Within the next few days, Crow Wing County will announce the availability of Drug Test Kits which can be purchased at a reduced cost, at the Crow Wing County Health Department.
The kits will cost $10 plus tax, and will allow the quick testing for six illegal drugs including methamphetamine, within the privacy of your own home.
I believe that we've come to a crossroad within our social norms and value system. We need to decide which road to take.
Some will ignore the crossroad, and continue to move forward without recognizing that people they know -- children, friends, family members, and others are risking their lives and those of others by using drugs, especially meth.
They will ignore the social and economic impact this drug has on our community, and they will ignore the cost to every property owner who pays the tax that pays for the destruction from this drug through law enforcement, prosecution, treatment, out-of-home placements, cleanup, increased crime and personal loss.
Others will realize the impact of these drugs, especially meth, and take a turn which focuses on punishment after the fact. There will be a cry for longer punishment terms in prison. The governor and Legislators have already indicated that there is significant support to this approach, and the governor has indicated that he is willing to support increased punishment and increasing the statewide drug team up to 10 full-time officers. He supports a $3 million program for this effort and undetermined increased costs for prisons of which we currently have significant shortages of available beds.
Others will take a turn toward increased prevention efforts, favoring the concept of community based programs which focus on a multi-disciplinary program in slowing and preventing future problems from the drugs, especially Meth. They will support and favor increased community education, prevention, intervention and treatment options.
Crow Wing County has chosen a combination of the latter two of these options, and has developed a strategic plan for dealing with drug problems, especially meth.
Within that plan, the county will be offering drug testing kits to those people who wish to confirm or deny drug usage within a three day period. The drug testing can be conducted randomly in the privacy of their own home. The program is primarily targeted at parents.
I realize that this concept is a major choice which is now becoming available to parents. Drug testing of your children is a subject few parents want to deal with. Parents want to trust their kids, and they have a natural belief that their children will make the right choices.
However, reality within our own community has shown that the availability of illicit drugs within Crow Wing County and the potency levels of some of these drugs, will cause many parents to make a determination that they must know, at an early state, whether their children are using drugs. This is extremely important when we discover that research shows that addiction to these drugs by adolescents can happen within 2 to 6 months from initial use.
Parents who believe that their value system does not tolerate the illegal use of drugs will be able to make that belief very clear to their children with the availability of random drug testing kits. These kits are easy to use, readily available from the County Health Department, are 99.9 percent accurate and are FDA cleared.
Taking a strong stand against drug use and implementing a random drug testing policy at home sends a very clear message to a child. In fact, this policy can actually help children say no to drugs. They don't want to get caught, and they are less likely to use. Such a policy acts as a deterrent. If even that deterrent proves to be insufficient, then random testing will catch drug usage in the early stages, when it's much easier to deal with.
This concept is a family choice. Crow Wing County is offering a process by which your family can make that choice a part of your family value system. The kits will be available to you at the cost the county pays plus tax.
I've personally seen, experienced and heard the devastating stories that drug usage causes families and friends. I've heard parents ask what they can do besides raise their children to the best value system their family can offer. The drug test kit is offered not to create conflict, but rather to build trust as another tool in the parent tool kit, designed to open communication between parents and their children on the subject of drug usage.
The vast majority of families will likely know and understand the personal values of their children and may never consider random drug testing. They will not see conflict within the family value system, and know that their children unquestionably are not using drugs.
Families who reach this crossroad, recognize the potential dangers of not looking both ways before driving through the street; will now have an additional option to explore with one simple and quick turn down the road of increased security down the path of life.
Terry L. Sluss, M.S., is the Crow Wing County methamphetamine prevention coordinator.
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