Synthetic drug task force to deal with drug problems on LCO reservation

By KBJR News 1

March 4, 2014 Updated Mar 4, 2014 at 10:22 PM CDT

Hayward, WI (NNCNOW.com) - Over the past few months the Lac Courte Orielles reservation has seen a 2-hundred percent increase in the number of kids they've had to rescue and put in protective custody.

They say the majority of those cases were related to drugs.
Reservation leaders have put together a task force to deal with the troubling and growing problem of synthetic drug use.

The drugs are technically legal, but the effects of them are destroying families.

"The calls we get, the parents have been gone for several days, which we determine to be child abandonment." Said Indian Child Welfare Director, LuAnne Kolumbus.

Synthetic drug use has resulted in nearly 115 child intake referrals over the past few months.

"As much education as I've had on synthetics, that's what we're seeing. It's kind of like you don't care. the drugs just take your life over." Said Kolumbus.

After further investigations 32 children have been taken into protective custody and placed in relative kinship care or foster care.

Indian Child Welfare would normally take in about 10 cases in a four month period but the tribe has seen a 200 percent increase with more than 90 percent of those cases related to drug use.

Tribal leaders say the problem is not confined to the reservation.

"It's the synthetics that are hitting our area. Not just the reservation, I talked to the sheriff about this, it's all over Sawyer County, it's not just us. " Said Kolumbus.

Dealing with the synthetic drug use here is particularly difficult because most elders don't even know what the stuff looks like.

"They don't know that synthetic marijuana has no cannabis in it at all, or they think that bath salts are some nice lavender scented beads you can buy at wal mart." Said LCO Prevention Education Coordinator, Dianne Sullivan.

No area seller can be pinned as people are getting the drugs shipped to their homes from on-line dealers.

"They don't need to go out looking for the drugs anymore. They simply order them off the internet." Said Sullivan.

Tribal leaders are saying that they are reaching out to children who may be dealing with drug using parents.

"We're showing that education works. That it's ok to say things aren't very good at home right now. Can I go stay at grandma's." Said Kolumbus.

Social workers try to reunite families after drug counseling can be done. But they say the counseling for synthetic users is not easy because it is so new.

Many solutions are being proposed on the drug problem including banishment from the tribe as well as imposing stiff fines.

An educational forum addressing "The Latest Drug Trends Affecting the LCO Tribe and Sawyer County Communities" is being planned for March 20th.

Bryce Henry