Addiction & Substance Use

Increasing the Awareness of Addiction and Misuse of Legal Substances

The Brown County Chemical Health Action Team (CHAT) goal is to support educational programs, activities and policies that increase awareness of addiction and misuse of legal substances, and also address the use of illegal substances. The team also works to promote sober activities, create social activities that do not involve the use of substances, and promote a responsible drinking campaign.

CHAT is comprised of representatives from Brown County Family Services, New Ulm Medical Center, Sleepy Eye Medical Center, police departments, area schools, probation, Brown County Public Health and community members. The action team was formed in June 2020 and grew out of the desire to continue a county-wide coalition to deal with substance abuse after the Brown County Underage Substance Abuse Coalition (USAC) disbanded in the fall of 2019. Brown County Public Health and the Heart of New Ulm share coordination and facilitation of CHAT, which focuses on chemical prevention for all ages, countywide.

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CHAT Priorities and Recent Accomplishments


Social Host Ordinance Planning

Studies indicate that social host laws are among the most effective and recommended ways to reduce underage drinking. A social host ordinance makes it unlawful for individuals (social hosts) to knowingly provide a place for underage drinking to occur on a premises under the host’s control. The host is held responsible regardless of who provided the alcohol. An ordinance violation is a misdemeanor offense with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

The Brown County Chemical Health Action Team has been working on a proposed Social Host Ordinance for Brown County. The Minnesota Student Survey indicates that the vast majority of alcohol consumed by youth is provided by their friends, parents, other family members, or at parties, rather than the youth buying it themselves or taking it.

In February 2023, members of the team met with 100 local students in 9th to 12th grade to explain what a social host ordinance is, and discuss how to get involved in helping to create a countywide Social Host Plan and present information at city and township meetings and to Brown County commissioners.

The team continues to educate the community about a social host ordinance and why it matters. In late 2023, the team was accepted to participate in the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking (ICCPUD) 2023-2024 Alcohol Policy Academy to assist in planning for a social host ordinance.

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Resources for the Community

Over the last several years, the team has developed a number of resources for the community, including:

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Opioid Prevention and Harm Reduction

In 2023, the team participated in the Minnesota’s State Opioid Response funding meeting and started researching additional prevention and harm reduction ideas to implement locally.

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Cannabis Locked Storage Billboard

In 2023, the team created a billboard to promote responsible locked storage of cannabis at home, which was displayed in November near Essig.

The team previously created a billboard in September 2022 to promote responsible drinking that was displayed in New Ulm and Springfield.

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Red Ribbon Week

The team promoted Red Ribbon Week from Oct. 23-31, 2023, and sponsored a coloring contest, both open to all Brown County residents. Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug-use prevention campaign in the nation focused on keeping kids drug free.

You or Someone You Know Need Help?

In an Emergency

If you or a friend need urgent assistance, call 911 immediately, or take your friend directly to the emergency room. If you feel it’s safe, stay with your friend, or find someone to stay with them until help arrives.

In a Crisis

You are never alone. Help is always available. For immediate support 24/7, reach out to Crisis text line at 741741, South Central Crisis Center at 1-800-247-2809, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and it’s highly confidential, unless it’s essential to contact emergency services to keep you or a friend safe.

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Chemical Health Resources

It is never easy to overcome substance abuse and addiction on your own. However, you can get help from support groups and meetings, which could provide you with a safe environment as you recover from your addiction.

Brown County maintains a schedule of AA and NA meetings that can be found in the Brown County area on their website.

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