When does it stop being a party and start becoming a problem? Is there a way to steer clear of addiction? Every Wednesday, Mike McGowan, host of the podcast "Avoiding the Addiction Affliction," explores substance use disorders with expert guests. The podcast series is sponsored by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition.
Original cover art created by
Kelly P. of Kenosha, Wisconsin
Community Impact Coordinator with the United Way of Door County
Less structure, more down time, and the availability of almost every chemical you can think of, including some you’ve never heard of, presents summer challenges for families. Shauna Blackledge, a Community Impact Coordinator with the United Way of Door County, talks about how to help young people make good decisions about alcohol and other drugs during the summer. Shauna and the Door County AOD Coalition can be reached.
[00:00:00] [Jaunty Music]
[00:00:12] Mike: Welcome everyone to Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, a series brought to you by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. I'm Mike McGowan. You know, as we approach the end of an interesting and challenging school year, we wanted to have a discussion about the many obstacles and challenges young people have to navigate during the summer, away from the structure of school and for that matter.
[00:00:33] The structure of school for parents as well. My guest today is Shauna Blackledge. Shauna is a Community Impact Coordinator with the United Way of Door County. She works with the community and schools doing alcohol, other drug education and prevention. Welcome Shauna.
[00:00:49] Shauna: Thank you.
[00:00:50] Mike: Well, thanks for joining me. I thought we'd be start out first of all, because I'm so familiar with your organization, but can you tell us a little bit about your programming and what all you offer?
[00:01:00] Shauna: Yeah, so under my umbrella of, of work here at United Way, I am the AOD Coordinator for Door County. So we do outreach and education surrounding alcohol and other drugs. You know, coordinate this coalition that has all of these amazing members from, you know, our partners at treatment court, you know, medical providers and an EMS.
[00:01:20] We have involvement with the county and the department of health and human services. And, we just really try and bring all these different people to the table to understand the problems that our community is up against and to have a unified effort to mitigate those problems and make a difference up here.
[00:01:37] So that's my main part of my job as being the AOD coordinator. I also have a coalition for Healthy Door County, which is more of a nutrition and an exercise movement. And then I do some work directly for United Way up here. So I really see all facets of the community, in my work.
[00:01:54] Mike: Well, you know, one of the reasons I wanted to have you on was the uniqueness of Door County, which I'll, I'll get to in a minute.
[00:02:00] But you know, regarding the alcohol and drug stuff, here's what we heard. Right. We heard that adult usage went through the roof during the pandemic, but then the first surveys of the kids predictably said it didn't go through the roof. Right?
[00:02:15] Shauna: Right.
[00:02:15] Mike: What do you see the trends showing.
[00:02:18] Shauna: So, yes, I mean, nationally, we know that overdose deaths increased 30% during, you know, year over year from 2019 to 2020. Alcohol deaths through the roof. And then yeah, we had reporting from teenagers saying vaping is down, drug use is down. All these things actually had a positive trend for our teen population during COVID. Um, you know they were at home more, they were socially distancing, but we're not sure it's really hard to compare that data because those surveys that they were issued during that time were kind of an at-will at home online survey.
[00:02:57] And so it's hard. The methodology between collecting a, an in school, like paper survey versus that, um, opt in at home online platform is debatable. So we're not a hundred percent sure. Um, we can't compare it for certain year to year. Um, we know that we're still seeing a lot of cases, uh, around vaping and alcohol use going to our youth diversion program.
[00:03:24] Um, we know that there still are issues around using prescription pills illegally, or, you know, Illicitly manufactured medications, things like that. So, you know, in Door County, we have a little bit of a hard time tracking some of our data because we're not necessarily a source for drugs. So a lot of people are leaving the county and going to Brown County where Green Bay is to, you know, maybe obtain their drugs.
[00:03:49] And so some of our overdose deaths and things that we know are Door County residents, aren't happening here, they're happening south of our county border. Um, so we don't always. Our numbers don't always look as bad as we know some of the problems are. And one of the big cases that we're aware of is, is meth use.
[00:04:07] And we've seen a spike in child protective services calls related to, you know, the parents using meth and the kids need to be, to be removed from the home. So we know thats a problem here for sure too.
[00:04:19] You know I'll be stunned next year. When the kids take some of these use risk behavior surveys back in school, again, if we don't see the data go up, because in the schools I'm going to [laugh] the administrators and teachers and the kids aren't reporting that usage went down. They're reporting what you're saying is that especially the vaping and the drinking went up.
[00:04:45] Ya, and we are waiting. Um, the official youth risk behavior surveys were just conducted in 2021, they were postponed for awhile. Um, so we don't have that data yet. So that should be released anytime now, um, which will be, you know, really the true data we rely on. Um, but that hasn't been published yet.
[00:05:05] Mike: You know, as the kids go into summer, I always get concerned about that, especially during the transition time, eighth to ninth grade, ninth to tenth grade, um, seniors in high school, graduating, um, and more of an unstructured environment. Um, do, do you all have concerns about that same period of time during this summer?
[00:05:28] Shauna: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's, there is less structure, there's less supervision, um, for kids. And so it can be that time that they fill with, you know, maybe some questionable decisions and, and habits. And so we, um, we do like urge parents to really be vocal about, you know, their expectations for drug and alcohol use with their kids.
[00:05:53] I mean, signing a pact with them can be huge, but, um, that is, you know, said to be the most influential way to steer behavior among teens is the parents making their expectations clear that that's a bigger influence, a lot of the times than their peers.
[00:06:12] Mike: You know kids say that all the time, right? They say, oh, my mom will be ticked off or.
[00:06:18] Shauna: Ya, my mom will kill me if I drink.
[00:06:21] Mike: My coach will find out.
[00:06:22] Shauna: Ya, absolutely.
[00:06:24] Mike: When I talked to adults, Shauna, I hear, well, they're going to do it anyway.
[00:06:28] Shauna: Uh huh.
[00:06:29] Mike: And say, [laugh] wait, we just gave up the number one reason why kids give. So you're, you're encouraging parents to actually talk to let the kids know the parent values, parental values and expectations.
[00:06:42] Shauna: Yeah, absolutely. I think that really will shape the decisions they make. And you can go as far as signing an actual pact, um, SAMHSA offers a family agreement and, um, really outline your expectations. I think that's huge.
[00:06:57] Mike: Yeah. Maybe I'll put a link to that agreement on the bottom of the podcast. I like that idea actually.
[00:07:01] Shauna: Ya.
[00:07:02] Mike: Did your parents ever talk to you about this stuff?
[00:07:05] Shauna: Oh, yeah. Yeah, no, my dad is a retired army Colonel and, um, my mom is a tough cookie too, and I, me and I knew I was not allowed, especially to touch drugs. I mean, I think alcohol is the more normalized, but I was expected not to drink.
[00:07:20] Definitely. Um, and I knew there were severe consequences if I engaged in those behaviors.
[00:07:27] Mike: Okay, I'm going to put you on the spot. Now you said army Colonel. So I'm just, I have this visual in my head. Right. Um, what do you think, were the consequences spelled out for you or were they holding over the hat? What do you think would have happened?
[00:07:41] Shauna: I mean, I was the age where cell phones were just becoming a thing when I was turning 15, 16. So like the cell phone was gone. I was grounded like. If I got caught doing anything wrong. Yeah. Like I knew, I knew if I slipped up, I'd be in trouble. And I was also a student athlete.
[00:07:58] So I knew if I got caught drinking or at a party, things like that, that I could lose my spot on the soccer team, or I wouldn't be able to run track that week, you know? So it was made obvious to me. And so I had to behave. I had to stay in line.
[00:08:13] Mike: So, um, I'm taking it, your, your parents weren't overly concerned about being your friend at 16 years old.
[00:08:20] Shauna: [laugh] I mean, we were definitely, uh, we're definitely better friends now that I'm older and through that stressful time of life, but yeah, I know they were in charge of making sure my wellbeing was there and, uh, we weren't always buddy, buddy. I mean, they enforce the rules, but I'm happy they did.
[00:08:39] Mike: Well, you know, if there's one thing that I could get across to parents, it would be that right.
[00:08:44] That if, if we do our job, well, we have a better chance. It's not guaranteed, a better chance of being friends when you get to be adults.
[00:08:52] Shauna: Absolutely. And, um, you know, some of the stuff I've read lately is about parents thinking like, well, I want, I want my kid to drink at home with me. I want them to learn how to drink responsibly at home.
[00:09:03] It's not necessary. Just teach your kids to enjoy life sober and, and maybe you cut it out a little bit more and stop making it like that. Every everything you do has to be about drinking and to show them that life can be fun without being under the influence. I mean, I think that's huge sets that example,
[00:09:24] Mike: I think that's just, that's a marvelous example.
[00:09:28] Well, let's, let's talk for a minute about Door County because you are one of the reasons I want to have you on is because you, the Dells, Minocqua that area is that where people congregate from all over the country, in the summertime. So you see, when you said meth, my eyebrows just went up. You don't think Door County meth.
[00:09:50] Shauna: Right?
[00:09:50] Mike: Um, so you, you all see everything up there.
[00:09:55] Shauna: Yeah. I mean, it all makes its way here. We have a huge tourist population, you know, especially in summertime. And I don't know if that necessarily leads to some of the problems, but it's like, everything's accessible now, you know? Um, and a lot of people who live in, I think those more rural, I, you know, somewhat isolated we're in peninsula, so you can only [inaudible].
[00:10:18] They do see that drug, those drug cases too. I mean, it, it comes here and people result or, you know, turn to drug and alcohol use more than they should. Um, you know, sometimes, you know, it's that mental health tie-in and sometimes the winters are long and you know, you feel a little isolated up here and I think that can bring additional usage, um, in certain populations.
[00:10:46] Mike: Well, and, and going back to the celebrating part of it, a lot of the kids in your area have summer jobs at places where they see adults drinking a ton, because that's part of the point of them coming up to Door County.
[00:11:00] Shauna: Right. I mean, it does a party atmosphere through the summer here. We have festivals in every village in town all summer long.
[00:11:07] I mean, it's nonstop. There is some sort of big celebration every weekend of summer up here and they almost all revolve around drinking.
[00:11:16] Mike: It could have revolved around apples and cherries, but then apple, apple wine, and cherry cider and the rest of it.
[00:11:22] Shauna: Right. It turns into that. Yes.
[00:11:24] Mike: You know, I also want to ask you another question. It seems to me, the closer I get to the UP. And the closer I get to the Illinois border, both places at which marijuana is legal, the more I hear kids talking about marijuana and the access to it. Are you seeing the same thing in Door County?
[00:11:42] Shauna: Well, we do, you know we don't have full legal, recreational marijuana, um, here, but we do have our first, like Delta eight dispensary in Door County, um, and plenty of access to Delta eight, um, down in Green Bay.
[00:11:55] And so, yes, it's becoming more prevalent. Um, we, I don't know. I mean, I'm sure people are getting the full potency marijuana too. Um, but the fact that Delta eight is now legal and, you know, they say it's a lower THC, you know, lower high. But you can take as much as you want, and you can get the same effects as a full strength marijuana.
[00:12:18] So it's not really any different. And I think it's just a matter of time before Wisconsin sees legal marijuana. Um, so it's really just that education on like, is this something you want to do? It's a mind-altering drug, like, is this really the path you want to take with your life? And, um, choosing to take, you know, start a substance, even though it's deemed legal. Is that really the best decision? Because. And that leads to the next thing, right?
[00:12:44] Mike: Yeah. I, you know, that's, I, I totally obviously buy into that because that's what I spend my life doing, but I think that education is huge. It wasn't that long ago. You're probably of the generation that got a lot of drug education going through school. Right?
[00:13:00] Shauna: We had the D.A.R.E. program in elementary. And like, I remember our health classes really focusing on that through high school even.
[00:13:06] Mike: Yeah, I actually was in treatment court yesterday and Kenosha and, uh, met a real D.A.R.E. Officer still doing the job. I was [inaudible]. But you knew a lot. And what I'm finding. Is that the kids today don't have the same knowledge base that you had. And that's part of what you're trying to change through United Way and your prevention program.
[00:13:27] Shauna: Right. So, we work with our schools. They have a program called Project 180, that started as, uh, an alcohol and other drug education type group.
[00:13:37] Um, and really trying to bridge the gap there with the students. Um, they did add that mental health focus because we know that's such a huge piece, um, of substance use in that the things we've gone through in the pandemic, that's really where their energy needed to be put with. Making students and their peers aware of how to take care of their mental health.
[00:13:59] Um, but part of that is choosing not to use alcohol and other substances. And, um, you know, we are always putting out those training opportunities in our community, um, to adults and students, um, just to understand what they're up against and how risky some of these behaviors can be. But yeah, the education is really the core of the coalition and what we're trying to do.
[00:14:24] Mike: Yeah. You just hosted an event or sponsored event called, was it Tall Cop?
[00:14:29] Shauna: Tall Cop.
[00:14:29] Mike: Did I get that right?
[00:14:30] Shauna: Ya, Tall Cop.
[00:14:31] Mike: Can you explain what that was? And what we learned?
[00:14:34] Shauna: Yeah. So Tall Cop is a retired police officer. Um, he served in, in Idaho for 19 years and now he's full-time as a national speaker, who does these trainings. Um, everyone from community members and parents to our local law enforcement.
[00:14:52] Um, but we had a great turnout and he comes in and he teaches you what's happening. He does a community scan. So he toured around Wisconsin and our county up in Door County here. And he pinpoints what he's seeing that as, you know, problems, essentially things that are illegal. Um, so, you know, the drug world is just always so strategic and he really talks about that.
[00:15:15] Like, you know, you'll, you'll ban one thing and then they come up with the next thing and it can be sold over the counter. Um, so one of the things that I took away, as he said, pay attention to things labeled as mood enhancers. So he talked about like Tiana, which he calls legal heroin. It's available in gas stations.
[00:15:34] It's legal in 47 states, including Wisconsin. Um, we banned Kratom them a while ago, which was gas station heroin, um, which is also legal in 44 states. But, you know, Kratom was banned. So then they came out with this Tiana and it's, um, really crazy. It's, it's, you know, labeled as a dietary supplement and it's getting people high.
[00:15:56] I mean, and you buy it at your gas station. He talked about drug potentiators, uh, so you can buy, they come in liquid form, they come in pill form. You can take these. These substances that spike the high of another drug. So you can get around, you know, you can do this all legally and it's just really crazy.
[00:16:13] So you just have to pay attention to what your kids are bringing home. I think, I mean, he showed us how you can go to your drugstore. You can go to your gas station and purchase legal items, and they're just as bad as street drugs, and it's how people are, um, getting around, you know, probation or, you know, passing those drug tests, things like that.
[00:16:36] Um, he calls him, you know, the Phenibut, he called a drug of abuse. And so it's people they're just amping up what they're doing, um, with what they're able to buy legally.
[00:16:46] Mike: And you know, that that would [inaudible] the gas stations, uh, for lack of a better place and people who use it are at least a step and a half ahead of law enforcement and the legislature.
[00:16:58] Right. So by the time you get around to banning it, um, there's something new already taken into place.
[00:17:04] Shauna: Yup. Yup. It's just crazy. I mean, you just really have to pay attention. To what your kids are bringing home. I mean, and the fact too, like the vapes are so inconspicuous now and to the point that you can have a vape built into the drawstring of a hoodie [laugh].
[00:17:21] I mean, that's what kids are doing. If they're interested in getting. Augmenting their reality. There are so many things out there and it's just nuts. You can't keep up with it. I mean, you can try, but [laugh].
[00:17:34] Mike: Yeah, I was doing, I was actually doing an assembly last week and, um, had a kid think that he could, uh, sneak one over, uh, sitting in the back.
[00:17:44] You know, one of, you know, of course sitting in the back in the corner, I'm looking right at him and he put a Juul up to his mouth and inhaled it in the middle of an assembly where we're talking about making good choices.
[00:17:55] Shauna: Uh huh, of course.
[00:17:56] Mike: I don't know what he thought I would do, but, um, yeah, I called him out.
[00:18:01] Shauna: Good.
[00:18:01] Mike: So, you know, and the interesting part was most of the kids shook their head, like what an idiot, um, which is I think the perception that we want to create for kids, right?
[00:18:14] Shauna: Right.
[00:18:15] Mike: Most kids will get through high school, not doing all this stuff.
[00:18:21] Shauna: Right.
[00:18:22] Mike: And, and, you know, part of that is the programming that we provide for them.
[00:18:28] So what is the United way have on tap for us coming up?
[00:18:34] Shauna: Uh, well, I, um, am working on a few different training opportunities for this year. Some of it's geared towards law enforcement, others geared towards, you know, school staff. Um, I do plan to bring some speakers and programming into the high schools, um, and work with those, um, school resource officers to do some back-to-school kick-off education to the parents and to the students.
[00:19:03] So I think that's going to be our biggest thing. Um, my partner here at, uh, United Way, Cammie, has a great mental health platform. Um, Stride is her program. And so they provide all sorts of amazing programming to focus on mental health. And, um, they do like a Stride Creative Summer Camp, um, with art and journaling and.
[00:19:26] Just that keeping that focus on mental health has been. So that's one of the things too, you know, kids are looking to fill their time this summer, look into those great programs, you know, do something that builds you up, you know. So we also, um, in the AOD world provide locking devices for medications.
[00:19:44] Um, so parents, especially, you know, leaving kids unattended this summer, lock up those prescription medications. Uh, that's the biggest source of, you know, prescriptions getting in the wrong hands is family, um, deactivating your old drugs, or, you know, putting them into a. lockbox at like your local pharmacy or Sheriff's office.
[00:20:04] That's huge. Um, so we provide, you know, we have a state opioid response grant. Uh, so we get all those materials. They're free to the community. If you get in touch, um, and we'll be doing outreach with those, having those available at different events through the summer. And, um, yeah, I mean, we just provided some grants to our high schools for like post proms and other programming that those projects, 180 groups are putting on.
[00:20:29] So I'm happy. They took advantage of that, but yeah, that's kind of the spectrum of resources that we have coming up and available.
[00:20:38] Mike: Did they take advantage of it?
[00:20:40] Shauna: I did. I had, we did pay for a post prom, so I'm happy about that.
[00:20:44] Mike: That's awesome. That's awesome.
[00:20:47] Shauna: [laugh]
[00:20:47] Mike: Well, you know, I'm in tons of schools, right.
[00:20:49] Shauna: Uh huh.
[00:20:50] Mike: And that's one of the questions I ask all the time. Do you have a lock-in after graduation or an event because that's a high use time, same thing about homecoming. And then do you have a post prom? And it's amazing to me, the number of schools that say now that we are our community won't support a post prom. Well.
[00:21:07] Shauna: Right.
[00:21:08] Mike: Where did it go?
[00:21:10] Shauna: I know. Yeah. So yeah, United way, our AOD coalition will fund, you know, that type of programming and really we've expanded even. Even just what we'll provide those mini grants for, to anything that's like mental health or AOD focused. I mean, those kids can come up with the programming that they think will benefit their peers. And I mean, it's a simple application and we're giving out money. I mean, we have funding to help them do programming to better their, their student body.
[00:21:39] Mike: Well, and, and the same thing is true for schools with a mental health grants too.
[00:21:44] Shauna: Uh huh.
[00:21:45] Mike: Um, I mean, we're giving it a shot. I think that clearly the more education a kid gets, the better chance they're going to have to make a good decision.
[00:21:54] Shauna: Yeah. Yeah. The drug world is scary right now. I mean, the Fentanyl that's popping up everywhere. Just, I mean, you cannot trust anything that somebody is giving you.
[00:22:05] I mean, it's just too risky and. So I really, you know, want to push that out in our community of Fentanyl awareness program. And, um, we are going to have Narcan and Fentanyl test strips. Um, they're, they're here, they're coming in, we're getting it distributed out. Um, so making those resources available to.
[00:22:24] Mike: That is awesome.
[00:22:25] So leave us with, with, I want to double down on this, leave us with one thing that you would say to parents and students going into this summer.
[00:22:34] Shauna: I would say, um, be clear on your expectations as a parent for drug and alcohol use at home with your kids. Um, and just warn them of the risks of so many of the things that are out there, but especially the Fentanyl that's going on right now.
[00:22:51] I mean, just do not take a pill from a friend. Do not try a lot of drugs are just laced with this right now. It's so dangerous. It's just. It's the flip of a switch is what they're saying. It went, usually drug trends are gradual, and this has just been like night and day. I mean, it's turning up everywhere.
[00:23:09] Um, two milligrams, which is, you know, two, one thousands of a gram. I mean, it can be a lethal dose. Um, so it's really just not worth the risk. Um, so set clear expectations, talk about the dangers, get educated yourself so that you can be that resource for your, your kids at home.
[00:23:28] And, and if they don't know what to say, they can hire the Colonel.
[00:23:33] [laugh] Uh, you know, maybe hire his daughter.
[00:23:36] Mike: [laugh] that'd be great.
[00:23:37] Shauna: Um, but the resources are out there. Um, you know, so, so just get educated, I mean, look into things and get your kids on board with understanding. What what's happening out there.
[00:23:48] Mike: Thank you so much for spending this time with us. This is our attempt to continue the education for people so that we lower the risk and give kids the best opportunity and adults as well.
[00:24:00] Leading a healthy and happy life. For those of you who are listening, please listen in next time, when we, again, discuss more issues around substance use, and until then, please stay safe and... get educated.
[00:24:15] [END AUDIO]
The Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition’s mission is to support networking, encourage education, explore gaps, and realize solutions to improve treatment and reduce alcohol and other drug abuse in our community with a primary focus on families.