Heroin becoming a growing epidemic among WI youth

By Kelsie Hoitomt

Heroin, at a time known as the “one and done” drug, is circulating heavily in the area once again with seven deaths in the Hudson area alone in 2013 and a total of 35 cases in St. Croix County.

The drug itself has been around for well over 100 years, but it appears to be circulating once again throughout the younger generation.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that in 2011, 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older had used heroin at least once in their lives.

In its purest form, heroin is a fine, white powder substance, but it is seen more so as grey, brown or even black due to the toxic ingredients mixed in.

“St. Croix County has hit epidemic proportions when it comes to heroin. This is a big issue in our area. Heroin is cheap and very pure. We have lost many young adults especially in the Hudson area due to this drug,” said Mary Sather, Emergency Department Manager at Baldwin Area Medical Center.

Due to the public attention received, action was taken at the government level when Representative John Nygren put forth seven bills to be signed by Governor Scott Walker.

This drug and the horrific problems it causes really hits home to Rep. Nygren as his own daughter is a recovering heroin addict.

It was in early April of this year that Governor Walker sat down and signed into law all seven of Rep. Nygren’s Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education (HOPE) Agenda bills.

According to a press release from the Wisconsin Assembly Republicans, the bills that make up the HOPE Agenda are as follows:

Assembly Bill 445- Requires individuals to show proper identification when picking up schedule II or III narcotic/opiate prescription medication in order to address prescription fraud and diversion.

Assembly Bill 446- Provides all levels of EMTs, first responders, police and fire the ability to be trained to administer Naloxone Narcan, a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose, such as a heroin overdose.

Any person who administers the drug is immune from civil or criminal liability provided their actions are consistent with Wisconsin’s Good Samaritan law. (Act 200)

Both the Boyceville and Glenwood City Ambulance stations are trained to administer Narcan.

Assembly Bill 447- Provides limited immunity from certain criminal prosecution for a person who seeks assistance from the police or medical professionals for another individual who has overdosed on controlled substances. (Act 194)

Assembly Bill 448- Encourages communities to set up drug disposal programs and regulates these programs so unwanted prescription drugs do not fall into the wrong hands. (Act 198)

Assembly Bill 668- Expands Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) programs by increasing funding by $1.5 million annually.

Administered by the county, TAD has proven to be an effective and efficient means of combatting drug and alcohol abuse in our state. (Act 197)

Assembly Bill 701- Creates regional pilot programs to address opiate addiction in underserved areas. The treatment programs will assess individuals to determine treatment needs, provide counseling and medical or abstinence-based treatment.

After individuals successfully complete the program, they will be transitioned into county-based or private post treatment care. (Act 195)

Assembly Bill 702- Creates a system of immediate punishments for individuals who violate their parole or probation based on so called “swift and certain” laws in other states.

The model is based on research that shows that it’s the swiftness and the certainty of the sanction, not the length of the confinement, which has the greatest impact on influencing an offender’s behavior. (Act 196)

All seven of these bills were passed unanimously in both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

Rep. Nygren has worked with law enforcement, addiction rehabilitation groups, pharmacists, the legal community and all levels of state and county government to formulate this complete set bills.

In this area, Police Chiefs Dan Wellumson and Robert Darwin of the Boyceville and Glenwood City Police Departments stated that fortunately there have been no heroin cases in the city and village limits.

However, Chief Wellumson stated that methamphetamine use is on the rise.

According to the FBI, heroin apparently arrives in Wisconsin by way of Minneapolis, Chicago and Rockford, Illinois.

One hit costs roughly $12 to $15 in Milwaukee and about twice that in the Green Bay area due to the supply and demand.