Communities come together for drug program

Almost 200 residents of western Lake Minnetonka cities met at the Gillespie Center on Nov. 1

Tim Sonnek, an officer with the Orono Police Department, spoke to the Gillespie Center audience on Thursday, Nov. 1 about what he has learned about drug abuse working with the West Metro Drug Task Force. (Photo by Blaze Fugina)
Tim Sonnek, an officer with the Orono Police Department, spoke to the Gillespie Center audience on Thursday, Nov. 1 about what he has learned about drug abuse working with the West Metro Drug Task Force. (Photo by Blaze Fugina)

Residents from area communities came together on Thursday, Nov. 1 at the Gillespie Center in Mound to hear from a panel of local authorities about the growing drug abuse trend in the Twin Cities area.

A crowd of about 200 people attended the nearly two-hour presentation, and those in attendance included teenagers, senior citizens, teachers, school administrators, officers of law enforcement, elected officials and drug addiction professionals.

Towards the end of the program, one man in the audience asked what the most important thing parents should know about the increasing drug abuse trend.

“Just observation, recognizing it in your own family,” said Orono Police Chief Correy Farniok. “There are resources out there that are available for people you think may have, or have an addiction.”

The program was sponsored by the local cities of Minnetonka Beach, Minnetrista, Mound, Orono, Spring Park; the Westonka and Orono school districts; and the Mound Crime Prevention Association.

The keynote speaker for the program was recently retired Drug Abuse Strategy Officer Carol Falkowski. She explained that many heroin addictions actually begin with prescription opiate abuse, and they turn to heroin for a more powerful drug that is inexpensive.

“It’s a matter of getting the right number to text (message),” she said. “It’s just a text away.”

The Twin Cities area has also become a haven for heroin users in the past few years. Falkowski said that in recent reports the area has been cited as one of the highest in strength and lowest in cost for heroin.

“It’s extremely pure and extremely inexpensive,” she said.

Falkowski said that parents who are raising young children need to have conversations with their kids early about drug abuse. If a member of a family has a drug problem, said Falkowski, that doesn’t make them a bad person.

“Kids with drug and alcohol problems are not bad kids, and families with kids who have drug and alcohol problems are not bad families,” said Falkowski.

After Falkowski was finished speaking, Orono Police Officer Tim Sonnek spoke about his experiences working as part of the West Metro Drug Task Force.

Sonnek explained that their attempts to stop heroin use have often led them to Minneapolis, where residents can buy heroin from dealers. Residents often choose between drug dealers from Mexican cartels in south Minneapolis and Middle East gangs in north Minneapolis.

“You might ask, ‘are all the (heroin) drug dealers from Minneapolis?’” said Sonnek. “Most of them are.”

The next speaker, a Maple Grove man who lost his sister to a heroin overdose, spoke about his experiences as a family member to someone who had an addiction.

“Once you try it, it controls you,” said the man. “Unfortunately she found out the hard way.”

After the speakers had finished, the panel allowed for around a half hour of time for members of the audience to ask questions about addiction. One of the questions was directed at the Mound Westonka Superintendent Kevin Borg, asking what the schools are doing to keep students from becoming addicted to illegal drugs.

Borg said that the district’s administrative policies and relationships with officers is important to help keep drugs from area teens. The relationship the district has with families is also important.

“It’s our relationship with families, it’s our relationship with our students, it’s how we interact with our kids,” he said.

After the meeting, those in attendance were asked to submit any comments on what they felt would help in the fight against drug addiction.