Addiction harmful to too many families

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.