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Supporters fight for drug clinic

This is so wonderful…not that the place might close–but that patients came out to advocate for themselves and the clinic that they need!


Kallie Hannu has been in and out of the legal system since the age of 13. On Thursday, the now 28-year-old Hannu tearfully approached the Beltrami County Board with pictures of her children, pleading for the future of the drug clinic that has kept her clean for the past year and a half. About 25 people attended the County Board meeting to protest a decision by the Beltrami County Human Services Department not to renew the host country contract with Northern Lakes Clinic. Kallie Hannu, a client in the methadone maintenance program at Northern Lakes Clinic, appealed to the Beltrami County Board Tuesday after learning that the County Human Services Department had chosen not to renew the host county license for the clinic. Above, Hannu listens to Beltrami County Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks’ recommendation that the board look into the matter. The clinic, which opened June 5, 2007, offers treatment for adults with addiction. The clinic provides traditional outpatient programs as well as methadone maintenance programs for those addicted to opiates such as heroin, morphine and prescription painkillers. There are no other methadone clinics in Minnesota in the area west of Duluth and north of St. Cloud. “I’ve worked very hard to get where I’m at,” Hannu said. “I’m just now beginning to live my life, and it’s because of this clinic.” The clinic has 11 full-time and four part-time employees, along with four contract employees, and an annual payroll of $450,000. Karen Stokes, who has been acting program director of the clinic for two weeks, became director Monday. “I don’t know what we will do,” she said. Stokes said she was told only that the contract was not renewed for performance issues. “We are contesting it because we have no reason given other than performance doesn’t merit renewal.” Without a host contract, the clinic would have to close. “What I fear the most is what’s going to happen when I can’t get up and care for my children,” Hannu said of the prospect of stopping the methadone abruptly . The clinic’s methadone maintenance program has 179 clients and is highly regulated, Stokes said. “It is not come in, get your dose, come out. There will be some that don’t comply, but we have all kinds of positives as well.” “(Addiction) is self-inflicted on most of us, but we are not seeking to get high,” Hannu said. “We are seeking a normal life.” Fourteen women in the program have given birth to babies who went home with their parents instead of into foster care, Stokes said, adding that a number of children who were in foster care have returned home to parents who beat their addictions. “There are many successes,” she said. “I would urge you to consider what would happen to these 179 people.” Five pregnant women are in the program, she said. “They can safely have a baby on methadone, but they cannot safely have a baby on street drugs.” Clinic supporters looked to the board for answers, but Commissioner Jim Heltzer pointed out that the meeting was not a public hearing. “We have scores of projects we deal with that we have host contracts with,” Heltzer said. “Some we renew, some we don’t. We don’t often then have people who bring it up to us and ask us to reconsider. This is a heads-up to us.” “Dr. Schlutter needs to come back to Human Services and talk specifics,” Lucachick said. “Then it would come back before the board.” “We’re not going to turn our backs on you,” Board Chairman Jim Lucachick said. Heltzer suggested clinic supporters take their concerns to Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy or Lucachick. “I really think this issue is between the county and the holder of the contract, Northern Lakes Clinic,” Murphy noted. “The best way is to have the owner work that out with the county. We are happy to meet with her. We always have been.” Stokes said Schlutter attempted to contact Murphy and Mary Marchel, director of the County Human Services Department, but was unsuccessful. “She feels like she’s hitting a brick wall.” The board, on a recommendation from Commissioner Quentin Fairbanks, decided to look into the matter because of the pressing needs of the clients in the methadone program. The audience members applauded loudly at Fairbank’s proposal. Clients who spoke on behalf of the clinic ranged from young adults to middle-aged people, including a grandmother who was addicted to drugs for 20 years. A parent of a client also spoke. Steve Van Kauwenbergh started taking drugs at the age of 16 and has been in and out of prison since he turned 18. “Drugs have ruined my life time and time again,” said Kauwenbergh, now 29. “I’ve been clean now about a year because of Northern Lakes Clinic.”

I can only hope this town LISTENS!

Categories: All Posts
  1. February 5, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    I am so very sorry to hear your story. It’s is a tragedy what we do to addicts in this country. We expect them to succeed in recovery, we penalize them if they don’t–but we offer them no hope and no treatment and expect miracles to happen out of nowhere. TRAGIC.

  2. J Kelly
    February 1, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    My ex-daughter in law is Kallie Hannu. She has since relapsed and is now facing prison time. This program was the only support system that helped her. The state of Minnesota is not in touch with how much these programs are needed to help with the huge problem of addiction. To turn their back on people will only make the problem worse.

  3. February 21, 2009 at 6:07 pm


  4. Lou
    February 19, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    If more people stepped up & publicly told their stories, it would be a step towards changing public perception of addiction.

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