New Coalition Coordinator

August 30, 2023 

State and local governments are still getting a handle on the new cannabis law that took effect in Minnesota on Aug. 1, and its effect on people in the community, especially young people.

Allison Krueger, the new coordinator for the Better Together Coalition has one idea in mind — a piece of advice for parents: Talk to your children about substance use and mental health.

“Parents, guardians and other adults are important role models,” Krueger said. “Believe it or not, kids are listening (and watching). They want adults in their lives to talk to them about substance use and other tough topics.”

Krueger, a Vadnais Heights native, has been at work at Better Together since July 28, and already she is engaged in educating and raising awareness within the community about substance use prevention; mental health and wellness initiatives; and creating and sustaining relationships with members of the community. 

“This includes organizing community events, providing information via social media, updating the coalition website, sharing resources, as well as assisting with policies and initiatives through Kanabec County Community Health,” she said. 

The Better Together Coalition was established in 2006 and was known then as Substance Abuse Coalition of Kanabec County, or SACK, and it was focused on preventing methamphetamine use, as well as the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. 

 In 2021, it changed its name and expanded its mission to promote substance use prevention and work to address mental wellness, resiliency and recovery. 

Krueger intends to keep moving forward with that goal. A graduate of the College of St. Scholastica and teacher by trade, Krueger worked for the past year as an AmeriCorps member in the public health corps branch at Kanabec County Community Health.

“With my experience as a teacher, my passion is to help to educate and raise awareness in the community about mental health and substance use,” she said. “While serving with ArmeriCorps in Kanabec County, I’ve learned so much about public health and how best to support the needs of the community.”

The cannabis issue

Right now, she and Better Together are concerned with how the legalization of cannabis will influence youth. She has offered as examples: 

• Legalizing marijuana normalizes marijuana use. There is an increased availability and increased access to the products. Other areas of the country that have legalized use find that there has been an over saturation of stores and advertisements – which target youth.  

• In the most recent Minnesota Student Survey data, there is a significant decrease in students who report an inaccurate perception about the addictive properties of using marijuana. 

• Since marijuana use has been legalized in other states, accidental marijuana poisonings in children have increased significantly, often requiring visits to the emergency room or hospitalization. The coalition will be focusing on education and awareness of safe adult use and proper storage.  

 “The coalition is focused on preventing underage and young adult use of marijuana,” Krueger said. “The teen brain is actively developing and continues to develop until around age 25. Marijuana use during adolescence and young adulthood may harm the developing brain.”

Negative effects of teen marijuana use include: 

• Increased risk of mental health issues.  

• Impaired driving. Driving while impaired by any substance, including marijuana, is dangerous and illegal. Marijuana negatively affects several skills required for safe driving, such as reaction time, coordination, and concentration. 

• Potential for addiction. 

Keep talking

“(The coalition) kicked off a campaign this spring called, ‘Talk Early, Talk Often,’” Krueger said. “The goal is to emphasize the importance of talking early and often to kids about subjects like substance use and mental wellness. 

“That doesn’t mean always talking about the tough topics. It is important to establish ongoing conversations and making sure kids know they have a caring and trusted adult to talk to.” 

She noted that having conversations about drugs should be part of any general health and safety talk and should start as early as elementary age and continue from there.

“Kids are listening and parents are role models for kids, and parents’ views on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can strongly influence how they think about them,” she said. “As a parent it is also important to know how to have tough conversations, it isn’t always easy. 

“The Better Together website) can help start a conversation and educate parents about drugs trends,” Krueger added. “Hazelton Betty Ford has good information about early warning signs of substance use and addiction in youth and teens. There are many behaviors and symptoms that could indicate teen use, and some warning signs could be typical teen development. It is important not to ignore the issue as casual use can become addictive.  Rationalizing use as ‘experimentation’ or ‘just a phase’ can lead to negative consequences and unhealthy outcomes.”

Krueger said she is “so excited” to be part of Better Together. She invites interested parties to email her with questions at

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