County drug forum tells parents to ‘feel empowered’

"What do I say if I find something?" "Where do we go to talk?"

"Can you search the house if I tip you off?"

Questions flew from a cadre of concerned parents during the Q&A session at the end of Ramsey County's "United We Stand" community forum on teenage drug use and addiction Thursday, Oct. 29, at Mounds View High School.

The questions were answered by a panel of law enforcement officials and young people who were in recovery from addiction. Their answers were clear, and hewed to common themes.

"Be a parent," the panelists told the crowd, adding discuss the tough issues, "stand your ground and remember that you're in charge."

Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom emceed the evening forum that included New Brighton Director of Public Safety Bob Jacobson and Mounds View Police Chief Tim Kinney, along with MVHS' school resource Officer Will Rzeszutek, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and representatives from Know The Truth, a drug abuse prevention group.

With respect to teenage drug use and addiction, the police chiefs and Choi said incarceration isn't necessarily their only end, with the legal system moving towards seeking recovery, if possible.

"When I go to work my goal is to not arrest kids," Rzeszutek said, adding, "If I can keep them out of the justice system, that's my goal."

Representatives from Know The Truth discussed their stories of teenagers and young adults struggling with addiction, and the mother of a young man who died of a heroin overdose — he was a grad from Tartan High School in Oakdale — told her story of loss to the somber audience.

Sobering statistics

Officials also presented numbers: A survey of Ramsey County high school students found that 29 percent of them reported using illegal drugs. The vast majority reported using marijuana, 18 percent reported using prescription pills and 1 percent said they'd used heroin.

Heroin and prescription pills — specifically opioid painkillers, like Oxycodone — were of particular concern at the forum.

Speakers said the narcotic medications act as a gateway drug as they're easy to get initially, by actual prescription or through friends or family, but become more difficult to find over time. Users then turn to heroin, which is relatively cheap and abundant.

Heroin is a dangerous drug; speakers said overdose deaths in the metro are on the rise, with Ramsey County recording 42 in 2014.

Bostrom closed the forum with a simple message to parents: "Please feel empowered."

For more information about Know The Truth go to

Ramsey County offers three locations to drop-off unwanted medicines: The Law Enforcement Center, 425 Grove St. in St. Paul, open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the Sheriff's Patrol Station, 1411 Paul Kirkwood Drive in Arden Hills, open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; North St. Paul City Hall, 2400 Margaret St. in North St. Paul, open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


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