Man on bench

Addressing Addiction

Local leaders come together to combat opioid crisis in F-M area

At Cass County Electric Cooperative, we do our part to power our communities literally, by providing safe and reliable electricity. However, contributing to a strong and thriving community goes beyond the service we provide. We contribute to local nonprofits, volunteer our time, and strive to spread awareness. When a community suffers, it affects everyone.

The dark struggle with substance abuse and addiction is making a real impact in North Dakota, as deaths related to drug overdose tragically began populating headlines in the last couple of years. Behind the headlines and news articles are families battling to help their loved ones before they must mourn them, as well as those who battled and lost.

With a growing problem comes a changing mindset. At a recent CCEC employee event, Darrin Tonsfeldt, division director of behavioral health and financial services with The Village Family Service Center, spoke about how it is time to realize that addiction must be handled in new ways.

“One of the things I talk about when I get on the topic of addiction is ‘judge not, lest ye be judged,’” said Tonsfeldt.

In September of 2016, the mayors of Moorhead, Fargo, West Fargo, Dilworth, and Horace came together to form the Mayors’ Blue Ribbon Council on Addiction. Together, with close partnership with affiliated agencies, ranging from treatment centers to the police force, the commission is working on a paradigm shift. Effort is being made to reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse and to let those affected by it know that help is available. Tonsfeldt represents The Village on the commission.

“The Mayors’ Blue Ribbon Commission is not about judging,” he said. “We’re about finding solutions to the affliction of the disease of addiction.”

Part of working toward a solution includes building awareness. Tonsfeldt said being sensitive to behavioral changes in co-workers or loved ones is crucial to spotting individuals who may need help. Changes in productivity, quality of work, or an increase in absenteeism in the workplace could be signs of trouble. In general, a notable decline in how someone takes care of themselves can be an indication of abuse or addiction problems. Though stress, depression, and anxiety may play roles in changing behaviors as well, Tonsfeldt noted that it is important to be open to finding or encouraging others to seek help.

“We ask folks not to deny the possibility that this is happening right around you.”

The Village Family Service Center is a hub of resources to improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and organizations in the region. They offer services related to adoption, mental health, financial health, family counseling, and more. To learn more, visit thevillagefamily.org.

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