Northstar’s transition from former executive director Cathie Perrault to new executive director Susan Sheridan Tucker provides a good opportunity to look back on what’s been accomplished over the last decade—and to look forward to what can be achieved in the future.

Looking Back
Cathie served as Northstar’s executive director from Oct. 2009 to August 2018. During this time, Northstar grew significantly both in scope and stature. She oversaw the development of an infrastructure that took Northstar from a veritable toddler to a capable young adult. Northstar now enjoys increased credibility and recognition in the field, and is well respected by the media, state legislators and those who provide and benefit from problem gambling services.

Here are some of the major achievements made during Cathie’s tenure at Northstar:

Expanding Operation

  • Growth in annual budget from $175,000 to more than $400,000
  • Growth in staff to two fulltime employees and three freelancers (outreach program manager, writer and designer)

Increased Outreach

  • More than doubled the number of community presentations made (to treatment programs and community facilities) and conferences attended

Updated Website

  • Two website updates in nine years
  • Averaging more than 3,200 monthly visitors to website in 2018

Communications

  • Established quarterly newsletter (Northern Light) that serves as primary information source for professionals working with gamblers, interested community members, gamblers in recovery, state legislators and others (newsletter received award from the National Council on Problem Gambling in 2012)
  • Established social media presence, allowing Northstar to find new ways to share key messages with various audiences
  • Growth in database from a few paper lists to a comprehensive list of approximately 9,000
  • Development of materials targeting specific groups (lawyers, gambling employees, older adults, people in recovery from other addictions) to help identify potential problem gamblers and highlight those most vulnerable to gambling addiction

Leading the Way in Research

  • Northstar has supported and continues to fund periodic research on problem gambling awareness, student gambling behavior, gambling attitudes in the community and barriers to getting help, helping the state understand the significance of these issues and evaluate approaches to increasing education, awareness and access to treatment
  • Northstar has funded research seeking to identify culturally appropriate ways to provide help to minority populations in Minnesota that have gambling problems

An Emerging Resource Hub

  • Built up the state’s preeminent annual problem gambling conference, making national experts available to Minnesota professionals and community members

Advocacy

  • Northstar has developed and refined relationships with state legislators to ensure that the issue of problem gambling—funding, treatment and increasing awareness—is considered each time there is discussion about gambling expansion

Looking Forward
Susan became Northstar’s new executive director in August. She brings a passion for non-profit management, a dedication to mission, experience working with diverse interests and populations, and a demonstrated ability to build coalitions. As Don Feeney, Northstar board president, said, “It became apparent that Susan was the right person to steer us through our next phase of growth and to help us best serve all of those affected by problem gambling.” [A Q&A with Susan can be found at http://northstarproblemgambling.org/2018/08/qa-with-susan-tucker-northstars-new-executive-director/.]

Some of Susan’s goals for the future include:

Relationship Building
“We are a bridge seeking to understand the complexities of problem gambling with all those involved through its advocacy, public awareness, research and outreach to providers and those seeking treatment. I’m looking forward to building new relationships to expand Northstar’s diversity of stakeholders and partners who seek to ameliorate the impacts of problem gambling.

We need to reinvigorate our relationship with the Department of Human Services (DHS), members of the state advisory committee and treatment providers. One of my first tasks will be to spend some time with DHS, understand its grant process and fund distribution timelines, and determine how we can work more collaboratively to ensure that each agency is able to accomplish its goals efficiently and effectively.”

Diversify Revenue Stream
“Currently, most of Northstar’s funding is received through a legislative mandate. It was a wise move for the state to adopt a provision to support education and treatment for gambling problems through the revenue collected from legalized gambling, enabling this agency to exist. Yet, things can change. It’s best if an organization plans proactively to secure its sustainability as well as inviting stakeholders to support the work.”

Strengthen Understanding of Gambling Addiction Through Expanding Outreach
“It’s clear that there is a public disconnect between acknowledging gambling as an addiction, yet also believing it is a moral failing. Strengthening the understanding that gambling is a real addiction is an opportunity. Expanding the number of chemical dependency providers who include screening for gambling addiction is another. We should encourage bi/tri-lingual counselors to pursue gambling addiction certification and help create public awareness campaigns that speak directly to Minnesota’s growing cultural diversity. I’d also like Northstar to begin establishing relationships with the casinos and offering training to its employees and to work with them to establish responsible gaming policies. I would like to increase our research capacity to tell the full story of gambling throughout the state, including specifics on individual communities affected, state-centric demographic profiles of gamblers, and measuring the effectiveness of our education/outreach programs.”

Develop New Strategic Plan
“A new strategic plan will allow us to create focused goals that we can all agree on as we move forward. An integral part of the process will be to understand the interests of Northstar stakeholders and members of the alliance. Understanding and listening to the varied voices of the alliance will help us to develop a cohesive plan that best supports and meets Northstar’s mission and strengthens our position as the preeminent resource for the Minnesota problem gambling community.”

Cathie Perrault Leaves A Legacy of Passion and Vision
Cathie Perrault stepped down as executive director in August. Here are some comments from board members regarding her contribution to Northstar over the last nine years.

“Cathie’s tenure was a time of tremendous growth for Northstar. We went from an organization that was struggling to find a role to one that is respected, accomplished, and well-positioned to grow and prosper. That this happened during Cathie’s time is no accident. While we had passion, we lacked both a plan for going forward and the management capability to pull it off. Cathie brought both, and with it came a respect not only from Minnesota, but from the problem gambling community all across the country.”
— Don Feeney, President of the Northstar Board of Directors

Today, the Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance is a strong organization known throughout Minnesota and the nation thanks to the leadership of Cathie Perrault. Her vision and passion has guided Northstar in its growth from a grass roots idea to a fully developed entity that provides advocacy, information and support to problem gamblers and their families, while raising awareness about the impact of gambling addiction.

A leader who gives to her organization and the world around her at the same time is rare. Cathie leaves Northstar in a strong position to continue its work. Her legacy of strength, vision and passion will live on in the DNA of the organization. We are grateful for her service to Northstar and wish her well in her deserved retirement.
— John Rundquist, Crossroads Aftercare Program