the number of kids in treatment centers (and sometimes they switch), the number of kids arrested, the number of kids the school recommends for treatment, etc. Some of the data is also retrospective. Then, there is the point that surveys will many times show inaccurate data. Are all kids that are using really honest when they fill out a survey. One person at the meeting shared that many times those surveys reveal the “low end” of the reality. Never the less, I asked if the statistics could be available to the public, even if they were not compiled.

    I am sure Griff will give a better recap of the meeting. These are just a few of the things that stood out to me. Mainly, it was refreshing to see a group putting aside the “verbs” I mentioned earlier and having some good discussion. The group is also “action oriented.” A good mix! 🙂

    July 10, 2007
  213. Christine Stanton said:

    The link from Anne (post #218) is GREAT! It might need to be edited for kids who are not college students (or don’t have access to college facilities or a car), but… I was thinking about editing it, but it seems even more appealing for kids because it is from the college.

    July 10, 2007
  214. Lori Martin said:

    Let’s just say that I can understand boredom and I believe kids feel bored and that this might even lead them to try drugs. Somehow the trade-off still doesn’t match. And somehow I still remember feeling bored many times when I could have acted in one way but chose to act in another. Perfectly knowing that drugs were dangerous, I chose to try them when my friends did not. I did not care about myself and did not see too much into my future in order to be scared of hard drugs the way my friends were. Boredom is perhaps one answer. But in my own attempts to stay clean, I’ve found it useful to look deeper and not blame any external factors. This has also helped me help a couple friends deal with addictions when they were ready. I don’t blame my family or my boredom, or the decline of culture, or whatever. That leaves room for my friends to believe they can continue to justify their use (which an addict can do quite well until death). Kids who stay involved in activities (sports, music, clubs, etc) tend to over-all stay away from drugs more than those who have nothing to do after school. But this might also have to do with feeling committed to another group of people (your team or performing group). It also gives students a purpose or something to stay sober and healthy for. But I quit sports and music and found myself involved in drugs. So the question might be why did I quit? Aside from boredom, is it important to nurture those things that kids do well and enjoy? Would it be useful to encourage them to get involved in ways that make their healthy, clean existence important to others? I believe boredom is a reason, just like having a bad family is a reason. But it is helpful, in terms of staying clean for the long-term, to not blame anything or anyone but find what will help you feel like you have some purpose. Blame makes it impossible to move foward.

    As for finding a purpose and staying fairly clear of that emptiness of boredome, it’s hard to find that purpose if you are high. Actually, it might be impossible. Like I said earlier, it’s possible to carry boredom with oneself to any city on earth. So while we can provide more opportunities for our youth, we need to look more at why they are willing to give up on opportunities offered to them. Do they feel they don’t have a purpose within those activities? Do they feel like they are not valued or are not capable? Have they grown to expect praise and are now finding that all activities seem shallow because they never connected their own meaning to any of it? Boredom is okay too. As someone else said, it can spur one onto creativity. When I’m bored, I’m usually just avoiding something. But I end up getting something else done, nonetheless. So boredom isn’t something I’m so sure we need to look into or entirely avoid. It’s the question of why one bored kid decides to do heroin and why another bored kid would say “no.” While boredom is an answer, I’d encourage anyone stopping there to go deeper. Fear is usually beneath anger and jealousy, for example. What is beneath the type of boredom that would spur one on to trying a highly addictive drug? What is beneath the boredom that would create such seeming apathy or poor decision-making? And before anyone criticizes me for calling it poor decision-making, I’d like you to tell me how using heroin is a good decision. I’ve made bad decisions and had to fess up to it. I’m still alive.

    July 11, 2007
  215. Holly Cairns said:

    As to Gilly’s post about the Key:

    I vote that doing things like glass bead work in a group can really just be “doing something while you participate in a group” and it really doesn’t matter what you are doing. It’s the group.

    Besides the glass making activities, etc. I have heard that the Key kids have:

    –rpublished a book or song, or something published
    –Trying to get a skatepark– is this associated with the Key?
    –created a business– Mona Lisa

    Here’s a few more ideas on the make a difference track– these could be done at the Key, if youth are bored (just ideas):

    –Committee which is involved in school curriculum decision making
    –Help at Sharing and Caring hands, and apply knowledge to Northfield’s homeless
    –Test the river for pollution and presenting a clean up idea
    –Publish on iTunes, and have a contest which involves Northfielders voting and money given
    –Music lessons, learn to play bass or something
    –Committee to influence city hall happenings– or a seat on the council


    July 11, 2007
  216. Susan Ecklund said:

    See the link in post #226 to today’s Northfield News coverage: “Chief Prefers Addiction Treatment over Arrests.”

    I have been following this discussion (online and in the Northfield and the Minneapolis newspapers) since it began. I have found the lack of emphasis on the need for law enforcement to be especially disturbing. And now Chief Smith (if the Northfield News article represents his opinions accurately) is essentially announcing that he intends to be lenient on drug dealers? Typically, I thought, police chiefs and other law enforcement officials tend to announce that they plan to be TOUGH on drugs. And why would he state that he doesn’t want to be too aggressive and just push the sellers into other communities. Why should we in Northfield care about that? Then the police in the other communities could also be tough and push the dealers still farther away–the farther the better, to everyone’s benefit.

    I know that police investigations can take a long time, but in mid-March, heroin, money, and weapons were uncovered in a search of a mobile home in Northfield. At that time, Smith was quoted in the Northfield News as saying that there would be many arrests as a result of what was found in that search. Perhaps that has come to pass, although there has been no follow-up local news coverage to indicate that it has. And, based on what I have been reading in posts from some of the young people who are using heroin, they actually STARTED doing it since that time. And one of the users said that the arrest of a single dealer would probably eliminate the heroin source for about twenty people he knows.

    It seems to me that there are enough other groups and people in the community who can focus on prevention and treatment. I think it is time for the Northfield police (with help from county- or state-level resources, if necessary) to focus on stopping the heroin transactions.

    I plan to at least call the city administrator and mayor today to convey my thoughts on this. I welcome suggestions for how to get the message across to any other relevant people. Right now, I think that is more urgent than trying to think of ways to combat young people’s boredom.

    July 11, 2007
  217. Lori Martin said:

    Some good ideas, Holly. One of my friends never played an instrument until her junior year of high school when she decided she should play classical guitar. When she wasn’t working or doing homework or meeting up with friends, she was playing that guitar. It was her way to de-stress and involve some creativity. It also gave her something to work towards that, in the end, would leave her with something valuable. She’s now coming up on a 40th birthday and she still plays. I, along with many others, admire her talent. Noone admired me for doing coke. But I ended up going back to my own previous interests and putting more focus into them. I don’t think kids need to be bothered with the pressure of figuring out the “meaning of life”, but I believe finding a way to feel useful, connected in a positive way, or like what you are doing has some purpose or will bring you somewhere, are ways students can deter themselves from whatever emptiness that leads them to finding relief in getting a chemical high. For these same reasons, typical routes of avoiding boredom (television, chatting on the phone, internet surfing, or video games) are not so useful. They are better than getting high, of course. But they don’t provide us with a real feeling of satisfaction after the fact. Noone ever says, “wow, I feel great for watching that show, now I feel like I’m getting somewhere!” or “I’ve done some really great surfing tonight. I feel pretty good about it. Well done.” If we can’t move beyond boredom as a reason to do drugs, boredom should be “cured” in ways that leave young people actually feeling satisfied, not just temporarily or mindlessly occupied.

    Other ideas: training for a race (read up on high-energy foods and training plans), perhaps a race for a cause. Collect people’s curbside garbage and salvage (refinish old wooden chairs in the garage and use in your bedroom or donate to programs that are helping refuges), join a club at school or start one if you don’t like the options. Save all that would-be drug money and plan a trip to whatever country you’d really like to explore. Imagine all the things you could do without a drug habit! Or, save that would-be drug money and go to college to study what you are truly interested in. If you don’t know yet, you will have the opportunity to find out if you go to college. Study Greek. Make something. Basically, find what makes life worth enjoying and not escaping. But then again, I have a sense there are things to do in Northfield, just some young people that need to be guided.

    July 11, 2007
  218. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Lori,

    I like to read your posts. Could you make a list of what you would do to help the heroin problem in Northfield (short term and long term).

    And, elder Bruce (post 195), could you do the same thing? Short term and long term.

    Anyone else out there who wants to make a list, I’d appreciate it. And be specific for me (so don’t just put “attend meetings”, etc.)

    July 11, 2007
  219. Holly Cairns said:

    Will, I am still thinking about your thoughts in post 221. I guess we just don’t see eye to eye.

    I can’t find the post where a student said he or she was in sports and other activities, and was a captain (I think)– but he or she also said that students don’t rat on each other or they will be hated. No ratting.

    I think that needs to be addressed– by the schools, maybe. Remember when our kids were little and they used to tell on each other for things like “Mom, ____ is using red for the sky color when it is supposed to be blue.” We talked about things like when to tell and when not to tell.

    Seems like the issue of tattling could be discussed, again. The problem, however, will be getting kids to believe that heroinh use is a serious issue, rather than just a “red sky” issue, don’t you think?

    I found a good link about tattling here:

    Or am I alone on this one… After listening to all of the people on here who have said things like ‘let’s legalize and tax drugs’ and ‘it’s not that many kids’ I am feeling like there are few people who really think this is a worry.

    July 11, 2007
  220. Griff Wigley said:

    Susan, I think the Chief is talking about users, not dealers.

    I’d like to hear from others with intervention strategy knowledge and experience if they agree with this strategy. I’m inclined to think it would help force people into treatment if the courts were involved because of a possession charge.

    Of course, this still requires that the police catch a person using or having it in their possession.

    Susan wrote in #228:

    And now Chief Smith (if the Northfield News article represents his opinions accurately) is essentially announcing that he intends to be lenient on drug dealers?

    July 11, 2007
  221. Scott Oney said:

    Re the articles in Griff’s post #226: I must say, I was disappointed with the weak response from our police chief. The way I read it, it’s going to be business as usual for the pushers; the chief would rather put his energy into cleaning up the mess they’ve caused after the fact. But then I had an alarming thought. Perhaps Chief Smith knows something we don’t. My impression has been that the heroin issue is more of a homegrown problem, but I began to wonder if the local drug trade had been taken over by an organized gang so vicious that the local cops were afraid to go up against them.

    So I actually called Gary up and asked him. He, as usual, wasn’t very forthcoming, but I got the impression that, at least so far, our town hasn’t been taken over by a violent mob.

    I was able to find out a few things that the local cops have been doing, and some things that they haven’t. There have been a few arrests of juveniles, but the chief couldn’t come up with the name of a single adult that has been arrested and charged with selling heroin in Northfield in the last 2 years.

    Chief Smith said, essentially, that if someone comes to him with specific evidence that would lead to an arrest, he’ll act on it, but otherwise people should stop complaining. I had up till now thought that’s what we paid his guys to do–old-fashioned police work–but I guess I was unclear on the concept.

    July 11, 2007
  222. Gilly Wigley said:

    Even if it was only him that stopped dealing none of my friends would have anywhere to get it from. But demand… If enough people want it and one of the suppliers goes down, someone else will come to take his place. There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants it now from wanting it, they’ve already made up their mind. The issue now is to stop the next potential group of customers from ever starting, and the current user base should diminish fairly quickly, for obvious reasons.

    Off of what John said originally, here’s what we need to do.

    FIRST stop/get rid of the current dealers. THEN get rid the demand. ie take away the “boredom” factor. So that a new supplier wont move in. Then if that “Boredom” is removed, don’t stop. Otherwise it will only help till the next generation moves in. Keep whatever the solution to “boredom” is, continually evolving. Otherwise it won’t stay interesting.

    Say someone decides to create a youth free carpentry class, and the first thing you make is a table and a set of chairs. When that’s done, you do it again, maybe this time perfecting your last design. Well if you keep making chairs and tables, it’s going to get really old, really fast.

    If that makes any sense.

    July 11, 2007
  223. Griff Wigley said:

    Tyson’s commented in #213 and linked to the article/research that indicates the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25

    This seems significant to me. On the 3rd page of that article, it says:

    Participants took the test alone and with their friends in the room. Researchers found that those in the two younger groups consistently took more chances with friends present. Those 24 and older behaved equally cautiously, regardless of whether friends were watching. The results help show why teenagers are more likely to drink, take drugs or commit crimes in groups, he said. They’re also reflected in auto crash statistics.

    When I think of the stupid dangerous stuff I did as teenager (doing wheelies on my motorcycle in downtown St. Paul, throwing lit cherry bombs at each other, rock climbing without ropes, just to mention a few), I’m lucky to be here in one piece. And if there had been the preponderance of drugs in my circle of friends, I can see how I could have fallen into that and not easily gotten out.

    I’m wondering if the prevention strategies that we’re using with young people in Northfield takes these new findings into account.

    July 11, 2007
  224. Jim Haas said:

    File this under “for what it’s worth.”

    I did a little unofficial informal survey in the local probation department. I asked the probation officers how many of their current probationers they think are involved (or have been) in the Northfield heroin trade (as sellers, re-sellers, users, etc.). Keep in mind that, in general, probation officers are usually knowledgeable about what’s going on in the lives of the people they supervise, especially if the probation officer suspects that things are amiss.

    The juvenile probation officers said that between seven and ten kids currently on probation are or were involved in some way. A couple are in treatment, a couple are still using and facing some hard decisons, and a few we’re not yet sure about.

    The adult probation officers figure that five to eight of the adults currently on probation may be involved. One just got sent to prison for a few years on a burglary conviction.

    One of the adult POs also said that heroin has shown up in Faribault in the last six months or so, particularly among a group of folks who had been using meth and cocaine.

    I also had a conversation with a staff member of a drug rehab unit at a Twin Cities hospital. She was evaluating a young man from Northfield. We talked for quite a while, but two things struck me: First, that the young man truly believed that he could use heroin recreationally and it had few risks for him — he had it totally under control and his parents and others shouldn’t freak out. Second, that this facility had admitted a half-dozen or so Northfield kids a few months ago for treatment for heroin and prescription drug abuse. She said “we’ve known about Northfield for a while now.” These kids had been referred by doctors or parents or out-patient treatment programs, not by probation officers or police or judges.

    July 11, 2007
  225. Griff Wigley said:

    “We’ve known about Northfield for a while now.” – drug rehab staffer.

    That’s troubling to hear, Jim. But thanks for doing the informal research with your probation officers. BTW, I don’t think you introduced yourself, so I will!

    Jim Haas is Rice County’s Community Corrections Director.

    July 11, 2007
  226. Christine Stanton said:

    I just listemned to the NPR link posted by Curt (#225). It seems that this would be a great audio for NHS health classes. If you have not listened to it, it is worth your time to do so.

    One of the points the speaker makes in the interview is that adiction is a disease. The user cannot control whether or not they get the disease when they use. Tyson’s comment about not using because he knew it would feel so good he would not be able to stop is worth noting. That is the reality of drugs. They start controlling you, and you cannot control when that happens . You do not control them, even if you think you are. None of use like to be controlled and, as the speaker on the link states, no one wants to be an addict.

    July 11, 2007
  227. Christine Stanton said:

    Thanks for your post #236, Griff. It seems a bit strange that the police are pulling people over for riding razor scooters on the sidewalk, or calling they and their parents into the police station to warn them of the seriouness of “egging” (I have experienced this one), but drug dealers are not arrested. I am hoping that the police know better than I how to deal with drug dealers, but I have to ask the same question another poster did. Isn’t law enforcement the role of the police? Isn’t arresting those who break the law what the police are supposed to do? Isn’t that the role of our judicial system? Can’t the judges decide that the person needs treatment and make that a court order? I personally know of people who were forced by the courts to go to treatment, and they are still sober today. That might not have happened if the police let them off.

    Hmmm… the jurry is still out for me on this new approach the police are taking. Like I said, I hope they know more than I do.

    July 11, 2007
  228. Jim Haas said:

    I don’t presume to speak for anyone else, but I think Chief Smith is talking about the fact (a very well-established fact) that treatment is, over time, more effective than punishment for addicts. I believe the Chief also advocates arrest and punishment for dealers. In most instances, the courts are prepared to do both — to use both carrots and sticks, to provide both opportunities and consequences.

    Still, if you’re expecting to solve the drug problem — any drug problem in any community — through the criminal justice system alone, you will be disappointed in the results.

    July 11, 2007
  229. Griff Wigley said:

    After rereading articles and comments in preparation for today’s radio show/podcast, I’ve edited the title of the blog post from ‘Heroin network at the Northfield High School’ to ‘Heroin use among high school students in Northfield.’

    This change more accurately reflects A) the actual wording of the Hazelden researcher, and B) the fact that there are high schoolers in Northfield who are at the district high school, at ARTech, and who are being homeschooled.

    I apologize for the wording and acknowledge that it was unfair to the school district and its high school. My error is partially due to my longstanding support for charter schools. I guess this is an example of what’s called biased reporting. Oddly, no one called me on this.

    July 11, 2007
  230. Penny Hillemann said:

    Anne wrote:

    I am concerned however, that after nearly a month, we’re not seeing parents organizing, meeting, working with the experts.

    Hi Anne,

    Some, perhaps most, of us are much newer to this news than you suggest. The first I heard of it was 8 days ago, when it hit the Northfield News. In this space, people have been starting to educate themselves about the problem and to explore possible options for action. In its own way, it constitutes a “meeting.” I think guidance from the experts is pretty important — if we were jumping in to organize action along every tack that’s been suggested here, we’d be working at cross purposes (to each other and to some of those experts) and not necessarily accomplishing anything of value. I hope people will get involved in the various ways that become manifestly useful. The fact that discussion continues here doesn’t mean that people aren’t taking other actions and getting involved, or planning to do everything they can.

    Possible tactics, some of which we can work on already and others of which rely on official action or more data:

    1. Identify and shut down the primary dealer(s) in town. This takes police work and action.

    2. Widely publicize accurate information about the dangers of heroin use in forums where young people will get it. This we can be doing now. Former users can be helpful here, as they will have more credibility with the target audience. From what I gather, information from more “official” sources is routinely ignored or rejected as bogus. How can we go about this?

    3. Increase the ability of local agencies and healthcare providers to treat heroin addiction. I understand this is under way, but can we speed or lobby to increase funding for this effort? Do we know how we can help here, if at all?

    4. Address the “boredom” issue, keeping in mind the adolescent brain’s penchant for risk-taking behavior. Knitting classes or an open art studio (as completely random examples) might be great choices for some, but for others, beneath scorn. Publicize options for positive activities, support organizations that provide more options, get that skate park built (or has it been? — I’ve lost track), encourage local internships and other skill-building opportunities. My impression is that there aren’t a lot of interesting jobs available for young people in town. Not that I’m saying all jobs have to be interesting, but the type of boredom that’s been discussed is not going to be helped all that much by working in a fast food restaurant or tasseling corn and having more money to spend as a result, but not using your mind or creativity or seeing lasting results of your labor. Maybe the Chamber of Commerce could foster local internship or “hire a kid for the summer” programs, to get kids into retail businesses or insurance offices or daycare centers or plant nurseries or handyman work or bike repair or the Malt-O-Meal plant.

    5. Recognize that some users or potential users will be immune to anything other than the drying up of the supply or legal consequences to themselves. That’s not a point of action, but it needs to be kept in mind. We can’t reach everyone with our message; some are simply not going to be receptive. They don’t want our suggestions of alternative activities; they like their image as a little bit dangerous or pushing the boundaries, or whatever.

    6. Get in touch with local organizations (the schools, the police, the Mayor’s task force, Healthy Community Initiative and others) that are already working on this and related issues, and find out how we can help. As I mentioned previously, some contact info is provided at http://www.northfieldhci.org . If you are involved with such organizations, get the word out about what parents and others can do to help. There are a lot of people here who want to get involved. Use us!

    What else? Feedback on these? I’m trying to be both positive and realistic, and I’m biased in favor of being well educated before rushing into action.

    July 11, 2007
  231. John said:

    From post #228:

    Typically, I thought, police chiefs and other law enforcement officials tend to announce that they plan to be TOUGH on drugs. And why would he state that he doesn’t want to be too aggressive and just push the sellers into other communities. Why should we in Northfield care about that? Then the police in the other communities could also be tough and push the dealers still farther away–the farther the better, to everyone’s benefit.

    It’s not that the dealers bring the heroin to Northfield, and try to convince people to buy it. It’s the people in Northfield wanting to use heroin. The dealers would not be selling heroin in Northfield if there were not economic incentive to do so. Busting dealers will help in the short term, but look at it this way. A dealer gets busted. His customers still want smack. They’re willing to pay for it. Someone else who sees the profit potential is going to take his place. Long-term, busting dealers really only annoys the heroin using population. They’re going to keep doing it, they’re addicts and they’ve made up their minds. I know people who quit buying it from the people in Northfield because they were getting crappy prices, and drive up to the cities themselves to get it instead. You can’t just pass a law and make it so, people are going to do heroin and that’s that. It’s not preventing them from being able to, it’s preventing them from WANTING to in the first place.

    July 11, 2007
  232. Griff Wigley said:

    I wish I had time to comment on the many interesting posts y’all have made here. But so be it. It’s 5 PM. I’m heading to the studio now for the 5:30 pm show. Hope some of you can call in: 645-5695.

    We’ll probably chat with Gary and Chris for the first 15 minutes and then take calls.

    July 11, 2007
  233. Tracy Davis said:

    Griff: In the interest of honesty and accuracy, shouldn’t the entry be re-titled “Heroin USE among high school students in Northfield”?

    July 11, 2007
  234. Christine Stanton said:

    Reply to Jim (#241). Thanks for the input. I agree that treatment is the best option. My concern is that sometimes it takes law enforcement to make that happen. The courts cannot require someone to go through treatment unless they are arrested. It is obviously better that an addict goes through treatment without the courts being involved, but sometimes our judicial system is the only way to get them the help they need.

    July 11, 2007
  235. Griff Wigley said:

    You’re right, Tracy. I’ve replaced the word ‘addiction’ with the word ‘use.’ Thanks!

    July 11, 2007
  236. Griff Wigley said:

    MPR just aired this story at 5:40 pm today. The audio isn’t available yet but the full text is:

    Heroin claims cause Northfield turmoil

    Many of the identified users have sought help through Omada Behavioral Health. Program Director Sarah Shippy says kids are selling within small cliques. They pool their money to buy heroin or steal Oxycontin from their grandparents’ medicine chest and snort it.

    “Those who are using heroin estimate that there are more than 150, so you know, who knows, whether it’s 100, 150, 200. Somewhere around there,” Shippy says. “I can identify probably 50 to 60 kids who are actively using, some on a daily basis, some on a weekly basis and some occasionally.”

    July 11, 2007
  237. Griff Wigley said:

    The podcast of today’s show on KYMN with Supt. Richardson and Chief Smith is now available:

    I welcome reactions/feedback/criticism, either about what they said or about how we handled the show. No need to be gentle with us. We have thick skins.

    July 11, 2007
  238. Griff Wigley said:

    Note to ‘annoyed citizen’: I’ve removed your comment because you didn’t use your real first and last name and your criticism of another person here was mostly just a put-down. Feel free to disagree here but address the person directly and use a tone that will make it likely they’ll want to at least listen to you.

    July 11, 2007
  239. Anne Bretts said:

    I read the MPR story and so it seems experts in the system knew about this heroing use 18 months ago and told police, which means a full school year and summer have passed and the experts haven’t had time to talk to parents or the school officials or or each other to coordinate the figures or inform the community until a rushed press conference in the middle of a second summer vacation?
    And I’m sorry to those who disagree, but numbers are important. There’s a big difference between 100 users ages 15-23 and 250 kids in the high school — and it’s too late now to put the genie back in the bottle.
    I don’t buy the argument that it doesn’t matter how many kids are doing heroin because it’s still a problem. Of course it’s a problem, but we’ve tarred the community nationally with talk of an epidemic and a crime wave and a drug network based in the high school.
    With such a small number of people using in a concentrated community, and with the police chief’s comment that his department probably knows most of the users and the treatment officials’ records on those in the system, and with this many professionals involved, there should be a way to coordinate the information and be pretty darned accurate. Without numbers, how does anyone know whether the problem is getting better or worse, which approaches are working and what grants are worth the money? I don’t think the answer right now is more funding, but more accountability for the funding that’s out there.
    Again, I think there are a lot of good people working hard, but the gears just aren’t meshing.
    For example, the probation department isn’t seeing a wave of heroin use among criminals, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that just under 1 percent of high school seniors nationally report using heroin — a number steady for a decade and the same reported by students here. Under the circumstances, you would think the jump 18 months ago in Northfield among ‘good kids’ should have been very obvious.
    Finally, as for comments that we adults are shaming teens by not respecting their comments about being bored, some people here are just sharing observations found in their own experience in the very same situation. Others are pointing out that being bored enough to do drugs isn’t really about not having enough to do to be happy, but about not being happy enough to do anything that matters. If you are so bored at 17 that drugs make sense, you may be hardwired to face a lifetime of temptation and will have to work hard to find positive alternatives.
    Like I said in an earlier post, there are members of my family and friends of mine who face that lifelong temptation — some successfully and some not so much — and others who never even feel the mildest curiosity. Same gene pool, same upbringing, same aching small-town boredom in a much less exciting, much less affluent part of industrial northwestern Indiana.
    To any teens who thought an earlier post of mine was too harsh, it was a momentary lapse in judgment, and I’m sure you can relate. Seriously, after 20-some years of writing stories about dead prom-goers and ATV riders and drug uers and gun users and four years on a fire department rescue squad that picked up their broken bodies, and a lifetime of listening to the news of teens killed in wars they didn’t start and couldn’t stop, the comments about not having enough to do on a summer night tempted me too much and I couldn’t resist practicing the rants I will be using on my grandkids in a few years.
    I am trying to get into a support group with Bruce Morlan and the rest of us who battle creeping codgerism. Wish me luck.

    July 11, 2007
  240. Anne Bretts said:

    Sorry for typos. Griff, you need a preview option. Easier to proofread, especially with tired old eyes working too late at night.

    July 11, 2007
  241. Luc P. Guerber said:

    I’ve heard a lot of numbers. Originally the paper said some spend ‘$600 a day’ and a star tribune article shot it up to ‘$800 a day’. Same with the number of users, i’ve heard up to 250 people in town. I don’t know where the police get their numbers, much less the average person on the street, but i’m wondering if any one person or group can have an accurate depiction at this point.
    I think it’s possible there’s a hierarchy like a pyramid,where the people on the very top are at the capacity to drop a lot more money than the ones at the bottom, probably with a heavier habit and out of town connections. But i would think the majority of people spend less and do less as you go farther down the pyramid. What the pyramid would be comprised of from an economic standpoint could easily lead one to believe that there are more people involved in it than there really are, or with all the people involved you could easily assume there’s much more money involved than there really is. It’s very ambiguous, and i really don’t know much from my limited standpoint. Is there anyone who is in the proper social position to give an accurate estimate as to how many people use smack? And if so, i wonder if a good chunk of Northfield would be unconvinced about any user’s testimony because they discount it, automatically associating them with words like “unethical” or even “evil”.
    The distribution of information (or even direct contact with the situation) is very unbalanced, and many people talk as if they know the whole story. Is there a way that we could pool all sorts of people’s knowledge? Would the people necessary for such a feat (from all walks of life – user, student, police, teacher, parent, etc.) be willing to work together in an organized fashion? The information seems so fragmented, it makes me think it’s possible to put the pieces together to gain a better understanding. Are the police willing to let someone anonymously help them (keeping in mind the fear of retaliation from users)?
    Drugs in my experience have usually been scenery to a much bigger issue, and the hardest thing (especially when dealing with vast numbers) is that it’s usually a personal thing. A lot of people want to propose a ‘cure all’, which doesn’t sound realistic since this is a community issue, and we need to solve it as a community. Unfortunately it seems to be moving some parts of the community apart and some forget that we’re talking about PEOPLE.
    I don’t mean to preach, but heroin has affected some of my friends, so i thought i’d give my two cents. If i think of anything promising or useful i’ll comment again.

    July 12, 2007
  242. Holly Cairns said:

    Hey Annoyed Citizen,

    Sounds like you use. Uniformed parents are just as bad as junkies?

    I read the label “zero tolerance” brings more money to our community to fight the drug– sorry for bringing that up.

    Did you not like my “telling on others” idea, or what? Did you not like my my ideas about marijuana?

    Sorry about the grammatical errors. I know that is one of my weaknesses.

    July 12, 2007
  243. Susan Ecklund said:


    Regarding your post #232:

    I did not read the Northfield News article as saying Chief Smith was advocating treatment for dealers (I try to be clear, but it’s difficult when I am seeing red, as I was upon reading that headline). Nor do I question the importance of treatment for some users, especially those who are actually addicted and unable to quit on their own. I still maintain, though, that the police should focus on law enforcement, in this case stopping the heroin transactions that are occurring right here in Northfield. If the situation is as dire as Gary Smith presents it, it seems like that is his most urgent priority. He may be focusing all his efforts on drying up the supply, but that is not what came through in the article.

    July 12, 2007
  244. Penny Hillemann said:

    Just finished reading the straw poll comments. I think the last long comment, on page 33 of the PDF version, presents a suggestion well worth pursuing:

    We can still use this summer for some events [on] Bridge Square. All kinds of stakeholders can say there thing, police, school, health care providers. All must be accompanied by great music that appeals to young folks, and it would be great to have some former drug users speak, perform, etc. There can be open mic nights. Organizations can be out there with their information tables, or just one leaflet with ALL numbers and names together, if people don’t want to go to a specific table. If we have an
    actitivities event each late August, we can certainly do this. Do it OFTEN and SOON, really SOON. City, school, hospital, clinics, colleges, should all be donating resources to these events. If we do it NOW, next week, we , adults, are telling the kids: we care
    about this, we need to get to the bottom of this, we need to network, informally as well as formally, to build the safety nets our children need. The kids in town are buzzing about
    it, at least were for a few days, but are already getting tired of it I hear, so quick community response is necessary.

    July 12, 2007
  245. Max Jennings said:

    In response to many posts tell youth to get involved with afterschool activities (sports, music, theater, clubs). I think that these activities are a good way to combat the drug problems. The sports programs at the high school are to intense though. You can either be on the team or not and if you are on one team you can be in any other sports or clubs or activities. I quit playing soccer, because I couldn’t be in the fall play and on the team at the same time. I think that the sports teams need to be less all or nothing and more come and learn new skills and have fun.
    On a different note, the Key will be hosting a public discussion about the recent drug problems. This will take place on Monday the 16th at 7:00 at the Key (which is located at 303 Water St.). We will have a loose agenda, but we will try to facilitate spontaneous discussion. We hope that the meeting will be intergeneration but with a youth focus and perspective.
    Again this will take place on Monday the 16th at 7:00 at 303 Water St.

    July 12, 2007
  246. If I may be indulged, I would like to continue to dispell some more of the myths surrounding drug use. So far I have pointed out that creativity does not come in a vial, and that feelings of warmth and fearlessness can be had through legal efforts.

    Furthermore, If any adult or authority figure or my little cousin lies to me,
    I don’t have to hurt them back or hurt myself by doing drugs. The best
    fight against a lie is the truth. Research, ask around, figure out what the
    truth of any matter is and go with that, not the drug thing.

    And the same goes for boredom (which I feel is just a form of impatience to grow up and be independent…this is a lesson in patience, which every teen
    needs to develop in order to become a successful person dealing in an ever
    complicated world.) So, boredom can be easily dispelled by thinking of things that can be done in a new and fresh way…as I tried to list in
    my last post. I don’t expect anyone to do any of the things I suggested.
    I merely mean to show that things can be thought of by anyone and done by
    anyone to dispell boredom, the desire to do drugs, and to further your
    human experience, and perhpas even help to make this world a better place.

    Good luck!


    July 12, 2007
  247. Penny Hillemann said:

    Sorry if I am posting too much (not so busy at work this week!), but I wanted to respond to another commenter in the straw poll, who wrote:

    People should not be judged just because they choose to use a drug which has certain side effects. EVERYONE uses drugs, yet the police aren’t trying to go after most people for taking a few acetaminophen, etc. “Illegal drugs” are just what the powers that be see as a treat to their interests. People need to make their own decisions.

    Really? No distinctions between pharmaceuticals should be drawn? No differences in availability (OTC vs. prescription vs. highly controlled/illegal)? No distinction between a mild painkiller or something to stop your sneezing, and drugs that powerfully affect perception, response time, mood and judgment? Between drugs that have no history of creating physiological dependence and those that have a strong history? Between drugs that allow a person with an identified health condition to live a relatively normal life and those that diminish functioning or have longterm deleterious effects? No controls whatsoever by way of age limits (alcohol, tobacco) or physician oversight? Truly, the only reason some drugs are illegal is because of power issues, and no drugs should ever be illegal?

    I think you will find very few people who agree with such a position. Yes, we are an overly medicated society. Yes, the pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in selling us drugs. Yes, we have a cultural history that makes us inconsistent in our approach to different types of drugs (again, alcohol and tobacco as well as caffeine as cases in point). We can work on those issues and on a sane drug policy without opening up the pharmacopoeia for a free-for-all.

    July 12, 2007
  248. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi, good to hear from you Max and from everybody else

    I’ll see you at the Key on Monday.

    You know, back in the early ’90’s I took a small job– the goal was “primary violence prevention”. I was handed nothing but money to help the kids. We called it FreePops and set the curriculum after we found what “worked.” We talked about rape, drugs, dropping out of school, cops, family, gangs, etc. We listened to the kids and heard about their pain, and then decided the goals for what was considered “working” as violence prevention.

    For example, two kids kept saying they were being targeted by the police because their brothers had been in trouble. We brought the police in for food and the kids told them what they thought– and after that the police started to smile when they saw the kids. YOu might think that is stupid, but the kids relaxed a lot. One small step.

    What about using some of the earlier described grant money to do something here in town? What do the kids want or need… start there?

    July 12, 2007
  249. Max Jennings said:

    I don’t know if the police have been specifly invited (I will bring it up with other members of the youth board of the Key), but I think that it would be a great idea to include them in the discussion process.
    Just so it doesn’t get lost and for anyone new to the thread, The Key is hosting a public discussion on the recent drug problems in Northfield.
    The forum will take place on Monday the 16th at 7:00 at 303 Water St.

    July 12, 2007
  250. Mary Rossing said:

    Griff (and Tracy and Ross)
    Thanks for a very good program on KYMN about the issue. It was refreshing to hear a thoughtful conversation and to hear both chief Smith and Dr. Richardson together after hearing them seperately on the radio on previous days. I am going to have to listen to it again since I missed bits here and there, but I encourage others to listen to the alternate local media (KYMN radio) regularly and to tune in to the pod cast.

    July 12, 2007
  251. Griff Wigley said:

    To the anonymous poster, ‘former Northfielder.’ I’ve temporarily deleted your post since you didn’t use your real first and last name. Contact me if you’re willing and I’ll put it back. Thanks.

    July 12, 2007
  252. Christine Stanton said:

    Is it possible for those who attended the Mayor’s Task Force meeting on Tuesday night to attend the meeting at the Key this coming Monday? I agree that it would also be nice to have law enforcement representative(s). School representatives would also be good. I see this meeting as a good opportunity for the adults to listen to what some of the the kids have to say. I plan on attending and I encourage other, concerned parents and community members to do the same.

    July 12, 2007
  253. Jeffrey W. Tenney said:


    This summer my 16 year old daughter came to live with me in Northfield. Since she had no friends in town, she made attempts at finding some, or at least at getting some kind of active life going here.

    She contacted the Arts Guild to offer herself as a volunteer. She got no response. She contacted the Northfield Historical Society to offer herself as a volunteer. She got no response. She contacted the Key, asking what kind of activities they had available that she could participate in. She got no response.

    It’s not so much the lack of availability of opportunities that was disappointing as it was the simple lack of response. How can an organization like the Key, given its mission, not respond to a teenager’s inquiry? Is there a logical reason for this? Are people too busy?

    I doubt that this is Northfield’s problem alone, of course. The point is that the responsibility for engaging our kids in creative and productive and healthy activities lies with the adults, where it’s always been. Are we too busy?

    July 13, 2007
  254. The very same thing happend to me and my husband when we moved here five years ago. We managed to find that we could volunteer for the worst possible jobs, which we did. It’s a hard town to break into, unless you have some particular in road.

    If your daughter would like to take a trip into Apple Valley with me sometime,
    I often go to JoAnn’s fabric store, Bachman’s flower shop, and the Barnes & Noble book store there. No traffic violations ever and I can provide references. Would love the company. I am both old and young. 🙂



    July 13, 2007
  255. Charlene Hamblin said:

    I would just like to say “Good Job” and “Keep up the great work” to Josh Hinnenkamp and all of the great members & young adults at the Key. No person or place can be everything to everyone, but as a parent of a pre-teen who finds the Key a comfortable place to be & hang-out with encouraging, and motivated members of the community, I support you endeavors fully – and encourage others to take note of all that you contribute to the community for out youth.

    July 13, 2007
  256. Randy Jennings said:

    In response to John (post #268), I’m not sure I agree with your closing statement:

    “The point is that the responsibility for engaging our kids in creative and productive and healthy activities lies with the adults, where it’s always been. Are we too busy?”

    First, thinking back just one generation to my teen years, there was much less structure and organization. The summer rules were generally something like, “here’s a bike (or a baseball glove, guitar or whatever), be home for dinner…” Sure there was Legion baseball and swimming lessons and other adult-organized activity, but the main event was learning to find things to do with one’s friends. (And yes, even then there were kids drawn toward dangerous behaviors. But then, like now, those kids were far and away the minority. One thing that’s been lost in the heroin hysteria is a distinction between heroin use as a serious problem for a small number of youth and adults — which it is — and the needs and behaviors of the vast majority of youth in our community, who are NOT involved in descructive drug use.)

    I’d argue that over time many kids have become accustomed to adults organizing too much activity. If kids are used to being tightly scheduled and managed, it can be a frustrating challenge for them to re-learn how to organize for themselves. This can sometimes be a painful process for parents to watch…

    Second, yes it is true that Nfld can be a tough nut to crack, especially without some natural point of connection like work, school, club or church. That said, taking the NAG or the Key as examples, there is a lot going on at both places, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one call or contact asking about how to volunteer will be heard, much less acted upon. I’ve watched my son and daughter get involved at the Key over the past year, and I have to say that I have been very pleasantly surprised at how welcoming the Key has been to a wide range of kids. Have your daughter try again, perhaps by just showing up. If she persists, she probably won’t be disappointed.


    July 13, 2007
  257. Max Jennings said:

    Jeffery, I think that the problem was that we didn’t check the email given on the website was check as often as it should have been and some emails slipped though the cracks. The Key is an very open and welcoming environment and we are best in person, so encourage her to come on down and see the Key. Our hours are Monday-Friday:3:30-10:00PM and Saturday and Sunday:5:00-10:00PM
    Our program list is as follows:
    Mondays at 5:00PM: Book Club (They just started “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, and books are available at the Key).
    Tuesdays at 6:00PM: Art Night (Next Tuesday we will be making hemp bracelets and other hemp stuff).
    Wedsdays at 3:45PM:Youth Board Meeting (anyone is allow to sit in).
    Thursdays at 7:30PM: Writing Workshop (this program mostly runs during the school year mostly and is run by a Carleton student).
    Fridays at 7:00PM: Movie Night or Concerts
    Saturday at 7:00PM: Movie Night if there is a concert.

    July 13, 2007
  258. Charlene Hamblin said:

    Well said, Randy.

    July 13, 2007
  259. Luc Guerber said:

    To comment 270, i’m surprised. It’s unfortunate a youth’s contact to the key was not reciprocated. I wonder how she contacted the key? If she didn’t actually go there, that may be a better course of action. If she did then i’m very surprised. The key reflects the youth involved with it heavily, and i’ve come to understand it as a tool more than a location. People go there to have their ideas take form. If there’s a group of youth, ages 12 to 19 that want to do pretty much anything posative and drug free,(really, ANYTHING – running through shakespeare plays for fun, playing music, playing chess, writing, watching movies, etc.) then they can go to the key. The only question behind a program is whether or not their are enough people dedicated to it. I’ve always felt there are probably people out there that have the capacity to get something good out of the key (which is the same as putting something good into the key) but don’t bother. They key is about the people there, and it always starts with building relationships with key people. Every youth is a potential key person. You don’t necessarily call the key and ask “what’s on your agenda for me?” the question is “who’s around and what are they willing to do?”. Key board meetings are on Wednesday at 3:45 if any youth care to attend, ask questions, give suggestions and make friends. Of course, the key is drug free, and if anyone tells you otherwise, please correct them.

    July 13, 2007
  260. Zach Pruitt said:

    First off, I think it’s great that the Northfield Union of Youth/Key is holding a discussion on Monday evening and hope people are able to attend. I applaud the youth board there for their work in making this happen!

    I just wanted to mention a couple of items that came up at this week’s Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol & Drug Use meeting that may relate to a few posts here.

    The Mayor’s Task Force and the League of Women Voters are hosting another community discussion about this issue as part of the League’s 4th Monday series. The discussion will be held on Monday, July 23 at 7:00 p.m. at the Northfield Public Library. Look for more information to follow in the next couple of days from the League and the Task Force.

    For a number of years, the local drug and alcohol treatment providers have been – and continue to be – willing to talk with local groups about these issues, to share knowledge on available resources, and to answer questions. The most recent trainings were offered this spring for the medical community and for local teachers. However, past sessions have also been held with parents, social service providers, and youth service professionals. If you have groups who are interested in this, please let us know and we’d be happy to work with you to set it up.

    As was mentioned at the Task Force and by Dr. Richardson on the KYMN interview, the Northfield Public Schools and the Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) have conducted an annual school survey of youth that asks about their use of drugs and alcohol, their perceptions of use by peers, their perceptions of disapproval by peers, and their thoughts on how easy it is to obtain these substances. The survey is given to students in grades 6, 8, 9, and 11. The results are analyzed by Roger Jenni, the school district’s coordinator of testing and program assessment. These results are presented to community groups throughout the year. If individuals or groups are interested in these presentations, give us a call.

    Several bloggers have mentioned the importance of youth and adults continuing to talk about these issues, as well as other issues in the community (which is a research-based best practice in youth development). If there are ways that HCI can help/support these conversations among groups you know, give us a call – we’d be happy to do what we can to help support them.

    And again, if there are other ways that we can be helpful or if you have ideas/comments/suggestions, please don’t hesitate to give me or Julie Bubser (HCI Coordinators) a call (664-3524) or Kathy Sandberg (Rice County Family Services Collaborative – 507-333-6813).


    Zach Pruitt
    Coordinator, Northfield Healthy Community Initiative
    Staff support, Rice County Chemical Health Coalition

    July 13, 2007
  261. Lori Martin said:

    I like what you said here. The problem has not been having unstructured time. I would believe, it part, that the difference now might be partly that young people have not had enough opportunity to figure out how to manage that unstructured time. But that still doesn’t perfectly explain why some kids are willing to try a drug that they know can lead to horrendous consequences and why some students decide not to. I see fewer and fewer kids out playing as the years go by. I parents have become over protective (simply comparing parents of my childrens’ friends to parents of my friends growing up). I’m also guilty of being more protective than my parents. But that doesn’t mean everyone is always spending time with their children. More often it means keeping a very close guard on them while they are young…letting them stay indoors and find ways to keep them occupied vs. letting them roam over to the park unsupervised. I understand the fear. The media would have us believe that all of our children will be kidnapped. Of course this can’t be the explanation by itself either. I’d say, if we need to look towards one change, it’s always going to come down to culture. Sociologists often point to the strength of culture in shaping the values and behaviors of a generation. The culture easily has more influence than family. This makes sense, as it explains why I’m not like my grandma, or even my mother. We have all been shaped by the culture that surrounded our generation. The current generation of young people can hardly watch anything on television without getting messages of violence, sex, and drug use. Even several programs for young people have these messages, however hidden. Television is now marketing itself toward your infants. That’s pretty new and pretty freaky, since no pediatrician in America would approve of setting your infant in front of the television. T.V. in itself isn’t so bad, but we need to back up the average 3 hours that children spend watching t.v. daily with good, real-life discussions on culture, messages, values, and the tricks of marketing. We need to back it up with equally strong real-life playing and learning experiences and opportunities to develop critical thinking. (in brain scans, it has been noted that we use less of our brain in watching television than we do in sleeping…the frontal lobe is completely on vacation…this is the part of the brain that helps us eventually make sound decisions and it continues to develop usually into one’s twenties). It’s hard to compete with 3 hours of television. While t.v. can’t be argued to be so bad in itself, this leaves little time for those real experiences and conversations that can help young people develop critical and creative thinking skills, social skills, or really any skills. It takes extra effort for parents to find safe ways to keep their youngsters occupied once deciding to set limits to television and video games. It means getting nagged more often and occassionally wondering if you should let your kid walk to the park with friends and trust that they’ll come back okay.

    While I have no problem with the ideas of creating more activities for kids (who can say this is bad), I don’t think it will solve any new drug problems. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple? If we are really concerned, we need to think a little deeper in order to really understand this generation and the effects the current culture has had and continues to have on shaping their values, fears, beliefs, and behaviors. Encourage kids to start thinking critically about the mass of garbage and marketing that is thrown their way. Stop underestimating the power of fake experience (video games, television) in large doses on the developing mind. Somehow young people have come to believe (a few of them) that doing heroin is high-class. Where did this come from? This was NOT the belief my generation had. So it has nothing to do with drug education, which has largely stayed the same aside from adding new information on prescription drugs and meth. Somehow it is now easier to grow up with a false view of reality. And the more kids spend unengaged (as in not really doing something that requires them to continue in their development in any form, such as thinking, creating, discussing, or playing), the less able they are to respond to potentially harmful messages. Book smart does not equal good powers of judgement. I belief it is entirely possible to earn all A’s and not know how to make a good decision in the current culture that is fascinated by high marks, “success” for its own sake, earning power, narcissism, and almost anything but questioning new information and fads or deciding to discover some truth through our own experience. For starters, get rid of all marketing (Channel One if your schools have it) in the schools and make sure there are strong communications classes in place that help kids begin to question what they see presented in the magazines and television programs around them. Just because someone with a sexy voice sings about going to rehab does not mean that going to rehab is some common experience that is no big deal. This singer is a real person who is putting her own life in jeopardy and while she looks happy because she is successful and loaded with money, perhaps she is miserable. Etc. Engage kids in real-life experiences. This does not have to be structured. Encourage them to get started in a way that is meaningful to them (allow them to choose from many great options) and guide them with as little involvement as you can get by with. If we can gear kids towards engaging activities that we have not set up and entirely designed for them and that are not monitored by us each minute, kids might find value in their real-life opportunties for connecting with others, being constructive, useful, or creative. For some reason, some kids are taking the route of ultimate unengagement (blotting out reality with hard drugs). I doubt they have not had “activities” available to them. Adding more of the same thing will not produce different results. To get different results, it’s time to do something different. That means, not the same thing with another name or a slightly different spin. It’s time to really think outside the box. But that requires beginning to really understand this generation through from their perspective, as much as possible, and not from our perspective. My childhood was really quite different than those experienced by young people today. So I need to step back and figure out what is different….what needs to go, what needs to stay, where young people need guidance, and where they can find their strengths in new ways.

    July 13, 2007
  262. Lori Martin said:

    And keep thinking way ahead of the game. Treatment centers are necessary. But by the time someone is hooked on heroin, treatment or no treatment, the prognosis is not very good. I think we can all agree that the goal is to raise children to believe that something as dangerous as heroin is not even worth trying. Part of that is drug education and helping kids see how truly frightening this is (I might add that noone I went to treatment with some 15 years ago is clean or sober today…I feel very lucky). The other part is helping kids set up a life for themselves that feels engaging and purposeful and valuable. Treatment centers won’t cure the drug problem. They will help very, very few people (the treatment centers won’t tell you this). For those few people, they are important. And it is also important to give everyone the opportunity to get clean. But getting off hard drugs is obviously a lot harder than starting them. Look at treatment options in Northfield, as they are probably needed. But this should be a relatively small part of the focus in looking at this problem.

    July 13, 2007
  263. Jeffrey W. Tenney said:

    Zach –

    I enjoyed reading your comments, and I would agree that the problem is largely cultural. You sound like someone who has run the gauntlet of pop culture diversions while trying to raise children to think differently.

    I think Northfield and other places have much of the architecture in place for involving kids in healthy activities, but the apparatus is not enough. The adults running the apparatus have to run it well, which requires having the time and energy for it. A kid reaching out for a healthy connection most likely needs an adult to make that connection happen.

    Thanks, again, for your thoughtful essay.

    July 13, 2007
  264. Lori Martin said:

    to Tyson W.,
    I don’t buy into the boredom excuse either. Thank you for pointing out a likely problem in articulating the real “why.” One young person stated boredom as the reason, but then also said more activities will not help because he is an athlete…he is already busy. So I do not mean to criticize him or tell him that he is wrong. I’d only hope he could continue to survey the issue from his perspective so that he could someday help himself and help others better understand. Those in the midst of current drug use are certainly worth listening to, but they are not usually able to articulate the real reasons for their drug use. If they were, they would likely stop or ask for help. All superficial excuses make it okay to keep using. Truth is, many people get hooked to the high. So we can all understand that. The problem is why do some kids decide it is worth the risk? Why have they somehow let themselves fall into making such risky decisions? We know the frontal lobe is continuing to develop through adolescence and this is why kids need all the help and guidance they can get in making good choices. Parents and friends should be asking lots of questions…staying involved in a way that shows interest and concern but not controlling their every move. I would like to know why an athlete would believe that trying heroin would not cause any problems for him. Or why problems would be okay? I am not criticizing this young man. I would like to better understand. This means asking different questions and encouraging young people to articulate what is really going on. Boredom is an answer, but it’s not the root of the problem. As long as one continues to use and justify use, they won’t likely understand it themselves. So hopefully those who have avoided temptation or who have come off drugs will be able to share their insights. Once in a while you can find an honest drug user who has some real clarity about the situation. But most often, when it comes to drug use, the explanations are clouded with blaming and justification. This is not to criticize the user. This is simply the nature of drug use and especially of addiction. Users and addicts can begin to understand the root of the issue (the reason why they need to blot out reality or why getting high is worth all the risk, etc), but it often takes good questions to get them there. A simply “why” will get you a simple answer.

    July 13, 2007
  265. Lori Martin said:

    to Jeffrey,

    thanks for sharing your daughter’s experience. Simply responding to people is a matter of courtesy that seems to be undervalued in too many places in every city. It sounds like your daughter had a stream of bad luck, but I applaud her for making efforts to connect in a new town. It’s challenging to move in high school, but her continued efforts to connect will help her develop those needed resources for a move to college and a place of work beyond that.

    I hope others hear this message and wake up. Responding to inquiries is simply NOT difficult, and in the cases you described, it was the responsibility. Encourage your daughter to keep trying. It sounds like you’re doing well to help her connect and find a place for herself in a new town. Check with the hospital or nursing homes or elementary schools. There might be a couple young people who could use a summer or after-school reading mentor or an elderly person who can no longer read his or her favorite parts of the newspaper but would love to have someone come in and read for them and simply “be there” for a while. Best wishes to you and your daughter.

    July 13, 2007
  266. Marie Fischer said:

    Adding on to what Zach said (275), the Key is indeed holding a discussion on everything surrounding heroin, drugs, and youth. Adults are welcome (as always) and we hope to have a very interesting conversation between age groups, and we hope that we can look forward to asking each other questions. The discussion will be Monday at 7:00 (sorry if this is short notice) at the Key. Every regular poster on Locally Grown seems to be very involved in this topic, and I hope some of you could make it.

    July 13, 2007
  267. not given said:

    Hello again.

    I had a great conversation with Mr. Wigley, and I would just like to say that he’s a great guy for making this blog available to the public of northfield. For a man with no connections to the problem he shows a genuine concern for this town and the issues at hand. Finally i feel there is now a forum for people to express themselves. From my experience Northfield is a town where people tend to turn the other cheek and just kind of give off the impression that “it couldn’t happen here”. I really aprreciate this forum and everyones comments.

    I struggle with addiction everyday of my life and am one of the lucky ones who is living sober a day at a time. There is a saying in A.A./N.A. and it goes something like, drugs/alcohol gets you no where in life but jails instituions and death..i once heard it described as being locked up, sobered up, or covered up. Thats all you get in the life of addiction and i hope for any addicts reading this they make a cry for help!! If your too scared to go to someone you love or trust find an A.A. meeting and ask for help or suggestions.

    If that doesn’t work for you i strongly strongly suggest Omada Behavioral Health (i think thats the title) haha….But go and talk to Sarah Shippy…That is a woman who would give you the shirt off her back..anything you need as far as help.. Go get an assesment and please do what you can to get help. I shot dope for two years. lots of dope a day..I tryed three inpatients and now this time I am working a program (A.A.) and have a sponser. I also started Opiate Replacement Therapy. I am using Buprenorphine on a maintence dosage.

    Ask a professional for help ask anyone that loves you or vice versa!! ASK ME! And parents/loved ones/guardians..Make it known that you will do your best to understand and that addiction is a disease…Tell them how far you’d go for them to get well, get help, to get your old child back!! Alot of kids and young adults, hell even adults think their parents just won’t understand. Make it known that you want them to do the best they can in life..even if you think they already know it!! If anyone has questions please ask i’d love to help anyone in need.. Take care of yourselves and God Bless..

    July 13, 2007
  268. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, NG, I appreciate that. I, too, enjoyed our conversation last night — getting to know you a little and hearing your story. And I found that the information you provided was, once again, very helpful in my understanding of the Northfield situation. I hope you can keep tabs on what happens next and that I get a chance to meet you soon.

    I sure hope you can stay clean and sober. You’ve got a great life ahead of you and, based on what you’ve demonstrated here so far, you could really help others recover and maybe even avoid the hell you’ve been through.

    July 13, 2007
  269. Griff Wigley said:

    So many of you have made comments that I’d like to respond to (agree, applaud, argue, ask questions). It’s frustrating to not have enough time, but I guess that’s a good problem to have.

    I’m hoping that the Star Tribune does another article on this issue sometime in the next few days, this time a comprehensive take on all that’s happened since this story began 3 weeks ago.

    If and when that happens, I’ll start a new blog post and invite the discussion to continue there, as this thread is taking a long time to load.

    Hope to see many of you Monday night at The Key for the discussion. Max and Marie, thanks for posting the info here. I’ve blogged it.

    July 13, 2007
  270. anonymous said:

    I’d like to stay anonymous only out of respect for the traditions of AA, but would like to say congrats to “not given” on giving the 12-step program a shot. I became willing to go to any length when drugs and alcohol were quickly but surely wrecking my life on every front. I’ve been clean and sober for more than a decade. I lost all desire to get drunk or high a long time ago. No interest at all. Too many other things to do and enjoy! “not given”, the “promises” do come true. Don’t leave the program until you find that out for yourself. Anyone else: if you’re fighting an addiction, consider a meeting (AA, NA, OA, GA, etc). Unlike treatment (which helped me dry out a few times), it’s free. You are sure to get help from others who know addictions because they have been there and found a way out (not read about it in a book). Check your local directory. As for families trying to wrap their minds around how to help an addicted loved one, I would encourage you to give Al-anon a shot. Same thing….getting direction and support from people who’ve been in your shoes and have found a way to deal.

    July 14, 2007
  271. Holly Cairns said:

    Also, I am hoping Monday’s meeting at the Key will focus on Heroin and (maybe) prescription drug abuse. We could spend a lot of time talking about drugs in general– etc. To me, there will always be drug usage and abuse and so I’d like to focus on heroin, as I think that is a particularly bad drug…

    I wouldn’t want to argue all night about marijuana or drug legalization, which I don’t really care all that much about…

    July 14, 2007
  272. Marie Fischer said:

    No worries, Holly. The Youth Board is going to write up a loose agenda for us to stick to and it will consist mostly of heroin topics.

    July 14, 2007
  273. Griff Wigley said:

    Mayor Lee Lansing, Joan Janusz and Kathy Cooper, members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use, have a commentary piece in today’s Northfield News:

    In the fight against heroin, we’re all in this together

    The first step is to learn more. On Monday, July 23 there will be a learning and dialoging opportunity through the 4th Monday discussion of the League of Women Voters. In partnership with the Mayor’s Task Force, this discussion will help Northfield community members learn about what is already being done and about ways to get involved. It provides the opportunity to ask questions and give valuable input. The discussion will be held at the Northfield Library beginning at 7:00 pm.

    July 14, 2007
  274. It is good to see a community rally up for this issue.
    And I would like to make sure that the users and former users get a
    hearty round of good wishes and appreciation for their coming forward.
    It is an invaluable effort. And although it takes plenty of courage
    sometimes to be and stay sober and straight over anyone’s lifetime,
    it takes a special selflessness to step up and say “I made a mistake,
    and I am here to say, please don’t follow in my path.” How many of us
    are willing to do that in our daily affairs when we walk upon a
    shady trail? That kind of thing usually occurs only after we get
    caught, if then.

    Anyway, I would also like people to keep in mind that although the
    groups and the organizations and the service people are all an
    important part of gtting things done, in the end, it is the in
    dividual person that needs attention.

    Each individual
    is different and may require a very wholistic approach to healing,
    taking into consideration personal beliefs, habits, culture and
    dreams for the future. In other words, the mind, body and spirit
    of the addict must be considered, and considered on an individual
    basis very attentively.

    Much of this understanding should be realized even before the addict approaches the agency where they will be receiving support.

    It is my sincerest hope that what I have said is already known,
    but I hope to remind anyone who may have forgotten as part my
    contribution to this discussion.


    July 14, 2007
  275. Christine Stanton said:

    I thought this was interesting in respect to how the community is reacting to the heroin “news.” I also want to say that I do not believe that feelings are good or bad. It is what we do with those feelings that can be labeled good or bad. Telling someone that they should not feel a certain way is not helpful. Our emotions, however, can be changed by altering the way we think about something. Those emotions can also be altered by the actions we take in response to our emotions.


    “This emotional cycle is not exclusive to the terminally ill, it also affects people and communities impacted by bad news. The important factor is not that the change is good or bad, but that the person or community perceives it as a significantly negative event.”

    In my personal experiences I have learned that change brings grief. Each time we are forced to deal with a new reality, we experience grief. In that way, we all experience many “griefs” throughout our lifetime. The publicity of heroin use among youth and young adults in Northfield is a new reality for many of us. No matter what the numbers are, it is natural that we would experience feelings of denial and anger.

    July 15, 2007
  276. Rebecca Tofte said:

    Hi Grif
    What do I need to stop getting a million emails?
    I just wnat to be able to go on when I have time??

    July 16, 2007
  277. Griff Wigley said:

    Frank, I’ve moderated your comment, as your tone was hostile and not anywhere near the spirit of constructive discussion that we want to foster here.

    July 17, 2007
  278. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m halting further comments to this blog post since:

    * It’s getting a bit unwieldy, with so many related issues/subtopics

    * It’s taking a long time to load the nearly 300 comments

    * There are other blog posts here on Locally Grown where people can comment on this issue.

    But I must say, I’m really pleased with both the quality and quantity of contributions from such a wide variety of citizens. Thank you everyone, and I hope you’ll continue to participate.

    July 17, 2007

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