LITTLE FALLS, Minn. - By many accounts, the small town of Little Falls has a lot of good things going for it.
"Little Falls is extremely good community," said Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem.
Yet some believe the recent tragic killings of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady have exposed a drug issue in the community.
"There is a big problem in this community," said Cindy, who lives in Little Falls.
Cindy and her daughter, Lynn agreed to talk to KARE 11 under the condition we would not release their last names or show their faces on camera because they fear of retribution.
Lynn is a former addict who has moved away and is now a college student. She's been clean for about a year. She says she started abusing prescription drugs when she was 14-years-old, which then led to heroin.
"It's so unbelievably accessible in this town almost anyone could get it if they wanted it," said Lynn.
"As a parent, it's very scary. It's very scary," added Cindy.
Both say if you have prescription drugs in this town, you better lock them up.
"If you're not going to use them, get rid of them," said Lynn.
"Because they'll disappear," added her mother.
Experts say prescription drug use is a very popular drug among teens. And communities throughout the state and country are dealing with the problem, says Little Falls Police Chief Greg Schirmers.
"That's happening in every community and we're seeing it in Little Falls, as well. Do I think it's an epidemic or out of control, I don't think so," he said about the town.
Schirmers and VanRisseghem acknowledged a problem, but believe the city is handling it.
"I lived in Little Falls all of my life. I don't see it's getting out of control," said VanRisseghem.
Schirmers says understandably the town is on heightened awareness.
And that's what Cindy and her daughter believe is needed.
"When is it's going to stop? When is the help going to come?" asked Cindy.
The Morrison County Administrator and the Little Falls Community Schools Superintendent released the following statement about the concerns involving drugs Friday.
The Little Falls community, Morrison County, and its' schools care deeply about the health and safety of our young people. Like other communities throughout Minnesota and our nation, substance use among youth and the harm associated with use are a concern to many community members. We worry about the negative and the far too often devastating outcomes that can result from these high-risk behaviors.
While the majority of young people in our community are avoiding substance use, we know there are some youth who use alcohol and drugs, including the use of medications without a doctor's prescription. Throughout Morrison County and within its' schools, there has been a proactive approach to implementing comprehensive substance use prevention efforts over the past several years.
Local law enforcement, the schools, youth, parents, and community members have rallied together to work on many efforts to reduce the access and use of all substances by youth in the community. These efforts include enhancements to prescription drug monitoring and prescribing practices, the development of a drug tip line, prescription drug take-back initiatives, educational forums for students about substance use dangers, and the implementation of substance use prevention instruction at multiple grade levels. The community is also in the beginning stages of developing a campaign to correct dangerous misperceptions students have about the normalcy of substance use among their peers. In addition, a community coalition, the Stand Up 4 U coalition, made up of parents, youth, school, law enforcement, government, faith community, business, and healthcare, is working to understand root causes of youth substance use issues to find and implement strategies that will make long-term impacts.
Addressing substance use issues in any community is a challenge, and we are united in our commitment to the health and safety of youth in our community. A recent survey showed most adults feel the community has a responsibility for the health and well-being of the youth in the community. We will continue to work together to help everyone in our community, including our youth, feel empowered to make healthy choices and avoid all substance use.
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