Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Stearns County: Alcohol still ‘undisputed king’ of abused substances

Duluth methadone clinic’s closing may cause trouble;  Marshall Red Cross prepares for quick response; cutting edge crop-growing facility eyes Fergus Falls; and more.

Stearns County officials say the underage- and binge-drinking problems are as serious now as in decades past, reports Frank Lee of the St. Cloud Daily Times. Mike Matanich, the community health supervisor for the Stearns County Public Health Division, said about 12.5 percent of students in the sixth grade, 7 percent of students in the ninth grade and 6 percent of students in the 12th grade in Stearns County had their “first drink” of alcohol by age 10, according to a 2010 statistics. At the Sept. 15 football game at St. John’s University in Collegeville against the University of St. Thomas, almost 20 charter buses containing many inebriated UST fans contributed to the 53 alcohol-related citations made by St. Joseph police and Stearns County deputies. “I was out there, walking through the crowds of students, and you nearly could become intoxicated just smelling their breath,” Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said at an alcohol awareness meeting. At least 12 people were sent to St. Cloud Hospital’s Emergency Trauma Center that day for extreme intoxication.

If the Lake Superior Treatment Center closes on Oct. 8, current and former patients said they expect street crime to increase as addicts seek other ways to get drugs, writes Brandon Stahl of the Duluth News Tribune“There’s going to be a lot more violence, more home invasions, more deaths,” predicted Bridgett Tadych, who has been going to the clinic since 2008. Methadone is used to replace addicts’ use of opiate-based drugs such as heroin or narcotic painkillers such as OxyContin. But methadone also is highly addictive, and people on treatment who come off the drug are supposed to do so under the supervision of a physician and at a slow pace. “They’re going to get really sick,” said Jason Aebli, who has been a patient at the clinic for the past 2½ years. “There are going to be a lot of people who are not going to be able to go to work, who are not going to be able to take care of their kids.” Ann Bushey St. Louis County’s director of human services, said, “We are hopeful and confident that the state is developing a plan for these individuals.”

The Prairie Winds chapter of the American Red Cross plans to set up COMDAT (Community Disaster Action Teams) of at least five volunteers for each of five disaster centers set up in the region including Lyon, Lincoln, Yellow Medicine, and Pipestone counties, reports Steve Browne of the Marshall Independent. Prairie Winds Executive Director Colleen Grothem said “Basically it goes back to the concept that in good old Minnesota when something happens, people in the community will spring into action.” The disaster centers will serve as supply depots, storing enough cots and bedding, food, water, first aid and medical kits to set up a shelter for up to 25 people. … Managing a shelter involves not just setting up rows of cots, but preparing food according to public health standards and keeping track of clients, some of whom may be small children.

A cutting-edge crop-growing facility may be headed to Fergus Falls, writes Ryan Howard of the Fergus Falls Journal. Fergus Falls Township “has approved the construction of an approximately 20,000-square-foot building on property owned by Lee Barry on U.S. Highway 59. Pending final agreements, Barry plans to lease the building to Vertical Farms Produce, a company that is pioneering a space-saving approach to crop growing via aeroponics — the cultivation of plants in a mist or air environment without soil. … Once it completes final federal processes, Vertical Farms Produce would begin operating an indoor farm system in the building — the first of its kind using this specific technology in the United States. As much as 25 acres of lettuce could be grown year-round, according to Economic Improvement Commission Director Harold Stanislawski. Herbs and a few other plants can also be grown in the environment, which saves space by stacking racks of plants (which germinate in compact chunks of peat) on top of each other. The process doesn’t use any herbicides, fungicides or pesticides and recycles its own wastewater, and the process is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Stanislawski.”

Article continues after advertisement

This week, 42 physicians and scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden are attending meetings and seminars at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester as the link between the two organizations grows stronger, writes Jeff Hansel of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Karolinska, known as one of the world´s leading medical universities, is where the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine is awarded annually. The 18-year collaboration has grown so that about 100 people from both organizations gather each year for joint sessions focusing on the latest developments in Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, regenerative medicine and cancer research. The meeting site bounces between the United States and Sweden. Mayo-Karolinska co-publications are increasing, a sign of the ongoing relationships that have formed. Genetic predisposition to disease, epidemiology, metabolism and insulin resistance are all under study. Paolo Macchiarini, director of the Advanced Center for Translational Regenerative Medicine at Karolinska, presented “Grand Rounds” at Mayo, discussing research efforts to provide tracheal transplants using biomechanical scaffolds and patients’ own cells to form new tracheas. According to Mayo, Macchiarini “has successfully replaced the cancerous windpipes of several cancer patients with ones made in a laboratory and covered in stem cells taken from the patients’ own bone marrow. Mayo Clinic and the Karolinska Institute are exploring a specific collaboration in the area of larynx regeneration.”