'We're Here to Help'
If someone has a drug or alcohol problem, Kasson- Mantorville High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions group is there to help.
“I’m actually really excited to support the people, because they’re part of our community,” SADD o cer Amy Buehler said. “It’s good to let them know that we’re here if they need anything.”
“I think it’s really important to bring awareness to what kids are doing these days,” said Hannah Brum Field, her friend and fellow officer.
The students participated Sept. 21 in the rst “Recovery Walk,” following a police escort from K-M Middle School to the high school, where speakers discussed the dangers of a wide variety of over-the-counter items that can be dangerous and addictive if used improperly. The SADD students hosted the event with “Stage by Staige,” a chemical dependency treatment center which opened in June in downtown Kasson.
Co-owner Karen Staige, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, said recovery is about communities as well as individuals.
“We need to get involved in the schools,” she said. “We have a very active SADD group here in the Kasson schools. They wanted to get involved with us, so they worked really hard. They’ve had some contests here: poster contests, trivia contests. We had some support from the community with some prizes.
“We need to raise awareness about recovery, not just in substance use, but also in some of the over-the-counter type things,” Staige said. “We need to remove the stigmas. We need to treat it as the disease that it is. Because it is a disease. It’s no different than cancer or diabetes.” Keynote speaker Dan Becker, a master-level alcohol and drug counselor based in St. Cloud, displayed more than 400 ordinary-looking products that can be purchased over the counter and yet contain addictive, potentially life- threatening chemicals – which weren’t around 10 years ago in such products.
He speaks throughout Minnesota, trying to raise awareness in schools.
“There are a lot of new and emerging ‘youth chemicals’ that kids are more than likely to get involved with than the older people, just because the older people have their things that they’ve been doing, if they’re into chemicals at all,” Becker said. “It’s the kids who think they’re bullet-proof, and they want to try something new. A lot of new methods for pretty powerful things, like on breath strips and mints, gums, chews and nasal spray, suntan lotion, lip balm. There are chemicals on everything. So you’ve really got to watch out.
“Hopefully we’re catching a lot of these kids before something happens,” he said. “That’s the best case scenario: tell them what it is and what it’s all about before they get involved with it. That would be way better than after something happens. In this case, I think they got an event together before something terrible has happened, which is really what you want to do.”
Becker said he keeps newspaper obituary clippings of people who have died when trying those new drugs.
“From just Minnesota in the last two years, I’ve got about 26 of ‘em. That I’m aware of,” he said. “The oldest one is probably 29, and the youngest is 14. So it’s that age group that thinks it’s bullet-proof, that’s going to try it.”
SADD advisor Cori Ronnenberg, who teaches physical education and health at K-M, said she was proud of her young students.
“This is the first time the SADD students have actually worked with it, so it’s new for them, too,” she said. “And we’re all about giving back to the community this year. This was brought to my attention about a month ago, and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. We want to be a part of it. And then I told the students, and they were, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, we want to do it, and we want to help.’ “So they’ve been working their butts off trying to get this set up, trying to get people to show up, and just come together as a community. And that’s why they’re in SADD,” Ronnenberg said.