We learned this week that Morrison County has experienced another death via drug overdose.
Leslie Ellyn Peterson, 41, of Little Falls was found dead on June 1. Law enforcement authorities now report that Warren John Okerman, 44, has allegedly confessed to giving Peterson methamphetamine.
OK, that most likely means two lives have been ruined. It also most likely means that most residents of the county are unbothered by these revelations. The rationale goes something along the lines of, Peterson was doing meth; she must have known it was dangerous; she paid the ultimate penalty. End of story.
But should it be?
Is that ending adequate? Do we no longer care if our neighbors or family members are doing drugs? Are we no longer willing to intervene, not only help the addicts among us, but to prevent this scourge from enveloping our community?
We don’t pretend to know anything about Peterson’s or Okerman’s personal situations, but we doubt that they were living in total isolation. Others among us were either practicing the same risky behavior or at least knew about Peterson’s and Okerman’s alleged activities. And yet they did nothing.
Perhaps fear played a role. Nevertheless, there are a few things that a person can do that don’t require much courage. One is to talk to the user and tell them they need help. Addicts have difficulty hearing that message, but they need to hear it from the people whom they know and trust. Another option is to talk with social services or law enforcement on a confidential basis to make them aware of the situation. A third is to talk to a member of the clergy. After her death, no one can say they were Peterson’s “friend” if they knew she was doing meth.
And speaking of clergy, we encourage them to begin talking to their congregations about the issue of drug use in our county, and what the proper role of followers of their faith should be. Are we no longer our brother’s keeper?
As we said, it is easy to pretend that we are still safe. A murder occurred; a person was arrested. Ho hum. Life goes on.
But we are better than that. We should be at least disturbed, if not outraged. The community needs to send a clear message that, while we are willing to help those already hooked to kick the habit, we don’t want illegal drugs here.