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Evening Brief - Sept. 20, 2023: Challenged book staying on Brainerd High School library shelf

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Plus more on the IM Care-Lakeview contract dissolution, a new dashboard bringing together data on drug use in the state, and a program intended to learn more about effective oak wilt prevention.

BRAINERD — A fantasy novel challenged by a community member in the Brainerd School District will remain in the high school library.

TheBrainerd Dispatchreported a committee established for the purpose of reviewing the Sarah J. Maas novelEmpire of Stormsunanimously agreed the book should remain as choice reading material available to high school students.

The sign appears as a cross section of a tree trunk with the bark attached. An evergreen and a leafy tree are shown next to the white water tower surrounding the words "Welcome to Brainerd Est. 1871."
Lorie Shaull
Special to KAXE
A sign featuring the city's iconic historic water tower welcomes visitors to Brainerd, Minnesota.

The challenge raised concerns about sexual content in the book, which is the fifth in a series. Committee members were tasked with reading the book and walking through a series of questions about its value as a resource for students. Children's Book Review, the book publisher Bloomsbury and Common Sense Media all rated the book for ages 14 and up.

As part of the examination, district officials shared that the book has been checked out just three times in its history in the high school library.

The committee decided to apply its ruling to all of the books in Maas' "Throne of Glass" series, some of which are facing separate complaints.

Challenger Shirley Yeager has a right to appeal the committee's decision to the full school board. She told the Dispatch she doesn't know whether she'll appeal this decision, but said she intends to fight the recommendation about the rest of the series.

Read the fullBrainerd Dispatchstory for more.

Stay up to date on what's happening up north with KAXE/KBXE News, bringing you the top stories across Northern Minnesota. KAXE/KBXE is the oldest rural community radio station in the U.S. and an independent NPR affiliate.

IM Care-Lakeview contract woes

Terry Snyder sits behind a desk with his nameplate in the county board room, with a Minnesota state flag in the background.
ICTV YouTube
Itasca County Commissioner Terry Snyder speaks during a summary of an Itasca County Board meeting aired as a segment on ICTV public access channel in Grand Rapids.

As the contract termination between Itasca County's public health insurance provider and Lakeview Behavioral Health will be effective at the end of this year, about 700 IM Care patients at Lakeview Behavioral will be affected.

Lakeview Behavioral Health issued a call-to-action regarding this contract termination decision by IM-Care, Itasca County's agency that handles insurance coverage for those who qualify for Medical Assistance or Minnesota Care.

In an interview with KAXE/KBXE, Itasca County Commissioner Terry Snyder said the contract termination is a legal issue, being contemplated by attorneys on both sides of the arrangement.

IM Care Director Sarah Anderson wrote in an email that the agency has a plan in place to make sure all enrollees have continuity of care with other providers, and enrollees are encouraged to contact IM Care Member Services for assistance.

Snyder acknowledged disparities in access to mental health care in Northern Minnesota and said the county is continuing to work toward improving that access.

Lakeview Behavioral Health offers out-patient mental health and substance abuse disorder services in their offices in Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Brainerd. Lakeview also operates Reflections Recovery Residences, an in-patient type of facility that promotes recovery with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

KAXE/KBXE News is following this story and will continue to provide updates.

New drug use dashboard

A map of Minnesota shows the rate of drug-related crimes in each county from 2021-22.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
A map of Minnesota shows the rate of drug-related crimes in each county from 2021-22.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension launched a new dashboard today to help inform efforts to prevent and respond to drug overdoses, drug-related deaths and drug-related crimes in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Drug Crimes and Overdose Dashboard contains data, tools for trend analysis and other information.

In a news release, BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said the agency is hopeful collecting data on arrests, overdoses and deaths in a single location will be helpful to law enforcement, medical service providers and others working to understand illicit drug use and its impacts.

The BCA developed the dashboard in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board, both of which contribute data to the dashboard.

This program is part of the BCA’s Drug Monitoring Initiative, an effort funded through a federal Opioid Abuse Program Grant.

Find the dashboard at the BCA's website.

Oak wilt treatment research

Counties including those in eastern Minnesota are outlined in red to indicate the presence of infection.
U.S. Forest Service
A map depicts the counties in which oak wilt disease is confirmed in the eastern region of the U.S. Forest Service as of 2022.

Trained tree climbers in the Superior National Forest are testing a new technique to improve forest health against oak wilt disease, one of the deadliest diseases to red oaks in the Eastern U.S.

Oak wilt can spread in two ways: above the ground through the movement of fungal spores by sap-feeding beetles to wounds in oak trees, or below ground through the grafted roots of neighboring oaks.

Treatments for oak wilt disease are often costly and damaging. They involve cutting and removing trees with the disease, including many nearby uninfected trees and disrupting the root systems using heavy equipment.

A close-up of forest fuels specialist Brian Stearns using a syringe to inject an oak wilt-infused solution in June 2023 into a test oak tree high up in the crown in the forests outside Traverse City, Michigan.
USDA Forest Service
A close-up of forest fuels specialist Brian Stearns using a syringe to inject an oak wilt-infused solution in June 2023 into a test oak tree high up in the crown in the forests outside Traverse City, Michigan.

To test the oak wilt rapid response treatment, researchers need to infect oaks with the disease. To accomplish this, climbers drill into the branch and add the fungal disease to mimic a natural infection.

Following artificial infection, forest health managers girdle the trees at predetermined times to prevent the oak wilt infection from advancing down from the crown into the roots and spreading throughout the root systems to other trees.

Girdling is when bark and some wood materials are removed from a ring around the tree’s trunk.

It has been shown in recent testing to be an effective means in stopping the spread of oak wilt into the tree’s roots and protecting other trees in that area.

The project includes several state and federal partners and is in effect in Michigan's Huron-Manistee National Forest and Wisconsin's Octonto River Seed Orchard as well.

The group will conduct one more summer of treatment, then monitor the select trees for five years for effectiveness.

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Chelsey Perkins spent the first 15 years of her journalism career as a print journalist, primarily as a newspaper reporter and editor. In February 2023, she accepted a role as News Director of KAXE in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where she's building a new local newsroom at the station.
Larissa Donovan has been in the Bemidji area's local news scene since 2016, joining the KAXE newsroom in 2023 after several years as the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.
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