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Number of teens in Chemical Awareness Program rises

A total of 63 teenagers were served by the Chemical Awareness Program in Otter Tail County in 2012 – that’s up from the 58 served in 2011, and the 52 served the year before that.

The program was established several years ago in response to significant juvenile alcohol and drug related offenses. Today, the program is proving to be as needed as ever.

County Probation Director Chuck Kitzman recently discussed the program with county commissioners during an overview of the probation department’s annual report.

He said 63 juveniles were assisted through the Chemical Awareness Program last year; their ages ranged from 13 to 18. Of those, 15 were 16 years old, 22 were age 17, and 13 had reached the age of 18.

Most offenses involve the use of alcohol and the possession of drug paraphernalia. Tobacco violations are also common. Other, lesser-seen offenses include theft, criminal damage to property, trespassing, shoplifting, disorderly conduct and curfew violations.

In 2012, youth alcohol offenses totaled 44 and possession of drug paraphernalia totaled 28. Tobacco violations totaled 25.

“Our intention is to provide young people with facts about chemical use and the impact it has on their lives,” said Kitzman. “Through this program we use an early intervention strategy.”

If a juvenile continues to have chemical use related issues, the county utilizes a continuum of treatment options to address their behavior.

Youths served by the program live in and around Otter Tail County, including the communities of Perham, New York Mills, Ottertail, Richville, Dent, Battle Lake, Wadena and others.

Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent