Earlier this month we were invited to join Midwest Communication’s live program “Heroin in Wisconsin: Save our Families,” along with other law enforcement, health care, support and recovery groups, first responders, elected officials, family members and addicts from across northeast Wisconsin.
The program was focused on raising awareness about the scope and severity of the heroin and opioid addiction problem for their radio listeners andtohelpraisemoneyfor treatment resources in the communities that were involved.
Listening to the other participants was a great reminder that the problem of addiction has had a harmful impact on too many families, across all walks of life. However, it was also encouraging to hear about the work being done in local communities to fight addiction across whole spectrum, from prevention and education campaigns to treatment and recovery efforts. It was also reassuring to know we are not alone in our work to face the drug addiction problem in Sheboygan County—virtually every community across the country, large or small, urban or rural, is facing the same challenge. Though it may seem at times like things are just getting worse, the reality is that it is no worse here than it is anywhere else and the local response from public agencies, private companies and groups, and the community asawholehasbeenvery positive. A recent article from the International City/ County Management Association highlighted the efforts of Worchester, Maine, in response to a string of nine overdose deathsinsixdays.Manyof the same things touted by thearticleaseffectiveprograms are also things taking place through our Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 heroin subcommittee group members, such as: education and awareness presentations and resource fairs to help with prevention, early recognition and referrals to treatment; law enforcement and first-responder training to give Narcan, a drug that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioidoverdose;education for healthcare providers about the risks of opioid addiction and dependency through prescription pain meds; limiting the risk of theftandabuseofleft-over prescribed meds through drug take-back days and safe drug drop-off boxes.
Sheboygan’s response goes even further than these examples, though. This summer will see the start of a drug treatment courtforSheboyganCounty, which has been proven toreducetherateofrecidivism forthosearrestedfor non-violent drug-related offenses by providing court-supervised treatthe ment and rehabilitation services.
A step-by-step resource guide has also been released which includes information on local resources for those seeking help with addiction. Current efforts include developing sober living facilities, work opportunities and training for “recovery coaches” to give stability and support after treatment.
As the community continues to improve our response to the heroin and opioid addiction problem across all affected groups — law enforcement and the courts, public health and education, treatment and healthcare providers, publicandprivateemployers, and recovery and support groups—thereisconfidence that we can thwart its impact through coordinated treatment, harm reduction, support and prevention.
Kurt Zempel is a sergeant with the Sheboygan County MEG Unit and cochair of the HSC2020 Heroin Subcommittee.