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 Methamphetamine and Minnesota

UMD Helps Communities
Deal with a Growing Problem

Department of Social Work

When three members of the UMD Department of Social Work decided to convene a conference on the impact of methamphetamine, they didn’t know how desperate the need for information had become. The deeper they became involved in the issue, the more they saw that resources about methamphetamine abuse were needed by people in a wide range of disciplines: social workers, educators, medical professionals, and law enforcement personnel. Photo: Becki Hornung, Johanna Garrison, and Karen Nichols.

Johanna Garrison, outreach and curriculum development coordinator, Becki Hornung, instructor and child welfare student support coordinator, and Karen Nichols, associate administrator, all in the Department of Social Work, organized the conference, "The Impact of Methamphetamine on Children and Families: Research and Community Response," held in February at UMD. The sessions filled immediately. Garrison said, “We were overwhelmed by the response. Child welfare practitioners, many of whom are our graduates, and other professionals needed research-based information. It was a good fit for UMD to put on the conference.”

Since the conference, the Social Work Department has posted and maintained a UMD web page for people seeking resources for dealing with methamphetamine issues. "We realized that one conference was hardly enough," said Garrison. "We had to do more to help, so we started gathering research and posting it on the internet." The web page is:

The problem isn’t going away anytime soon. The U.S. President's National Drug Control Strategy for 2006 finds that methamphetamine use is rising: treatment admissions for amphetamines and methamphetamines have increased 500 percent since 1992, and workplace positive drug tests have increased 200 percent since 2001. According to a survey of 500 sheriff's departments in 45 states, methamphetamine abuse has become the nation's leading drug problem affecting local law enforcement agencies. It’s packing U.S. jails.

UMD’s Social Work Department is especially concerned because arrests have swamped agencies that care for children whose parents have become addicted. The treatment time is long; it’s at least a year before the drug is out of an addict’s system. Child welfare laws only give a parent six months after an arrest to get their life back on track, before their children are put up for adoption. "Parental methamphetamine use has become a leading cause for the removal of Minnesotan children from their homes," said Hornung. "Social work professionals, many of whom are graduates from our MSW program, are inundated, and they need any help we can offer."

Meth use and production is a significant and complex problem in the Midwest. According to a Drug Enforcement Administration study, over 50 percent of all meth lab incidents in the United States happened in the Midwest.

The issue is new and the research is hard to find. UMD brought two prominent researchers to the conference: Wendy Haight, an associate professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and James Black, an M.D. and neuroscientist from Southern Illinois University. UMD currently provides information about Haight and Black’s studies on child welfare issues on the UMD methamphetamine research web page (see above).

Karen Nichols says that UMD recognizes that agencies such as social services, law enforcement and public health need to work together closely. “The multidisciplinary approach is important when dealing with children impacted by methamphetamine.” UMD also provides information about a landmark coalition pioneered in Wright County. Families, neighbors, school personnel, law enforcement, county agencies, faith communities and municipalities have succeeded in educating the public about the dangers of methamphetamine.

The conference was sponsored by the UMD Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies, the Center for American Indian and Minority Health at the U of M Medical School Duluth, and the U of M Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment and the Life Sciences.

Office of Civic Engagement and the LSBE Marketing Department

In addition to UMD’s social work program, Casey LaCore, director of the new Office of Civil Engagement, is working on the problem. The Office of Civil Engagement hosted their own community information session with faculty and staff from area colleges and universities, law enforcement, local government, recovering addicts, and others, to discuss how higher education institutions can address the methamphetamine issue. She has formed a coalition and they have launched several initiatives.

LaCore presented the issue of methamphetamine abuse to John Kratz, management studies instructor in the Marketing Department of the Labovitz School of Business & Economics. Kratz assigned it as a class project for his senior marketing class. Marketing students Pam Chihak, Amy Sundin, Stephen Sorenson, Nick Graber and Steve Enstad worked together to prepare a advertising and promotion plan for community education. Their project has been well received. In October of 2006, LaCore, Kratz and the class will give a presentation "Integrating Community Need into a Marketing Class to Enhancing Student Learning, at a regional civic engagement conference. Photo: Front row - Pam Chihak, John Kratz, Amy Sundin, Back row - Steve Enstad, Nick Graber and Stephen Sorenson.

As the magnitude of the methamphetamine problem grows, UMD has shown itself quick to react, by serving as a professional and academic resource and by engaging the campus and community in solutions.

UMD Resource People
Johanna M. Garrison,, 218-726-8621
Becki Hornung,
Karen P. Nichols,, 218-726-8023
Casey LaCore,, 218-726-7125
John L. Kratz,, 218-726-7155

Written by Cheryl Reitan with assistance from David Lislegard.

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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