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Students address drug problem in presentation
Board member says CBD possession 'a tricky subject' for schools
By Brianna Stubler
June 11
, 2019

KEWASKUM — A student anti-drug campaign was presented to the Board of Education and community members Monday evening during a regularly scheduled board meeting.

Students from Kewaskum High School presented their anti-drug campaign, the same as what was given before a group gathered last week for a county roundtable discussion on heroin and the drug epidemic. Prevention was a highlight of the discussion and was included in the students’ presentation.

Afterward, one board member posed the question of protecting students.

Board member Mark Sette said addressing hemp and cannabis is a question for legislators because things are challenging with changing legislation.

Sette noted that there is no age requirement for CBD (cannabidiol) possession. Administration does not want cannabidiol in schools, but it is difficult to enforce, Sette said.

“There are a lot of loose ends with this, and in my opinion, some of those are steps towards a path that, at least in my opinion, we probably shouldn’t be going down,” Sette said. “This is a tricky subject and just like it’s tricky for law enforcement, it is tricky for schools as well.”

It is a mess now, he said, with what is going on in the state surrounding hemp and CBD. Cannabidiol is a phytocannabinoid, one of more than 100, including THC, found in cannabis plants, but with no psychoactive effects. It is frequently used medicinally and has recently become legal to obtain without a physician’s certification.

“The ways the laws have come down don’t always reflect how we feel in the schools,” Sette said. “With cannabis legalized in other states and being strongly considered for legalization in Wisconsin, this is something we need to talk about.”

The board also discussed reading and writing after a short presentation gave updates on predominantly younger students in Kewaskum schools. The district focuses on whole group discussion using the reading and writing workshop model, but intervention is given to those students who need specialized help.

Some intervention includes sound boxes, incremental rehearsal, multi-sensory spelling, supported cloze, pencil tapping, repeated reading for fluency, paragraph shrinking, graphosyllabic analysis and reciprocal teaching for comprehension.

“I like to see that we are on the cutting edge of literacy, which I think is reflected in the testing scores we’ve seen,” Sette said.

Not all students are scoring high, but some have had a learning disability identified. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction informed districts statewide dyslexia should be included in special education. Teachers in Kewaskum have been equipped to assist students who struggle with phonics and to get those who may be dyslexic the necessary medical examination.

Board member Timothy Ramthun asked how students with dyslexia were given special attention, and was informed they receive help outside of school after being diagnosed by a medical provider. They are categorized as impaired students. Ramthun asked if the district knew how many students had dyslexia, but was told there was not a specific categorical count of students experiencing different learning disabilities.

Meth among next wave of drugs coming to county
Agencies working to address drug epidemic
By Brianna Stubler
June 8
, 2019

WEST BEND — Each agency has its role in addressing methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine and other drugs that persist and arguably grow in Washington County, some preventative and others more reactionary. With nonprofits like Elevate working on prevention, law enforcement ideally has fewer incidents as a result.

Washington County Sheriff Martin Schulteis said drug-related crime is a recurring problem on both the patrol and jail end.

“We’ve been trying to give our officers in jail and on the road a few more tools in their toolbox to be able to deal with individuals, specifically now with mental health,” Schulteis said.

Sending officers to crisis intervention training is one approach to provide the educational foundation, along with having a mental health counselor.

Elevate’s diversion program coordinator Andrew Freeman said officers can direct mental health cases to a specific crisis intervention center. Mental health is an important piece of the puzzle and looking at just the substance abuse is an incomplete approach, he said.

“Mental health can be a huge trigger for their substance abuse, whether it be anxiety and depression, which are the two most common, or bipolar and PTSD,” Freeman said. “We want people to get help for these things to ensure a good sense of wellbeing, that their sobriety continues and chance of recidivism decreases.”

Elevate’s Associate Director Julie Wolf said treatment and diversion is what Elevate offers as a partial solution to the drug epidemic. Along with drug court, the goal is to reduce the number of people ending up in jail who would do better in treatment. And if they can be identified early, they may avoid run-ins with the law altogether.

“It’s hard in the jail, because as much as you want to solve the problem, it’s more trying to deal with it temporarily,” Schulteis said. Once an individual reaches jail, the conversation goes from prevention to reaction; Schulteis said law enforcement has their hands tied to some extent. They cannot wipe the slate clean, but they can work to better address the issues, like through drug court, so a person can be sent to treatment to hopefully prevent future delinquent behavior. Wolf said people are examined closely for any mental health challenges and are referred to specific agencies for their needs. This could save money if less people end up in jail on the taxpayer dollar, and it would make the county safer. Freeman said treating the underlying issue behind the criminal behavior could have a dramatic effect on the increasing drug crisis.

Some of these approaches have worked; there were fewer people booked in Washington County last year than in 2017, and the availability and abuse of certain drugs are lowered. Heroin overdoses are down, Schulteis said, but fentanyl is up, along with meth.

“That drug scares me because it’s a stimulant — heroin and opioids are bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more of a depressant,” he said. “With the stimulants, people are paranoid and fighting and that’s the next trend I’m seeing that I’m not looking forward to at all for medical staff, cops, EMS and just the people who are around.”

How to get help or help someone else:

Elevate in Jackson works address the root causes of high-risk behaviors through prevention, intervention and residential programs that focus on drug and alcohol issues, mental health and delinquency. To learn about available treatment programs or to get involved in the fight against addiction, go to or call 262-677-2216.

New federal act to address drug epidemic
Sensenbrenner and Johnson’s legislation would target fentanyl variants
By Brianna Stubler
June 6
, 2019

WEST BEND — The drug crisis seemingly worsens day by day, but today, key players from governmental and nonprofit agencies alike are uniting to take action.

This morning, Elevate and the Washington County Heroin Task Force held a roundtable breakfast discussion about ending the heroin epidemic. Some lawmakers attended and spoke about their efforts, while others worked on pushing an act through the state Legislature.

Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s communications director Christopher Krepich said several factors led to the need for federal action to intervene in the growing drug crisis affecting the entire country.

One drug in particular, fentanyl, is raising alarm.

It is a highly abused substance and frequently used when people relapse, but with its potency and increasing prevalence of being sold as heroin, fentanyl is at the heart of the drug epidemic. It is presently classified as a Schedule II controlled substance for its use in cancer treatment, but outside of medical supervision it has catastrophic effects.

Companies have been modifying fentanyl, Krepich said, just enough to resell it, but with the same addictive, harmful properties. The Drug Enforcement Administration temporarily has a scheduling authority set to expire in February 2020 without congressional action, which could lead to an increase in harmful fentanyl lookalikes.

For these reasons, Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, partnered to address the growing issue. On May 22 the two reintroduced companion versions of the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act, aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic by prohibiting new fentanyl variants on the market.

Sensenbrenner said this problem has grown too large to ignore, and now it is on Congress to act.

“Way too many Wisconsin families have been forever changed by a surge in overdose deaths stemming from fentanyl and its analogues,” Sensenbrenner said. “The SOFA Act will give law enforcement the necessary tools to fight back against the proliferation of fentanyl analogues in our communities, permanently closing loopholes in the law.”

He thanked Johnson, Oconomowoc resident Lauri Badura, who lost her son to an overdose, and Dr. Timothy Westlake for working together to put forward this act.

Johnson agreed on the epidemic’s severity and the necessity to take action.

“Communities across Wisconsin and America have been devastated by the epidemic of opioid overdoses,” Johnson said. “The SOFA Act will close a loophole in current law that is being exploited by illegal drug manufacturers.”

It also provides options to police, Johnson said, many of whom feel their hands are tied and are reacting to the issue, rather than being proactive.

“The bill will also give law enforcement the tools to quickly schedule fentanyl analogues as they are identified, preventing these drugs from sneaking around the law,” Johnson said.

Police need to be able to stay ahead of the drugs, Krepich said, and those who turn to them.

“Producers will continue developing new variations, and law enforcement agencies must have the tools to adapt to these changes,” Krepich said. “Under current law, DEA scheduling practices are reactive in nature.”

Enter the SOFA Act. It would work to close the loophole by 19 nineteen fentanyl lookalikes to the Schedule I list, Krepich said, and gives the DEA the power to immediately schedule new drugs similar to fentanyl as they are discovered.

Tackling the opioid epidemic
Roundtable discussion set for Thursday morning
By Brianna Stubler
June 5
, 2019

JACKSON — The Washington County Heroin Task Force and Elevate are hosting a roundtable breakfast discussion on tackling the opioid epidemic, with key actors from county agencies.

On Thursday from 7:30 to 9 a.m. experts and volunteers, including law enforcement, nonprofit leaders, school administration, state representatives and students will discuss prevention and the next step agencies can take to properly address the prevalence of drugs and alcohol related issues in Washington County.

Elevate’s director of community engagement and partnerships Ronna Corliss said now is the time to take a step back and examine prevention efforts within the county to determine what can be done to stop or lessen the drug epidemic in the community.

 “People need to be present, be involved and be open to assisting when needed,” Corliss said, to collectively work on pieces of these pressing issues. “Any community member can help by locking up prescriptions they have in their house; don’t make them so available to someone who may rob them or be in their house visiting and come across them in the medicine cabinet,” Corliss said. “Become a member of the heroin task force and know what some of the needs are, especially for parents — get the right message to your kids that these medicines are serious and can be very dangerous.”

Sometimes by doing nothing and being careless, Corliss said, can lead to others taking advantage of the situation and becoming addicted.

There are areas of strength in prevention now, she said, which will be addressed and built on.

“From a law enforcement standpoint, some of the things they’re already doing in prevention like alcohol and tobacco compliance checks, are working,” Corliss said. “Also, responsible alcohol class for retailers and other similar things like environmental prevention programs are essential in reducing access for youth, which prevents further problems down the road.”

Treatment and diversion is one aspect Corliss said is working well, so similar additions are being considered, like drug court. While law enforcement cannot ignore the fact a crime has been committed, there are different reactive methods on their end.

“When a person does commit a crime while they’re under the influence of a drug, there are consequences for that,” Corliss said. “But they have the opportunity to, rather than jail time, work on the issue, whether that’s going directly to treatment or whatever they need; that’s where the diversion piece comes in.”

Other aspects are working but could be expanded on in the future, including policies around accessibility to places serving alcohol and rules within schools.

“We don’t want to take the fun away from responsible adults, but there’s not a place for our youth in these environments,” Corliss said, so reducing access and availability are key.

But for prevention to be more effective, it comes down to the community member level.

To dive deeper into these topics, round table speakers will include Kari Lerch from the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, Slinger School District Superintendent James Curler, students from Kewaskum High School showing an anti-drug video they created, state Rep. Rick Gundrum, R-Slinger talking about a proposed bill, and a member of the Hartford Police Department explaining compliance checks and other measures taken by law enforcement.

The roundtable will take place at Terrace 167, 3210 Highway 167, Richfield.

County expands anti-opioid fight
Offers new treatment program for women, their affected families
By Darryl Enriquez - Special to Conley Media
May 14
, 2019

WAUKESHA — An expanded fight against opioid abuse with an emphasis on women will launch in Waukesha County based on the success of its prescription drug overdose program, which has saved 88 lives since its inception in 2017.

Waukesha County Paul Farrow announced the new program to an audience of more than 50 at a Monday morning news conference.

“After the success of this program and because of Waukesha County’s reputation for innovation, leadership and due to our rural and urban mix in our population, we have been chosen by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to lead a new project that will help us expand our fight against opioids with a special focus on women,” Farrow said.

  Waukesha County officials announce a new program to combat opioid abuse and tout the success of a lifesaving measure already in place. Participating in the announcement were, from left: Antwayne Robertson, director of the Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services; County Executive Paul Farrow; Jennifer Dorow, chief judge of the 3rd Administrative District; Sarah Cook, a 911 dispatcher with the Waukesha County Communications Center; and Nicole Amendariz, press secretary for the county executive’s office.
Darryl Enriquez/Special to Conley Media

Called the Women’s Health and Recovery Project, it will be “a new model of comprehensive services” for women suffering from substance abuse and their affected families,” according to a summary of the program.

The county received about $100,000 to develop the model and strengthen existing services for women with opiate use disorders and their families.

The project, known as a meta-model, will provide treatment for women, children’s services, education, prevention, recovery support services, transportation, employment, legal services and nutrition.

The county recently committed to supporting an inpatient drug treatment center for women.

The new women’s project will be a pilot program that could possibly be used by any county in the state or country that has both rural and urban populations.

The project’s outline was built by Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services staff during a three-month period. The draft currently is being reviewed by the state and its academic partners.

As for the existing overdose program, Farrow credited the county’s training of 825 law enforcement personnel from 29 agencies on the use of naloxone (brand name Narcan) with the saving of lives. An injection of naloxone counters the overdose effects of opioids, especially heroin.

The county receives $225,522 per year for five years, starting in 2017, to train first responders and civilians on preventing overdose deaths with the proper use of naloxone.

The program distributes naloxone to those who are trained through the program.

Nearly 300 opioid overdose education trainings were conducted to date for 3,203 people, and 2,860 naloxone kits were distributed free of charge through the program.

The next training session is 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, at the Lake Area Club, N60-W33335878 Lake Drive, Oconomowoc.

Jump for Archie slated for Wednesday in Oconomowoc

Antwayne Robertson, director of the county’s health and human services department, also addressed the audience, made up most of social services and antidrug experts. Robertson said his most vivid memory of the program was of a person who received training and a naloxone kit at a Jump for Archie anti-drug event. A week later, that person used the naloxone to save a life, he said.

The 5th annual Jump for Archie to combat rising opioid use will begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday at City Beach in Oconomowoc, 324 W. Wisconsin Ave.

The event will recognize the life-saving efforts of emergency responders and provides training on the use of naloxone.

For additional information, visit

The event honors Archie Badura, who died of an overdose at 19. On the day of his burial, family members jumped into water fully clothed in his memory, letting Archie know his death would not be in vain. His family later started the Jump for Archie to highlight opioid dangers and the toll addiction takes on families.

Residential care facility for treating drug addicts approved
Also plan to fund new drug enforcement unit member in City of Pewaukee
By Darryl Enriquez - Special to Conley Media
April 24
, 2019

WAUKESHA — A new Waukesha County-sponsored treatment center for chemically dependent men and women and a separate initiative to fight opioid use in the City of Pewaukee were approved Tuesday by the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors.

A $1.2 million collaboration between Waukesha County and Lutheran Social Services was struck to provide long-term, medical treatment at a rehabilitation center known as a residential care facility.

The measure means local women will no longer need to seek in-patient addiction treatment outside of Waukesha County, according to officials from the Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services.

The Waukesha County Board of Supervisors advanced the center by approving $335,000 in financing for startup costs, which includes remodeling a Lutheran Social Services building on Bluemound Road, west of Springdale Road, into a 22-bed facility.

The $335,000 is expected to be recovered from revenue generated by the center.

Lutheran Social Services, a not-for-profit agency, runs other county human service programs, such as older adult services, housing and homelessness.

The facility will be available to both genders seeking medically monitored treatment or less restrictive transitional care for chemical dependency. Men and women will have separate entrances, dining and living areas.

The county wants the center operational before the end of the year. Clients will be referred from courts and hospitals. Patients can also check themselves in.

In other action, the board made a new weapon available in the fight to curb the opioid epidemic in Waukesha County and specifically the City of Pewaukee.

The board approved a plan for the City of Pewaukee to finance a new member of the Waukesha County Metro Drug Enforcement Unit. The plan calls for the city to pay about $140,000 annually for the new position, which includes the costs of salary, equipment and mileage.

The new position will develop opioid investigations in the city and the greater Waukesha County area.

The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, which operates the Metro Drug Unit, put the initiative together at the request of the City of Pewaukee Common Council in an effort to “allocate resources to proactively address opioids,” according to text within the approved ordinance.

County Supervisor Chuck Wood praised city officials for funding a new member of the drug unit.

“This is a celebratory ordinance, at least in my mind, for the City of Pewaukee showing great leadership,” Wood told his fellow supervisors. “Their leaders saw the problem of opioid use.”

The Drug Unit consists of law enforcement officers from a number of Waukesha County communities. The sheriff’s department already has a contract with the city to provide police services, and that agreement will expire at the end of the year, although the city has indicated it likely will renew the contract, according to the ordinance.

The new ordinance is an amendment to the current agreement and includes language for a new sheriff’s deputy position slated to start June 1 on the Metro Drug Unit.

City of Pewaukee wants to fund deputy to combat opioids
If approved, the city would pay about $122,000 to fund the salary
By Brandon Anderegg
April 6
, 2019

CITY OF PEWAUKEE — The City of Pewaukee is hoping to fund a sheriff’s deputy for the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department’s metro drug unit to combat the presence of opioids both in the community and the county, said City of Pewaukee Mayor Steve Bierce.

Because the City of Pewaukee contracts police services through the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, the county’s Judiciary and Law Enforcement Committee is slated to discuss hiring the sheriff’s deputy at a meeting at 8:30 a.m. April 12 at the Waukesha County Administration Center, 515 W. Moorland Blvd., Waukesha.

Bierce said the push for hiring another sheriff’s deputy stemmed from Common Council meetings where aldermen would often inquire about what local law enforcement was doing to combat drugs in the community.

“It’s not getting better and you’re constantly reading about people overdosing,” Bierce said. “I just felt, and Common Council agreed, that we need to make sure we’re doing our part.”

The new sheriff’s deputy won’t specifically operate in the City of Pewaukee but will instead be added to the metro drug unit, which is composed of law enforcement from several municipalities, said Scott Klein, City of Pewaukee administrator. The City of Pewaukee is not currently a part of the county’s metro drug unit.

If the measure is approved, the city would pay approximately $122,000 to fund the salary of the sheriff’s deputy, which includes funds for the support staff he or she may need, Bierce said.

When asked if there was a rise of overdoses in the City of Pewaukee, Klein said there appears to be more cases as of late.

“Certainly the Sheriff’s Department and our fire department are getting more calls and it seems to be happening a couple of times a week,” Klein said. “This is just another way of trying to deal with it.”

Bierce added that his neighbor’s son recently succumbed to an overdose, which also spurred the need to contribute to the cause.

“From my standpoint, every time I hear about another kid overdosing, it just adds to my desire to stop it,” Bierce said.

Bierce said the city had also contemplated hiring another sheriff’s deputy to patrol the city but felt contributing to the metro drug unit would be the best use of taxpayers’ money.

“We’re at a point now where maybe we could add another person on patrol, but how much would that improve our community compared to how this may potentially improve our community?” Bierce said.

Waukesha County: Opioid crisis, foster home shortage leading to more sibling separation
By Cara Spoto
March 21
, 2019

WAUKESHA — An ongoing shortage of foster homes, coupled with the continued challenges posed by the opioid crisis, had led to an increasing number of Waukesha County siblings being separated while in foster care, Waukesha County Health and Human Services officials say.

Currently, seven sets of siblings from the county, a total of 18 children, are living apart from each, according to the department.

Part of the problem, said Michelle Lim, foster care and shared services supervisor for Waukesha County HHS, is that opioid addiction has a longer period of recovery and a higher rate of relapse, so kids are staying in foster care for a longer amount of time.

The crisis has contributed to the number of child abuse and neglect reports in Waukesha County trending upward in recent years. The county now sees an average of 2,000 reports annually.

When the county has a shortage of foster homes, to meet the demands of those cases, there is often no choice but to have children move away from their community, their school and sometimes their siblings, said Kathy Mullooly, intake and shared services manager at the county’s Health and Human Services department.

Being a foster parent

While the county has several great foster parents, the demand for foster care is currently exceeding the number of homes available to children in need, officials said.

In most cases, children in Waukesha County stay in foster care for a year, but in rare cases they may need to stay for two years or more.

The situation has the county putting out a call to those interested in becoming a foster parent.

“Whomever has simply thought about fostering or is considering fostering now, we would love to speak with them to answer questions,” Lim said.

Information about being a foster parent can be found at or by calling 262896-8574.

Community sends message on addiction through Elevate
Treatment court receives donation
By Jill Badzinski - Special to Conley Media
March 5
, 2019

Community donations to a drug treatment program have a much greater impact than helping pay the bills, said Mary Simon, executive director of Elevate, Inc.

“The dollars will help to support the staff, drug testing and medication which has been proven to be helpful in dealing with opiate addiction,” Simon said. “Above and beyond the dollar impact is the message that the donation sends regarding community support to the individuals that we serve: that is not just Elevate that wants them to be successful. The community is financially supporting the program and they are rooting for them as well.

“For individuals struggling with addiction and often ostracized by the community, this is a powerful message,” Simon said.

  From left, Mary Simon, executive director of Elevate, receives a $4,300 donation from 100+ Women Who Care of Washington County members Ruth Henkle, Wendy Heather and Jillian Clark.
Submitted photo

Elevate recently received a $4,300 donation from 100+ Women Who Care of Washington County. The money will be used for the establishment of a treatment court in Washington County.

“Treatment courts are an evidence-based practice designed to assist individuals involved in the criminal justice system because of crimes committed due to their substance use disorder,” Simon said. “The goal of the treatment court is to assist in effectively treating the substance use disorder and helping individuals sustain long-term recovery so that they do not re-offend.”

Although the Treatment Court will eventually be funded by the government, community support is required to launch the program. That facet made it an ideal fit for the newly formed 100+ Women group. Similar to chapters of the international group, the local initiative is compromised of women who agree to meet four times a year, hear funding requests from local nonprofit organizations and donate $100 four times a year to the selected organization. The county chapter was started by Ruth Henkle, executive director of the Albrecht Free Clinic and four friends, most of who have participated in similar groups. Ideally, at least 100 women will join, resulting in contributions of $10,000 four times a year.

Because the group only meets quarterly for no more than one hour, it is an opportunity to meet like-minded people and make a large impact without volunteering countless hours, Henkle said. Another benefit is an opportunity to learn more about nonprofit organizations that serve county residents, she said. Although members are not solicited to become volunteers at the organizations they support, information will be provided if requested, she said.

New members are welcome to join the group. The next meeting will be April 9 at Café Soeurette, 111 N. Main St., West Bend. Social time starts at 5:30 p.m. with the meeting running from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, contact Henkle at

Residential care facility proposed for treating drug addicts
Would be based on collaboration between Waukesha County, Lutheran Social Services
By Darryl J. Enriquez - Special to Conley Media
Feb. 15
, 2019

WAUKESHA — A proposed $1.2 million collaboration between Waukesha County and a nonprofit agency could provide to chemically dependent men and women a long-term, medical treatment and rehabilitation center known as a residential care facility.

If approved by the Waukesha County Board, local women no longer would need to pursue inpatient addiction treatment outside of Waukesha County, said Randy Setzer, administrative services manager for Waukesha County’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Setzer, along with John Kettler, the department’s human services supervisor, and Joan Sternweis, the department’s clinical service manager, outlined the proposal on Thursday to the Waukesha County Combined Health & Human Services Board and Committee.

Lutheran Social Services, a much-used nonprofit for other county human service programs, has applied to create the center for the program, which it would eventually run.

The agency already runs a number of programs for the county, such as older adult services, housing and help for the homeless.

The residential care facility would be available to both genders seeking medically monitored treatment or less restrictive transitional care for chemical dependency, Setzer said.

The center’s location is proposed for the Lutheran Social Services building on Bluemound Road, west of Springdale Road. The agency has stated it would need $335,000 from the county to fund startup operations and to convert the building into a 22-bed facility, Setzer said.

An ordinance to approve the money and strike a contract with Lutheran Social Services will be coming in March, Setzer said.

The county wants to have clients in the center before the end of the year. Clients would originate from court and hospital referrals or those who check themselves in, Kettler said.

Although the center would serve both men and women, they would have separate entrances, dining and living areas, he said.

Clients would be classified in two different categories, but would live under one roof.

The medially monitored residential care facility is akin to in-patient treatment “all day and every day for 30 days,” Kettler said. “It’s very intensive with the use of strong medicines.”

The transitional care facility for 90-day stays is for patients who can go in and out of the center to do job searches, take care of personal matters and attend 12-step recovery counseling, Kettler said.

The county is expected to have about eight clients a day at the residential center. The agency would find other clients to fill remaining beds, Setzer said.

Setzer said the advantage of the local center is it will save the county about $489.000 over a five-year period. The savings still exist when the county’s capital outlay of $355,000 is subtracted from the projected savings, he said.

The local facility also allows families of the addicted to be close to loved ones, and encourages the growth of support systems, he said. Committee member Kathleen Cummings said the most convincing need for the Waukesha- based center is that its long-range services will be available to Waukesha County women, keeping them close to home.

“This will get (the addicted) more in-depth treatment for the crisis we have,” said committee Chairwoman Christine Howard.

TAD program helps those with addiction issues get clean, stay sober
By Ralph Chapoco
Jan. 4
, 2019

WEST BEND — Given the persistent issue of opioids in the area, Washington County officials have partnered with representatives from Elevate Inc. and the justice system to offer a treatment alternatives and diversion program to address the matter.

The program is in the 18th month of its tenure, operating at near capacity. Geena Laabs, who had her case dismissed Wednesday after successful completion of the program, is the eighth person to graduate. There are scores more who are enrolled and continue to make progress with their treatment while others have discontinued the program. “We are 100 percent in favor of it,” said Sandra Giernoth, the assistant district attorney for the Washington County District Attorney’s Office. “Our office participated in the core group that helped establish the program and has supported it from its start.”

The program amounts to a paradigm shift for some in the area. Traditionally, individuals charged with possession of a controlled substance, absent a valid prescription, will be prosecuted and if convicted, face a host of potential punishments, including fines and incarceration. There is also the option for probation.

  Christine Zimmermann with Elevate presents Geena Laabs with a plaque after graduating from the TAD program Wednesday morning at the Washington County Courthouse in West Bend. Laabs graduated the Treatment Alternative Diversion (TAD) program put on by Elevate that assists those with opioid use disorder.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Instead, those enrolled in the program are presented with an opportunity to defer their prosecution to address their addiction, and provided they meet the requirements outlined, may have their case dismissed — offering them a chance that some believe the criminal justice system is ill equipped to provide.

“This is an alternative that focuses on their treatment needs in the community with resources that are available to address alcohol or other drug abuse, or mental health, or co-occurrence issues, and those resources are limited in the criminal justice system,” Giernoth said.

Incarceration can work in conjunction with treatment, as will paying a fine — but those options do not address their ongoing issues with addiction. Giernoth added that incarceration places individuals in an artificial setting because it is controlled.

It poorly mimics the natural environment complete with stressors and triggers that could complicate their sobriety.

In the past, diversion was offered to those with operating while intoxicated charges. Provided they meet their goals, those enrolled could be offered less severe penalties.

Treatment alternatives and diversion for opioids became available a couple of years ago when state representatives changed the requirements of the grant money provided to the public to address their growing concerns related to the opioid epidemic.

To adhere to the modified requirements, county officials and those in the criminal justice system, collaborated to establish a similar program for those impacted by opioids.

Representatives from Elevate were awarded the contract to manage the program when working with clients.

Enrollees are subject to intense treatment and case management. Clients undergo a screening and assessment process by Elevate staff.

“At that time, we collect their drug use history, their treatment history,” Case Manager Christine Zimmermann said. “At that time, we determine what their needs are. A lot of times when they come in, besides having a primary diagnosis of substance abuse, they may be experiencing homelessness, medical issues, things like that.”

  Andrew Freeman with Elevate takes notes before Geena Laabs’ deferred prosecution agreement hearing Wednesday morning at the Washington County Courthouse in West Bend. Laabs graduated the Treatment Alternative Diversion (TAD) program put on by Elevate that assists those with opioid use disorder.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Clients are then connected to resources, including primary treatment, as well as transportation or any other needs they have. To address their substance abuse issues, patients can be referred to an inpatient facility or on an outpatient basis. “That was just necessary for me,” Laabs said. “I had never lived in society like that before. I had no idea what I was doing before in my past … There was never any responsibility or anything like that.”

Individuals are monitored for drug and alcohol use continuously, and ongoing case management is offered to enhance their stability — hopefully placing them on a path to sobriety.

“Just by seeing how it has benefitted her, and everything that she has accomplished in just a short time, I think it would have been a good way for me to have that kind of direction because when I got out, the decision-making process is very hard for an addict and I didn’t know what direction to go,” said Martina Laabs, Geena’s sister, who is also in recovery.

She was not admitted into the program.

Despite that support, not everyone completes the program successfully. With Laabs included as part of the statistics, the success rate, those who have graduated versus those who have been admitted, totals about 14 percent.

According to the numbers provided by Elevate staff, 76 clients have been referred to the program. Fifty-six have been admitted and 19 have been discharged because of noncompliance.

In some respects, the calculation presents an unnaturally low figure because there are people enrolled in treatment and diversion who will eventually increase the number. However, it also speaks to the nature of the issue and the obstacles that hinder success.

Initially, Giernoth said she believed coordinating committee members projected a failure rate of 80 percent but added those figures do not temper her support for the program because of the need.

“It is like playing a sport against a team with all the cards, all of the skills, the best players on the team, and you are just trying to make a couple of baskets,” Giernoth said. “The odds are stacked against the individuals in the program, they are stacked against the individuals who run the program by the nature of the addiction that we are battling.”

Andrew Freeman, Elevate’s director of intervention programs, provided a 2014 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, indicating that 66 percent of treatment alternatives participants successfully completed the program. About 90 percent of those who participated were not admitted to the state prison system after three years of receiving their discharge from the program. It also stated the net benefit per discharge was about $2,900.

“People enter TAD at different stages of being ready to make the changes necessary to begin the road to recovery,” Elevate’s Executive Director Mary Simon said. “Some are more ready to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them through this program than others. For those who are less ready, our goal when they enter the program is to motivate them to appreciate the opportunity they have been given and have hope that they too can enter recovery.”


Drug abuse treatment program helps woman make positive life change
By Ralph Chapoco
Jan. 3
, 2019

WEST BEND — Geena Laabs, without the presence of her attorney, sat at the defendant’s table Wednesday in one of the courtrooms of the Washington County Courthouse.

Behind her was a cadre of people who defined much of her support group for the past year: her father, parole official and representatives from Elevate Inc. who have assisted her as she sought to stabilize her life.

With the prosecuting attorney, Sandra Giernoth, sitting at an adjacent table, Laabs faced the presiding judge as he rendered his verdict regarding her fate.

“This case is dismissed,” the Honorable James Pouros said with an expression of pride on his face that contrasted the countenance he displayed earlier that morning.

That prompted Laabs to rise from her seat, shake Giernoth’s hand and walk toward the courtroom’s exit, to the awaiting smiles of those who had comprised her cheering section for the past 12 months, hoping to never again return and face the criminal justice system she had been accustomed to for parts of her adult life.

  Geena Laabs smiles as she poses for a portrait with her 6-day-old baby, Delilah Manchek, on Tuesday afternoon at their home in East Troy. Laabs will be graduating from the Treatment Alternative Diversion (TAD) program put on by Elevate. The program assists those with opioid use disorder.
John Ehlke/Daily News

The series of episodes marked the culmination of a milestone that she, along with her friends and loved ones, had been preparing for during the prior year. Laabs represents a handful of graduates of the treatment alternatives and diversion program that began in Washington County about 18 months ago.

She entered the courtroom last year under different circumstances than when she left Wednesday, the time when she was offered the opportunity to enter the program.

Laabs’ recovery process began with a drug charge. She had been living with her ex-boyfriend at the time and during September of 2017, both made the decision to begin treatment for their addiction.

“We shared a dog together, and I said, ‘You can go detox and I will take care of the dog in the home, and then you can come back, and I will go,’” Laabs recalled.

The boyfriend returned, came to the door and was angry, asking to be let in to the home. Laabs refused, unwilling to endure an incident when he was angry. That prompted a call to the police department, and officers were dispatched to the scene.

They began an investigation into the incident and located the illicit substances in the apartment. She was then charged, incarcerated and began experiencing withdrawals while in jail. Laabs was released on bail, but continued to use heroin.

In November 2017, as she was going through the court process, she overdosed and was placed on the treatment alternatives program.

During December of the same year, she attended to her first treatment alternatives appointment and was told she could not fail her drug test.

Two days later she overdosed.

Her father found her passed out on the floor and called first responders to the scene. On their way to the location, Laabs revived on her own and waited to be transported to the hospital.

“I sat on my bed, waiting for them to come, knowing I had drugs out, all this stuff out, but it didn’t bother me,” Laabs said. “I just didn’t care about anything.”

  Geena Laabs smiles kisses her 6-day-old baby, Delilah Manchek, while posing for a portrait Tuesday afternoon at their home in East Troy. Laabs will be graduating from the Treatment Alternative Diversion (TAD) program put on by Elevate. The program assists those with opioid use disorder.
John Ehlke/Daily News

After receiving treatment at the hospital, Laabs spent time with her parents before she was set to be transported to jail because of the drug paraphernalia that was found in her room.

“Both of them came in the room in the hospital and sat down with me, told me they loved me, they were here for me,” Laabs said. “I just begged them to bail me out right away. ‘I promise I will go rehab. I will do this.’ All these promises to make to get out of what you were in.”

They declined because the incident was a repeat of other episodes as Laabs struggled with her illness — claiming about a decade of her life.

Left to remain in jail for the next 21 days, in her cell, laying on her bunk and listening to the radio that jail administrators provided her, Laabs reflected on what had happened.

“First of all, I had enough time locked up, enough clean time, where I could make a decision for myself to get clean and stay clean,” Laabs said. “I could reason for myself.”

She also had enough. In the past she had imagined the life she could have had without her dependence and be free to accomplish what she could.

“I wanted to be somebody,” Laabs said. “I wanted to be somebody important, successful, have meaningful relationships. I wanted a purpose and I wanted to find answers to questions that I had all my life, as I lived and came along. I wanted to be happy and find happiness.” Upon her release, she began to seriously pursue sobriety via the yearlong treatment alternatives program, which involved a meeting with Andrew Freeman, the director of intervention programs, and case manager Christine Zimmermann. The prize for graduating, the chance to have her case dismissed — almost as if it didn’t happen.

It involved twice weekly meetings requiring a drug test as well as progress reports.

There were also intensive outpatient sessions five days each week for five hours each day, learning how to cope with difficulties alongside others who are addicted to heroin.

“Personal problems,” Laabs said. “Everything was open for discussion. Whatever you felt comfortable talking about, relationships or something you went through that day or a trigger you had.”

Those experiences became the groundwork from which Laabs would reconstruct her life, scaffolding accomplishments from those experiences. She obtained her driver’s license after a couple of months, then a job about one month after that. Laabs then gained a second job. From there, she decided to enroll in college to earn her degree.

In a series of seemingly small accomplishments, Laabs captured the life she wanted, the one she thought about when lying on her bed, pondering about her capabilities without the addiction.

Everyone, from the bailiff who maintained order in the room to the legal professionals who managed the proceedings, the network of individuals who accompanied her, even Laabs herself, began to realize the magnitude of the changes she implemented as Pouros read a letter that listed — and highlighted — the accomplishments she could claim.

“I wish we had someone like you every day so that the prosecutors would not get depressed with their work, so defense lawyers would not get depressed, so the judge would also not be suffering anxiety,” Pouros said. “This is a really wonderful thing and I am glad you did it. It sounds like you have a lot of good things going for you.”

Lawmakers discuss opioid epidemic at annual legislative breakfast
By Ralph Chapoco
Dec. 8
, 2018

WEST BEND — A few state officials were in Washington County to learn more about opioids and how it is impacting the local community.

Representatives from Elevate Inc., a nonprofit located in Jackson, hosted their legislative breakfast Friday at Terrace 167 in the village of Richfield, inviting both current and incoming legislators to hear testimony regarding a range of issues related to the epidemic.

The gathering has become an annual affair, attended by administrators and elected officials from the various municipalities throughout the area. In the past, the events were generally referred to as legislative breakfasts, but this year staff decided to rename the event as the Bob Gannon Memorial Legislative Breakfast.

Gannon was a legislator who passed away in October of 2017.

  Terry Bogues, the operator of Terrace 167, addresses the crowd at the beginning of the event Friday at the village of Richfield with a photograph of her son, Greg Bergeron, in the background, who passed away because of an addiction to opioids. The Bob Gannon Memorial Legislative Breakfast was hosted by representatives from Elevate Inc. and the Washington County Heroin Taskforce to educate legislators about issues surrounding the opioid epidemic in the area.
Ralph Chapoco/Daily News

The event began with a presentation by Adam Kindred, the director of prevention services with Elevate, who provided a sense of the magnitude of the impact of the opioid epidemic.

According to facts he cited, the economic cost to society is estimated at more than $740 billion on an annual basis. That total was compiled based on crimes that were committed because of drug addiction and lost productivity at the workplace.

“When we break those numbers down, and part of it has to do with the opioid crisis, but the vast majority of that number is attributed to alcohol and tobacco use in our society,” Kindred said. ‘I think that is interesting because it speaks to the importance of prevention.”

He also quoted that in 2011, 74 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions began their substance abuse prior to 17 years old.

Kindred was followed by Michelle Simpson, identified as a concerned parent whose child is living with an opioid addiction.

“Shortly before Abigail’s 18th birthday while a senior in high school, the very short version is that she went from choosing among four colleges that she was admitted to, playing competitive volleyball since the age of 13, had lifelong friends, to Tom and I trying to locate her because she would disappear for days. She was truant from school, really barely graduated.”

From there, the attention turned to Sandra Giernoth, the assistant district attorney for Washington County, who described for legislators how the law can function in terms of an opioid case.

Wisconsin bill 2017 Act 33 was passed to allow for immunity for those involved in an opioid case within certain circumstances. Generally, people do not abuse opioids on an individual basis, and typically consume the substance in a different location for where they obtained it.

What can occur is that one individual suffers an overdose while the remaining individuals do not. The regulation is meant to offer immunity for those who do not overdose and notify authorities and allow first responders to assist with the situation.

The statute is meant to encourage users who have not overdosed to notify authorities of their situation should an overdose occur in their presence.

“However, I would tell you that I think that its utility in practice has some adverse effects that the legislature should be aware of,” Giernoth said.

In one case, two individuals had purchased opioids and one experienced an adverse reaction while the other did not use. The other person called the authorities but impeded the investigation when law enforcement and other first responders when the person was asked about the situation, claiming it was medical condition.

“I think as people we can understand why that individual may have answered that way,” Giernoth said. “That subject was afraid for his own welfare and I understand that, but the net effect of that was to impede the officers’ investigations with regards to rendering emergency aid to a subject who was experiencing a near-death experience.”

Another example she cited involved three individuals who purchased opioids from a source and one experienced an overdose. The two remaining subjects chose to drive the individual to Washington County and left the person in a business parking lot in the overnight hours in the vehicle alone — resulting in the person’s death.

“At least in my opinion not because they are awful, horrible people, but because I think this is an example of individuals who lack those norms and lack that rational thinking that we have on a regular basis as a result of their addiction,” Giernoth said.

The statute also provides a deferred prosecution agreement for those charged with abusing opioids that includes a treatment component. Should the individual complete the necessary requirements, then dismissal or reduction of charges is possible.

However, there are conditions for that immunity which cannot be meant through no fault of the individual. Defendants are offered a treatment alternatives and diversion option as part of the deferred prosecution agreement.

This applies to individuals who are on supervision with the department of corrections but may or may not live in the county. Prosecutors will then use resources available at the department of corrections but that is not best practice because the services they are receiving the same services after the overdose will be the same as what they receive before the overdose occurred.

There are others who do not reside in the county and are not on supervision with the department of corrections. They are not eligible for treatment alternatives and diversion because they do not reside in the county. Giernoth also said she cannot access resources with the department of corrections because they are not on supervision. That essentially limits the available options.

Michelle Hetebrueg with the department of corrections followed, requesting additional resources, different options for treatment, including in a confined setting.

After listening to the experts, the personal anecdotes of those affected by the disease, it was the elected officials turn to respond.

“I do know we made some advances in terms of making more resources available from Medicaid dollars, tied to some waivers and I think some of that is coming in the future,” State Sen. Duey Stroebel said.

Elevate gives officials update on opioid treatment program
By Ralph Chapoco
Oct. 23
, 2018

WEST BEND — With several committee members serving as Washington County supervisors for the first time, administrators wanted to provide them with an overview of the treatment alternatives and diversion service that was implemented 15 months ago.

Andrew Freeman, the program coordinator for Elevate Inc., spoke to several aspects of the opioid treatment program during the Human Services Board meeting Thursday, providing insight into the enrollment figures, the criteria for recruiting participants and details about the curriculum.

“Really the whole point of the TAD program is to use cross-system collaboration to address a county-wide problem with a very specific target population,” he said.

There have been a total of 70 referrals and admissions for treatment and diversion. Of those, 48 have decided to participate. Thirteen declined and nine have their admissions pending.

Of those who opted to participate, 29 continue to be enrolled in the program. There were 16 discharged and one voluntarily withdrew. Only two have graduated thus far.

  Members of the Human Services Board meeting listen to a presentation Thursday from Andrew Freeman from Elevate Inc. regarding the opioid treatment alternatives and diversion program that was implemented about 15 months ago.
Submitted photo

According to the accompanying report, the program is about one year in length with a possible extension based on the participation. To qualify for treatment and diversion, the individual must be a Washington County resident, be at least 17 years old and not be classified as a violent offender.

They must also have a current pending charge or previous conviction for distribution of narcotic drugs and meet certain requirements related to substance abuse and have other psychological needs.

“We all know the opioid problem is affecting multiple areas in Washington County,” Freeman said.

He based that conclusion on information that was part of his presentation. During 2016, there were 23 deaths in the area related to overdoses, for 2018 it is 27 with the potential to increase with a few months left. In 2016, there were 10 arrests for possession of heroin with intent to distribute. For 2017, that figure increased to 36.

“TAD takes place from the time the client enters the DPA (deferred prosecution agreement) until sentencing, or hopefully if they complete, dismissal of their charge,” Freeman said.

He presented a flowchart of the judicial process related to opioids, from the arrest to conviction. In it, Freeman highlighted that intervention would occur at about the time of the plea deal or when the process would continue with a trial. The slide also displayed the different levels of care that a participant can expect, which can include hospitalization.

“For clients who need medical detox, getting them into an actual hospital setting, for medically-managed inpatient treatment, is incredibly important,” Freeman said. “Especially for clients who are abusing various substances, heroin, benzodiazepines, alcohol, other medications, we want to make sure they are taken care of because withdrawal can be extremely dangerous.”

Others can consist of residential treatment not associated with a hospital, a partial hospitalization that would entail several hours of treatment each week, intense outpatient treatment for more than nine hours each week, or simple outpatient services that would be less than that.

“In other words, are these treatment programs costing these individuals any money?” Supervisor Frank Carr asked.

There are varying levels of payment, depending on their insurance plan.

“The reason I am interested in this, it may be an inducement for these people to enter into the program if they actually have skin in the game by paying something out of their pocket,” Carr said. “It may not. There is the other side that, if it doesn’t cost them anything, they have more money to buy heroin.”

Officials charge clients a fee of $300 or $25 each month for access to the program but have stipulated they will not be denied participation or completion because of financial hardship.

Freeman added the fee acts to provide an incentive to entice clients to complete treatment.

“The medically managed inpatient is the highest cost of care,” Human Services Director Julie Driscoll said. “That is someone who is generally not employed. That person is a heavy user. They simply cannot safely stay in the community. Very few insurances pay for that. That is the highest cost of care, but once people move down the levels of care, they become employable, outpatient services are fairly inexpensive in relation.”

Striving for zero deaths
Program in West Bend aims to educate public about heroin use
By Alex Beld
Oct. 5
, 2018

WEST BEND — The West Bend School District has partnered with Your Choice to Live Inc. to provide a free community event to educate the public about heroin use.

The presentation will address stopping use before it starts, helping addicts, hope, loss and will detail how everyone from parents to paramedics are affected by the opioid epidemic.

“Your Choice’s main focus is on prevention and education,” said Sandi Lybert, founder of Your Choice. “And really raising the awareness and providing knowledge to parents.”

  Melanie Crandall, with Your Choice Prevention Education holds a photo of her and her daughter, Alexis, in the conference room of Your Choice on Thursday afternoon in Hartland. Crandall will speak during the Stairway to Heroin presentation at the West Bend high schools Tuesday. Crandall lost Alexis to a heroin overdose when she was 17 years old. For the last six years, Crandall has talked about her experiences as a mother to different age groups, from middle school students to law enforcement officials.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Her son started using marijuana and alcohol in sixth grade and later moved on to heroin.

The event, called Stairway to Heroin, features the Lybert family and their story about struggling with addiction. Lybert’s son used heroin through his teen years and into his early 20s.

“My son has been recovering from a heroin addiction almost 10 years,” Lybert said.

Lybert said prevention is key as is understanding the progression of addiction.

During treatment the family worked together and Lybert asked her husband and kids if they would work together to go out and educate parents.

Lybert said she didn’t want families to be in the situation they entered when dealing with her son’s addiction.

“We felt very alone, we felt very shunned,” Lybert said. “Actually we had no resources.”

Director of Pupil Services Sharon Kailas said it also helps to have educators know the signs of drug use or other issues so they can share that information with parents.

“When kids are in crisis the parents don’t know,” Kailas said.

  Tyler Lybert speaks at a Stairway to Heroin presentation in May 2015 with his family members, from left, Ashleigh, Sandi and Rick, sitting on stage in Rockford, Ill.
Submitted photo

A flyer for the event said, “Parents are still the most powerful influence in their children’s lives. Children who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use than those who don’t.”

Kailas said the presentation is overwhelming and she was impacted by it after seeing how addiction not only affects families, but service providers.

Sponsors of the event include Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, Delta Defense, Aurora Health, United Way of Washington County and Rogers Memorial Hospital.

The free event will begin with a resource fair at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the West Bend High Schools Silver Lining Arts Center, 1305 E. Decorah Road. The presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. It is recommended that those who want to attend register on the district website.

Lybert said those who attend will walk away with a folder of information, which, among other things, will address what to do when you find out your child is an addict.

“The only way to fight an epidemic is to understand and to have knowledge,” Lybert said.

Along with the Lybert’s there will be four other speakers, each of which have been affected by the opioid epidemic.

Increasing options for fighting drug addiction
Schimel, partners expand treatment court and diversion programs
By Brandon Anderegg
Aug. 29
, 2018

WAUKESHA — A total of $6.5 million is now available for 50 Wisconsin counties and two tribes entering their third year of a five-year grant cycle for treatment courts and diversion programs, according to a press release.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, along with the Department of Corrections, Health Services, Wisconsin State Courts, Wisconsin Public Defenders Office and local partners, will expand available treatment and diversion programs to combat the ongoing fight against opioids and methamphetamine.

With increased funding, better data collection, formal program standards, and more training for treatment court and program staff, Wisconsin’s Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) Program has expanded from seven counties utilizing $700,000 in grant funding to 50 counties and two tribes utilizing $6.5 million annually, according to a press release.

Schimel said in the release he and other organizations recognize that while often necessary, imprisonment cannot be the lone solution for addiction or changing a person’s behavior. Schimel also said treatment courts utilize accountability and allow offenders a chance to demonstrate their commitment to sobriety. “After nearly 30 years as a prosecutor, I can say, without reservation, that treatment courts are the best thing the criminal justice system has ever done, and it’s not only me that believes that,” Schimel said. “The fact is district attorneys, police, social workers, public defenders and everyone in between — we all agree.”

The TAD program provides local jurisdictions with options to give offenders, as an opportunity to enter diversion programs or treatment court programs, a safe alternative to jail or prison confinement. These options typically involve drug and/or alcohol abuse treatment, case management, and other risk reduction services. Diverting nonviolent offenders into substance abuse treatment keeps them out of jail and correctional facilities — thereby saving bed space and taxpayer dollars — as well as treating the underlying addiction that may have influenced them to commit a crime or may contribute to future criminal behavior, according to the release.

To support ongoing performance measurement and long-term evaluation of TAD and related programs across the state, in 2017 the Wisconsin Department of Justice launched a data collection and reporting system for treatment courts and diversion programs called The Comprehensive Outcome, Research and Evaluation (CORE) system.

The CORE system provides an integrated tool to collect more detailed data on treatment court and diversion program participants, which will allow sites to regularly monitor the progress of their programs and track longerterm outcomes.

The program that provides a next step
Opioid recovery coaches now available at local hospital
By Laurie Arendt
July 17
, 2018

GRAFTON — For someone in the throes of an opioid addiction, a trip to the emergency room after an overdose is a life-or-death matter.

But so, too, is how that addiction is addressed after the trauma has passed.

The emergency departments at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Washington County and Summit are now offering the free ED2 Recovery program that provides access to recovery coaches and community resources for patients admitted with opioid-related addictions.

“When we have someone admitted that we think could benefit from the program, we call for a recovery counselor,” said Tanya Krueger, manager of emergency services at Aurora Medical Center Grafton. “We don’t give any personal information about the patient, but the counselor is aware that the person has been admitted due to an opioid issue.”

Once the counselor arrives, he or she waits in the hallway and the patient, and his or her family, if they are present, is told that there is someone available to talk with them to discuss available resources and help that is available. Just Listen, a community recovery organization, provides the recovery coaches for the Aurora Medical Centers.

The timing of that intervention actually works well, said Susan Wegener, manager of case management at Aurora Medical Center Grafton.

“It’s a point where they generally are fairly open to listening,” she said. “They’re not really feeling great about what they’ve experienced and are at least open to talking over what their options are going forward.”

Wegener said that the program is funded through a state program, which was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker. The funding, which was part of a bipartisan effort to combat the state’s opioid crisis, targets education and funds nonnarcotic treatment programs, among other initiatives. The program is funded through a grant from Wisconsin Voices for Recovery and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies.

“This program is really in its infancy,” said Krueger. “But it allows us to meet people in real time, who are in a crisis, which results in a higher success rate.”

While the program is new to the Grafton location, Krueger said that the response rate is currently about 86 percent among those opioid patients who have been offered it. The program went live in Grafton at the beginning of July.

Additionally, it provides a tool to the Aurora staff that it didn’t have before.

“As the staff of an Emergency Department, we now have something we can do,” she said. “It’s an additional way for us to care for our patients after they are through the crisis of an overdose.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, opioids are responsible for six out of 10 overdose deaths in the United States. The longer an addict uses opioids, the higher his or her tolerance becomes to the drugs, requiring more to achieve the same effect on the body. Addicts who start out abusing prescription pain medication often switch to heroin, which provides the same effects with a much cheaper price tag.

Aurora Health Care was among the first systems in Wisconsin to join the ED2 Recovery Program in late 2017, with its locations in Manitowoc and Sheboygan first rolling out the program.

“Programs like ED2 Recovery have shown great outcomes for patients and our communities,” said Dave Graebner, president of Aurora Medical Center in Grafton and Washington County. “The opioid epidemic has impacted every community in Wisconsin, and our hope for this new program is to help patients in our area find the resources they need close to home.”

Waukesha County joins federal opioid lawsuit
Multi-jurisdictional case takes aim at manufacturers, distributors
By Cara Spoto
July 17
, 2018

WAUKESHA — Waukesha County has officially joined a federal lawsuit targeting prescription drug manufacturers and distributors some say are responsible for the opioid epidemic.

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and County Board Chairman Paul Decker announced Monday that the county had joined many other government entities around the country, seeking to recover costs associated with the opioid crisis.

Like other complaints, Waukesha’s lawsuit names a slew of big name companies. The list of roughly a dozen defendants includes pharmaceutical distributor Cardinal Health and drugmaker Purdue Pharma.

“The opioid epidemic takes a toll on our communities and our justice system,” Farrow said in a statement. “Local government has been forced to respond by dedicating resources to drug prevention and treatment. Waukesha County is using every tool necessary to stop the crisis, which includes holding those responsible for it accountable.”

Filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Waukesha’s lawsuit will become part of the multi-district litigation currently pending in the Northern District of Ohio, according to a press release.

Waukesha County is represented by a national consortium of six law firms, led by national firm Baron & Budd, P.C.

Monday’s announcement comes about five months after the Waukesha County Board voted to give county leaders the approval to move forward with selecting outside legal counsel that would represent the county in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Roughly two-thirds of the counties across the state have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, including Washington County. The lawsuits accuse the companies of aggressively and fraudulently marketing prescription opioid pain pills as safe and effective for long-term use.

Such actions led to a drug epidemic in Wisconsin and around the nation, the lawsuits allege. The companies have denied wrongdoing.

“The opioid crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing our community today,” Decker said in a Monday statement. “The Board of Supervisors gave local government the tools to address the crisis on a new front by passing the resolution that allowed us to file this lawsuit.”

Hartford Police take steps to protect from deadly drug
Fentanyl/heroin combination is a growing problem
By Joe VanDeLaarschot
June 23
, 2018

HARTFORD — The Hartford Police Department has taken new steps to protect its officers from a growing and deadly menace — fentanyl. The powerful drug is being found in heroin and in the possession of suspects in the area.

City Administrator Steve Volkert said all of the department’s patrol vehicles have been equipped within the last few days with personal protective equipment for use when officers are dealing possible fentanyl exposure.

“All officers will complete a training session on the potential dangers of exposure, the use of the personal protective equipment (PPE) and the proper disposal of that equipment,” Volkert said. “Officer Kali Reiman assisted Sgt. Jim Zywicki in the creation of a training video regarding the use of the PPEs.”

According to the website, a speck of fentanyl the size of a few grains of salt can kill. Hartford Police Lt. Mike Cummings said the problems with fentanyl in the area are growing.

“It’s very dangerous. It’s about 100 times more potent than morphine,” Cummings said. “The reason we’re seeing it now is that it’s being mixed with heroin. One of the big things we’re seeing is that people who are heroin users are buying heroin that has some fentanyl in it and it’s so powerful that it’s killing them because the potency is so high and they don’t know that there is fentanyl in it. Then there’s another thing called carfentanyl which is even more powerful than fentanyl and if either of those things are in there it’s got a real lethal potential for the person.”

  Lt. Mike Cummings and officer Kali Reiman unpack one of the fentanyl kits to display each item Friday morning at the Hartford Police Department. The police department began carrying a new equipment kit to be used when dealing with fentanyl. The kits were put together and have been in use for about a week.
John Ehlke/Daily News

According to, a unit of carfentanyl is 100 times as potent as the same amount of fentanyl and 5,000 times as potent as a unit of heroin.

“If you get in contact with it, it’s the same as a user, if you get it into your system it’s going to knock you down and might kill you,” Cummings said. “That’s why we’ve gone to the kits with the suit and the respirator and that kind of thing for when we think we’re dealing with it.”

According to, the scary thing is, fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled if it becomes airborne, putting responders — and police dogs — in danger. The website said “with fentanyl, if an officer is simply patting somebody down, or if they are getting a little bit out to try to do a field test and it accidentally comes in contact with the officer’s skin or the wind blows it in their face, they could have a serious problem.”

Cummings said all members of the department are in the process of reviewing the training video. He said the department has also changed its policy on how personnel deal with drugs.

  A 50/50 mixture of vinegar and dish soap to be used as a quick rinse item in the fentanyl kit seen on Friday morning at the Hartford Police Department.
John Ehlke/Daily News

“For about the past three to five months in our evidence processing area we have several doses of Narcan available and now whenever we are processing any kind of a drug as part of a complaint we are required to have two people in the processing area,” Cummings said. “We have that Narcan available in there as well because if someone comes in contact with it and they start showing symptoms the other person can give them a dose right away to negate it and get them to the hospital right away.”

Narcan is the brand name of a medication (naloxone) that is used to reverse an opioid overdose.

“Our insurance carrier, CVMIC, recommends the use of the assembled kits, and a variety of current resources were used to develop the training program,” Volkert said.

Defining the substance abuse problem
Grant will allow county to study available services and fill the gaps
By Melanie Boyung
June 21
, 2018

PORT WASHINGTON — Local efforts to combat the rising opioid epidemic are receiving a financial infusion to analyze resources and the gaps between them.

The County Board this month approved several budget amendments to allow for grants, including one to the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department. The WOPHD was awarded $15,500 by the Wisconsin Division of Public Health Opioid Harm Prevention Program. According to a staff report to the County Board, the grant is a competitive award for public health agencies working on solutions to the opioid crisis.

“WOPHD intends to use the dollars to conduct a comprehensive analysis of available services for substance abuse in both Ozaukee and Washington counties. The intent is to use the analysis to identify achievable interventions and programs to assist county residents,” the report stated.

The analysis project will allow the WOPHD to determine existing gaps in the counties’ current services; by evaluating everything that is currently available – and what isn’t – the WOPHD will then be able to plan for what programming and services should be created in the future to offer residents more consistent and complete support and intervention.

“Results of the gap analysis will define our counties’ substance use burden and inform next steps in programming and intervention,” according to the report.

The $15,500 grant will be used to fund:

Key informant interviews conducted with assistance from the Center for Population Health;

Training and orientation for the gap analysis process;

Meeting expenses for focus groups, interview and space rentals during the analysis;

Mileage for staff;

Printing costs for the final gap analysis and the WOPHD Heroin Toolkit;

Office supplies needed to support the analysis project.

The County Board also approved a grant through the Land and Water Management Department at its last meeting. The $15,000 grant was awarded to the Milwaukee River Watershed Clean Farm Families through a state grant program; Ozaukee County Land and Water Management serves as the group’s fiscal recipient and collaborator, so they may receive such grants.

The money will be used to further efforts of Milwaukee River Watershed Clean Farm Families, a farmer-led group, to come up with pollution solutions that reduce and prevent agricultural runoff into the environment through voluntary participation of local farmers.

Recovery in Washington County
By Alex Beld
June 16
, 2018

Every person’s story of addiction has its own twists and downs and each path of recovery can get started for various reasons.

What might be surprising to some are stories of those who have come to Washington County to get away from a problem that remains pervasive here.

“I actually moved up here last year,” said recovering addict Kyle, who requested his last name not be used. “I moved up here to get away from it.”

“I’m not surrounded by it up here, I don’t have people honking at me trying to get me to try to buy their product,” recovering addict Dan Stone said.

  Dan Stone of West Bend poses for a photo on June 6 in his apartment in West Bend. Stone is currently in recovery after an addiction to opioids including heroin. He said he started using opioids when he was 11 years old. Seeking recovery, he moved from Milwaukee to Washington County and is approaching a year of being clean.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Stone used to live in Milwaukee and was in treatment 13 times before coming to Exodus House in Kewaskum. Kyle often purchased heroin in Chicago and came to Washington County to escape both the drug and legal trouble in Illinois.

Both of these men, now in their late 20s, started using drugs before they were teenagers and were using opiates before they graduated high school.

“I kind of really liked the high,” Stone said. “It just kind of numbed everything and life progressed and it got worse.”

“It’s pretty intuitive that the longer somebody uses any opiates, the more likely they are to become addicted to it, whether it’s for legitimate medical purposes or if it’s to just get high,” said Dr. Mary Lewis, St. Joseph’s Hospital Emergency Department medical director.

Stone started with pills and continued to use them for years until he couldn’t find anymore. At 23, he made the switch to heroin.

“I could pretty much get it anywhere,” Stone said.

At that point, he was already years into an opiate addiction.

“The long-term (use) has a whole lot of both minor and major side-effects — certainly people lose their appetites when they’re on opiates and so they lose weight and they become very thin in some circumstances,” Lewis said. “They develop other gastrointestinal side-effects like chronic constipation or chronic abdominal pain, sometimes nausea and vomiting.”

For someone who doesn’t use heroin, one of the ways to obtain it may be unexpected.

“I would drive around on the north side and I’d just get beeped at and then pull over and then ‘you want a sample,’” Stone said.

The ease of access, however, is not something new to the opiate epidemic. And if he didn’t have money, finding samples was one way to use.

Sampling like this is among some of the unexpected behaviors the demand for this product has created.

“Heroin is the one drug that if somebody died off of, that’s where people want to go, and that’s really messed up,” Stone said about the culture of use.

Kyle would often use in cycles, stopping for three months at a time, finding work, getting money and starting to use again. He continued on this path for years.

“I would just, I guess, sabotage myself. I would just start picking up were I left off,” Kyle said.

Stone also found himself employed throughout much of the time when he was using, but his employment wasn’t stable.

“I had jobs here and there, but once I got really dope sick I wouldn’t want to go to work or I’d call in,” Stone said.

“There’s a lot of really common symptoms that people get when they are withdrawing — they get sweaty, at the same time though they get goose bumps all over so they feel cold,” Lewis said. “They, a lot of times, get some nausea and vomiting and diarrhea along with that.”

Both recovering addicts encountered legal trouble to varying degrees, have lost people to opiates and eventually got tired of the cycle.

“I just couldn’t do it no more. I was depressed, I was sick all the time withdrawing and I was doing a lot of messed-up stuff,” Stone said. “Whatever I could to get my drugs.”

As of April, Kyle was seven months out from the last time he used heroin. In July, it will be a year for Stone. He has worked with Exodus House and other organizations in the area and Kyle is in a program with Elevate.

Stone said he’s noticed a difference with Exodus House from the other places he’s visited. “They forced me to go to 12-step meetings, which I’m still doing today, which really help,” he said.

Kyle said the program with Elevate is keeping him in check. “I’m hoping a year of keeping me in check will help me move forward,” he said. Neither of them know anyone in the area using or dealing and, for the most part, only know other people in recovery.

“You see other people in recovery have what you want,” Stone said. “Now I have a car, I have an apartment, I have a great job.”

Now that Stone is clean, after nearly 18 years of drug use he can look ahead to his HVAC apprenticeship. He has already served his probation time and even was locked up.

Kyle is also working, but has to deal with issues from his past after finishing his program and saving some money for court costs.

“Right now I got a warrant in Illinois ... that happened in 2014 and I’ve been hiding from it,” Kyle said.

The warrant is for an operating while intoxicated violation he picked up in Illinois. It’s a $20,000 warrant.

“I need to take care of it after this, that’s all I know,” Kyle said.

For anyone looking to get clean and sober, there is help out there.

“They have to be at that point where they really want to get clean and stay clean,” Stone said about addicts. “It took me a long time to get to that point, but all you have to do is ask for help.”

Stone has found help from the 12-step program and those in it. He’s also found success from removing himself from the environment he used to be in and surrounding himself with the right people.

“One thing I learned is you got to stick with the winners once you get to that point because other people are just going to bring you down,” Stone said.

Even with his success he still has concerns and continues to work on himself.

“There’s always stuff ... my behaviors are what I have to work on and continue to work on,” Stone said.

It can be as simple as letting someone know they left their change at a register rather than taking it.

Stone said, “You have to change everything, basically.”

Law enforcement faces challenges dealing with opioids
By Alex Beld
June 15
, 2018

“Children are losing their parents with sickening regularity because of people like you,” Judge Todd Martens said to one of the two leaders of the Campbellsport heroin ring when he sentenced her in September.

The judges in the Washington County Circuit Court system regularly make distinctions between those profiting from addiction and those who are addicted. Lori Merget, the woman sentenced in September, was sentenced to eight years in prison; her son got 10 years.

Others from the same group who never earned anything other than drugs were viewed differently. John Plzak was among them.

During his sentencing hearing, he told Martens he believed he wouldn’t be able to say no to heroin when he got out of prison. He received a four-year sentence.

“That was a chilling statement,” Martens said to Plzak.

The judge was appreciative of the honesty from Plzak and also gave him an opportunity to receive treatment while in prison.

“Addiction is not a moral weakness, it is not a character flaw — it’s a disease,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said about addicts. However, “We are absolutely holding drug dealers accountable and we’re not going to stop.”

Before any user or dealer finds themselves in front of Martens or one of the other three judges in the county, they run into police, most typically a patrol officer.

“Patrol officers almost find more,” Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said.

  Items included in a heroin kit are seen in a photograph taken June 11 at the
West Bend Police Department.

Photo submitted by West Bend Police Department

Before patrol officers were finding heroin in cars or people passed out in their cars from use, law enforcement officials were dealing with prescription abuse. “For the most part that’s where opiates … OxyContin … it really sort of launched that way,” Schmidt said. “I don’t hear guys talking about pills too much anymore.”

The Washington County Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Enforcement Group knew the problem was coming after learning about its spread through Chicago and then Milwaukee. According to annual reports from the Sheriff’s office, the group, which focuses on distribution, made their first controlled purchase of heroin in 2007 or 2008.

“Considering the tiny amount of 0.1 gram normally constitutes a dose of heroin, the 76 grams of heroin the drug unit seized in 2017 represents a significant quantity,” the 2017 annual report said. “This is the most heroin the Drug Unit has seized in one year.”

That same year, 7 grams of fentanyl was also seized, which was being sold as heroin.

Schimel said, “I wouldn’t necessarily be expecting the numbers to go down, just because of the fact that this epidemic is really resulting in so much more drug abuse and so much more drug trafficking.”

The Sheriff’s Office and West Bend Police Department aren’t just collecting these drugs as they happen upon them — they are shifting resources in response to the problem. This includes training for the use of Narcan and recognizing impaired driving along with responding to crimes related to drug use.

West Bend Chief of Police Kenneth Meuler said, “We’re putting far more resources into this problem than we have before and it just keeps getting worse.” He said the same is true across the country and that “It’s going to take a lot more than police resources to solve the problem, that’s the issue.”

Neither Schmidt or Meuler have an exact number for the amount of cases that can be related to drug abuse.

“Nobody really tracks crimes related to that stuff, it’s really an anecdotal thing,” Schmidt said. “You could say anecdotally that it’s a high number of crimes related to opiates.”

Even with programs like Treatment Alternatives and Diversion, which gives users a chance to avoid the criminal justice system, and earned release for those in prison, treatment remains an issue.

“The number one issue is availability of treatment, affordability of treatment and then convincing the people that they need to get into treatment,” Meuler said. “That’s not the easy sell.”

The Sheriff’s Office is working on some level to inform advocacy groups about the state of heroin and give public presentations, but it’s also required to make arrests.

“If I try to do everything … we’re going to get sucked up and really not be effective at everything,” Schmidt said.

Both law enforcement officials see a need for more treatment in the community, but they both also see the issue as one that relates to an individual’s environment.

“Our staff was seeing … not your average going-to-work, everyday person becoming heroin addicts,” Schmidt said.

“People are in that same environment day-in and day-out,” Schmidt said. He said they need to get out of that environment and into inpatient treatment.

He compared it to a person from suffering from alcoholism living in a bar.

“By the time they’ve gotten to the criminal justice system it’s too far,” Meuler said.

Legislation addresses opioids, but the problem is growing
Community and personal recovery expected to take years
By Alex Beld
June 14
, 2018

The widespread abuse of prescription opiates began in Washington County during the late 2000s, and nearly a decade later the federal government signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act into law.

The act has areas of focus that include prevention and education, law enforcement, treatment, recovery and collateral consequences of drug convictions, among others. It approved a yearly budget of $181 million to be disbursed nationally.

At a more local level, Wisconsin has 30 laws on the books related to the Heroin, Opioid, Prevention and Education (HOPE) Agenda. It wasn’t until the 2015-16 legislative session that bills addressing prescription abuse were introduced.

“One of the first pieces of legislation introduced this session (2017-18) imposed stricter rules on the sale and dispensation of codeine, a common opioid used as a pain reliever in some respiratory and digestive medicines,” state Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said about recent efforts. “I joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in co-sponsoring the legislation and it became one of the first bills to become law last year.”

Dr. Mary Lewis, who practices emergency medicine with Froedtert, said “Legislation certainly has affected physicians and other prescribers, I think in a positive way.”

During the doctor’s 30 years in the field, she noticed a push to prescribe narcotics.

“I think everyone has played a role with what happened in our country and now we all have to play a role in the solutions in trying to stop it,” Lewis said.

“That’s what was expected of us as far as satisfying the patient and treating their pain, to … an unrealistic expectation, and now with the newer legislation and the newer guidelines, physicians can say no with a good conscience, and we do with regularity.”

Lewis is only able to provide emergency room patients with two days of painkillers.

Both sides of the aisle have supported many of the laws in the HOPE Agenda. Many politicians also say the epidemic is an issue for people at the local level to take on. Stroebel was also responsible for introducing legislation requiring minors to have a prescription for the purchase of medicine dextromethorphan, commonly found in cough syrup.

“This is a statewide problem, but real solutions come through local and individual action,” Stroebel said.

Though there has been a legislative focus on reducing prescriptions and some funds have been made available for local efforts, the problem isn’t slowing immediately.

Elevate executive director Mary Simon said, “I would say it’s growing in some ways.”

The organization, which focuses on prevention, intervention and support, has seen an increase in individuals who are overdosing and seeking treatment.

Simon said health systems, police departments and other nonprofits are seeing more of an impact.

Groups like Elevate are heading up two important aspects of the issue at the local level. Prevention focuses on getting time with kids before they have a chance to be exposed to the drugs, and the treatment is working to get people clean and sober and out of the criminal justice system.

“Schools have to give us 10 weeks of time with all their sixth-graders, all their seventh-graders all their eighth-graders,” Simon said. She said the research needs to be followed, which indicates that one-shot presentations aren’t having the desired effect.

The time required poses a tough question for schools, which are also tasked with teaching kids and potentially discussing many other issues like suicide.

When it comes to implementing prevention efforts in schools, Simon said, “We haven’t been implementing it as consistently as we would have liked.”

On the other side of the issue, Elevate is working with the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion Program to help people who are facing their first possession conviction. This is done in collaboration with district attorney offices, probation and parole programs, and the circuit court system.

“It’s a minimum of a yearlong program,” Simon said. She said it will take longer than anticipated.

When they had as many as 30 clients, it cost them $200,000 to serve them. It may take as long as two years to get some addicts back on track.

“That’s what needs to be there in order to get those individuals out of the criminal justice system,” Simon said. She said it often takes four months to get clients stable enough to start the program.

Elevate also began offering help to families looking for assistance with helping loved ones who are addicts. One answer to the problem, for Simon, is a willingness to admit there is a problem.

“That’s going to lead to big change,” Simon said.

Getting to know the problem
Elevate event aims to educate county officials on the extent of the opioid epidemic
By Ralph Chapoco
June 1
, 2018

With the recent election producing an influx of supervisors with limited experience in Washington County, staff at Elevate Inc. wanted to provide a platform for them to receive information and ask questions regarding the opioid epidemic affecting the area.

Elevate decided to host the Breakfast with the Board on Thursday in Richfield and invited a cadre of individuals with experience regarding the issue, from law enforcement at the federal level to those who provide medical and mental health support and work in the court system.

“This one was to educate county board supervisors about the issues about opioid in the community, helping them to understand how a lot of different departments, and a lot of different aspects of the community, are impacted,” Elevate Executive Director Mary Simon said. “It is really about education.”

  Terry Bogues, the owner and manager of Terrace 167, spoke about the loss of her son Greg Bergeron, pictured in front of her, during Elevate’s Breakfast with the Board on Thursday Morning in Richfield. The number of overdose deaths have been increasing in the area for the past few years, touching nearly every aspect of the community.
Ralph Chapoco/Daily News

Of the 26 supervisors who were invited, nine of them, or about 34 percent, attended the event. Among them was Frank Carr, who asked attendees if addiction is an individual issue or a separate problem altogether.

The answers from audience members revealed how pervasive the issue has become. Garett Elward identified himself as a local volunteer who is in the process of getting his education to become a substance abuse counselor.

“I am a recovering addict,” he said. “My drug abuse started in 1986. We had cocaine then and it was a good time until the end. From 1986 to 2000, I remained clean for 14 years. In 2000 I picked up the drink again, and that escalated to heroin and cocaine.”

Working in manual labor, he dealt with physical issues that caused some discomfort, seeking medical attention from a provider who wrote a script for pain medication. That resulted in an addiction, pain medication mixed with alcohol, causing a series of health problems and other issues.

“Between the time of 2004 and 2008, I spent a lot of time in the Washington County jail,” he said. “I saw a lot of different people and (heard) a lot of different stories. During that period of time, we had the pill use, but we didn’t have the heroin.”

  Vanessa L. Llanas, a staffer for Senator Tammy Baldwin, left, and County Prevention Manager for Elevate Ronna Corliss speak prior to the start of the Breakfast with the Board event Thursday in Richfield.
Ralph Chapoco/Daily News

He was arrested for driving under the influence in 2013, and once again in 2015. He was released recently but described a much different atmosphere in the jail during his incarceration.

“What I saw, the difference between the period of time in the Washington County jail in the middle of the 2000s and a lot of time I spent inside the county, was how much death and destruction there was,” Elward said. “I never saw this kind of stuff in the 1980s when I was coming up. I have never seen this. It was that bad.”

His claim would be supported by Human Services Director Julie Driscoll.

“What we know of opioids specifically is that there is not one specific person or family structure, or economic level that isn’t impacted by this particular epidemic,” she said. “Certainly, the old-school thought is that there is a genetic component to it, that there is an addictive personality, but what we know about this drug is that it impacts all levels of socioeconomic backgrounds, all families. There is not one family or community that has not been touched by this epidemic. Conversely, in the 1990s, the crack cocaine was a drug of poverty. Now, what we are seeing with opioids is that it is across the country, in every community.”

The anecdotes continued throughout the event. At its initiation, Terry Bogues, the owner and manager of Terrace 167, described how her son passed away because of an addiction to opioids. Robert Schafer from the Medical Examiner’s Office spoke to the increasing number of opioid overdose deaths in the area and Judge Todd Martens spoke to the impact opioids have on the criminal justice system.

“I think there were some good things that came out of it,” Simon said. “I think there are still, clearly, based on some of the questions and comments, there is still some education that needs to be done from our perspective. We are just going to keep plugging away.”

Opioid effort saves 24 lives in first year
Officials credit collaboration, say more work remains
By Cara Spoto - Freeman Staff
May 17
, 2018

WAUKESHA — Waukesha County officials had more to be thankful for than just the nice weather on Wednesday.

Joined by state Attorney General Brad Schimel, the officials gathered on the sunlit patio of the Waukesha County Health and Human Services building to announce that 24 lives have been saved in the first year of the county’s opioid overdose prevention program.

“We were here a year ago at this time, almost to the day, to talk about a new program that the (Waukesha County) Health and Human Services Department had put together, to try to make a difference in (the opioid epidemic),” County Executive Paul Farrow said.

“Today, we have trained over 1,000 people in prevention and the use of Narcan. That’s impressive — 24 lives saved.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services, 883 people died in Wisconsin last year as result of an opioid overdose.

The plan to reduce such deaths in Waukesha County kicked off last May. Funded by a federal grant and the Wisconsin Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths Prevention Project, the effort has involved identifying risk and protective factors in the community; conducting free community-level training sessions in the administration of the opioid overdose reversal agent Naloxone (Narcan); the distribution of free Naloxone kits; holding opioid overdose prevention education sessions; and having county crisis workers reach out to people who have experienced an opioid-related overdose.

Those efforts have reportedly resulted in 24 individuals reporting to county health and human services staff that their lives were saved after receiving one of 1,851 free Naloxone kits distributed in the first year of the program, and/or through participation in one of the 162 overdose prevention training sessions held in the last year.

The program has also resulted in 378 police officers in nine municipal police departments receiving overdose prevention training and direct outreach being conducted with 145 individuals who have recently experienced an opioid overdose, officials reported Wednesday.

Efforts praised

Schimel, who served for many years as a Waukesha County prosecutor, asked those gathered to imagine what state and county residents would be facing if outreach and other overdose prevention programs were not in place.

“Imagine ... how many more deaths would we have had, because there are countless lives, just countless, countless lives, that are healthy, and better and stronger now, because of all these efforts,” Schimel said.

Schimel also thanked Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson for his department’s involvement in the state’s drug take-back efforts.

“His officers have been doing the for real heavy lifting,” Schimel said. “This time around again we got over 60,000 pounds that we gathered right here in Waukesha County, which puts our grand total for the drug take-back program over three years to over 400,000 pound of medication safely destroyed.”

Tree planted

At the end of the press conference, which all featured comments from County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow, County Health and Human Services Director Antwayne Robertson, County Supervisor Christine Howard and Elevate, Inc. Program Manager Adam Kindred, officials planted a tree to celebrate the 24 lives believed to have been saved as a result of the county’s overdose prevention efforts.

Offering addicts a CleanSlate
New outpatient clinic to fight opioid epidemic
By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman
May 4
, 2018

TOWN OF BROOKFIELD — While it is setting up shop in a seemingly unassuming business park in the Goerke’s Corners area, a new outpatient treatment facility hopes to make a resounding impact on the opioid epidemic.

Local dignitaries gathered Thursday to commemorate the grand opening of a local branch of CleanSlate Centers. The Nashville-based company, founded in 2009, specializes in offering outpatient addiction treatment programs.

State and local politicians joined advocates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new facility, which employs five professionals and is the second of the company’s locations in Wisconsin.

  April King, medical assistant; Katrina Jenkins, center manager; and Dr. Gregory Kaftan, center medical director, applaud after the ribbon-cutting at CleanSlate on Thursday.
Mary Catanese/Special to The Freeman

Katrina Jenkins, manager of the local treatment facility, said CleanSlate Centers are designed to meet patients wherever they are in the path toward recovery. The center’s clients, some arriving through referrals, will make visits twice weekly.

“We work with everyone,” Jenkins said. ‘We’re interested in meeting you where you’re at.”

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch attended the event and lauded CleanSlate Centers’ arrival in Waukesha County, which comes at a time when drug-related overdose deaths remain startlingly high.

Kleefisch noted the 827 opioid-related overdose deaths recorded in 2016, according to statistics confirmed through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“That’s not OK, and it’s not acceptable,” Kleefisch said.

In her brief address, Kleefisch said she is optimistic venues such as CleanSlate Centers can bring about meaningful change as the crisis continues to claim lives.

“We’re addressing a problem that has no demographic, and it has no geographic boundary,” Kleefisch said. “The opioid crisis is impacting everyone. In Wisconsin, we want to continue leading the way. Opening these doors is a significant step.”

 Laura Zellmer, N.P., left, greets her new patient Aimee Bitzke during the
ribbon-cutting and open house at CleanSlate on Thursday.

Mary Catanese/Special to The Freeman

Gregory Kaftan, a local lead physician with CleanSlate Centers, said he is hopeful the facility will reach people in the Waukesha County area, where the opioid crisis has been well documented.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Kaftan said. “What we’re dealing with is a tremendous problem that doesn’t seem to be getting better. We’re going to be expanding access until we get this problem turned around.”

While much of Thursday’s ceremony focused on overdoses and deaths associated with opioids, heroin and fentanyl, CleanSlate Centers have a broader focus and also provides treatment services to persons struggling with alcohol addiction.

Jenkins said CleanSlate Centers have forged collaborative relationships with a range of medical providers and insurance companies.

“Our goal and belief is there’s enough out there for everyone,” Jenkins said, referring to centers treating persons struggling with addiction. “Let’s see how we can work together.”

The public received a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes areas of the facility, where doctors’ offices are housed alongside small meeting areas for therapy sessions, a large group area and an in-house laboratory.

Inspirational sayings also adorn the hallways. One says, “You can if you think you can.”

There also is a bulletin board, dubbed the Clean-Slate Brag Board. It is adorned with positive first-person testimonials of people forging ahead with their battles.

“They are warriors,” Jenkins said.

Pewaukee officials OK behavioral health facility
By Brandon Anderegg - Freeman Staff
April 13
, 2018

VILLAGE OF PEWAUKEE — Many Pewaukee residents sighed in disappointment on Thursday after the Plan Commission unanimously approved a conditional use grant application for a behavioral health facility in the Village of Pewaukee.

Meridian Behavior Health, LLC, was given the go-ahead to operate a 120-bed in-patient chemical dependency treatment center at 321 Riverside Drive, according to an April 12 Plan Commission agenda.

Although the Plan commission approved the facility, there are two conditions that must be met by the treatment center. Meridian will be required to install a wall of evergreen trees on the western side of the facility, and they’ll also have to create a Neighborhood Advisory Board, which will foster community engagement and ensure that residents have opportunities to express their concerns.

While Thursday night was a win for Meridian, the Plan Commission’s decision was a major loss for the residents of River Hills Park. For area residents, their biggest qualm is how the project will impact traffic, safety and the property values of their homes. For Jon Haines, a resident of River Hills Park, the traffic analysis that was conducted for the area yielded inaccurate results, he said. Haines recalled the days of the River Hills nursing home, which brought traffic to the area and people not native to Pewaukee, he said.

“In the waning years of River Hills nursing home, as times changed, we saw that the employees there were no longer from our neighborhood,” Haines said. “I understand traffic studies have been done and people are saying it’s not going to make an impact. Baloney, it’s going to make an impact.”

Earl Fulcer, a River Hills Park resident since 1989, said “if the Plan Commission cannot protect residents from big business, who will?” He added that businesses seeking development only care about profits and never the well-being of residents.

“Who protects us from big businesses?” Fulcer said. “Businesses who take advantage of everyone they can. Does the decline of our lifestyle start with your vote tonight? I hope not.”

Lack of access

Meridian Chief Development Officer Sean Epp, who attended the meeting, said there is a lack of access to behavioral health facilities in the state. Sela Kurter, an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin who spoke on behalf of Meridian, agreed with Epp, and said the rate of overdose deaths in southeastern Wisconsin has doubled in the last five years.

“These people, mostly young, are passing away from overdoses,” Kurter said. “We have patients living in Pewaukee, living in Waukesha County that are dying.”

Kurter added that 45,000 people in the nation died to drug addiction last year. He said people in the neighborhood shouldn’t be fearful because the facility is held to the highest standards through a certification with the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation, which is an international organization that develops and maintains current standards for rehabilitation centers, according to the CARF website.

“I think they should not worry,” Kurter said. “I think the bigger concern should be for the lack of treatment in Waukesha County.”

Federal health official talks opioid crisis
Praises Wisconsin for its efforts battling epidemic
By Cara Spoto -  Freeman Staff
March 22
, 2018

WAUKESHA — As the opioid epidemic continues to bear down on Wisconsin and the country at large, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch visited Waukesha County on Wednesday to learn more about successful efforts here to battle the public health crisis.

The visit, explained Hargan, was part of a presidential initiative to help communities across the U.S better address the epidemic by making federal resources available to existing local programs that have been effective.

As part of the visit, Hargan; Paul Krupski, director of Opioid Initiatives for the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services; and Kleefisch, who co-chairs the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, took part in a roundtable discussion with Waukesha County Health and Human Services staff, County Executive Paul Farrow and County Sheriff Eric Severson at the county’s Health and Human Services Building, 514 Riverview Ave.

The roundtable discussion was just one of several meetings federal HHS officials have been having with local communities across the country as part of President Donald Trump’s initiative to combat opioid abuse and limit the flow of illicit substances into the country.

 U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan talks during a press conference on the opioid epidemic on Wednesday in Waukesha. Listening from left to right are Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson, Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services Opioid Initiatives Director Paul Krupski, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
Kenny Yoo/Special to The Freeman


Saying the opioid crisis would be solved on a person-to-person level, Hargan praised Wisconsin for the creativity and initiative it has shown in battling the epidemic.

“So many things are being developed and worked through in a real practical way here in Wisconsin,” Hargan said, noting that the hope was to transmit what Wisconsin officials have learned about what works and what doesn’t to other states.

Regarding state efforts, Krupski noted that WDHHS has awarded $3.1 million in targeted response grants to 16 counties and five tribes in high-need areas of the state. And Kleefisch reported that the state Senate had just passed two more pieces of legislation to battle the epidemic.

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan.
Kenny Yoo/Special to The Freeman

“The latest numbers show that 827 Wisconsinites have lost their lives because of this crisis,” she said. “We are delighted that the federal government has taken up the opioid crisis as a signature issue.”

Farrow called the recognition from federal HHS officials a great honor.

“I am so grateful that we are able to get the message out about how well this county works,” he said.

He added that support from the national and state level would allow the county to take its fight against opioids to the next level: “It will allow programs that we already know are working to be even more effective.”

Prevention week

As the county continues fighting the opioid crisis, it is preparing to mark the one-year anniversary of its four-tiered work plan and participation in the Wisconsin Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose- Related Deaths Prevention Project during the week of May 13. The county will observe the week with an update on its plan, as well as education, training and awareness events. More information is available online at

Treating and diverting
Heroin Task Force reports on the status of addictions, recovery
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
Feb. 13
, 2018

OZAUKEE COUNTY — Increased methamphetamine cases, successful diversion treatment stories and a new drug monitoring program. Those are among the highs and lows of the opioid addiction situation discussed recently by the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force. “It went really well,” Amy Kozicki, public health educator for the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department, said of the meeting. “We had a great turnout.” The Task Force was formed in 2014 to deal with what law enforcement and public health officials called one of the worst drug epidemics the county has seen in decades. Members of the different task force committees provided updates about Ozaukee County’s treatment, diversion and addiction- related programming.

The Ozaukee County Department of Human Services served 102 clients in 2017 and 118 in 2016. Treatment was split between 72 percent outpatients and 28 percent through the MATT program, Medical Assisted Treatment Transformation. Heather Carlson of the Public Health Department said Ozaukee County’s MATT program includes twice-weekly group therapy and medication to assist recovery.

Within the MATT program, a presentation to the Heroin Task Force showed that between 2016 and 2017, 36 people received their first Vivitrol shot in a clinic and 26 in jail. Vivitrol is a brand of naltrexone, which blocks opioids and alcohol from bonding to the nervous system. It is used in addiction treatment to prevent relapse, as a monthly naltrexone injection prevents opioids from causing a high, removing the incentive for addicts to use.

Kozicki said that Ozaukee County has had 105 treatment and diversion cases in the past three years, with about 60 percent being successfully discharged from the addiction treatment program.

“Which might not seem like a lot, but in recovery and completing diversion, we have a great percentage,” she said.

Kozicki said the meeting also included information from District Attorney Adam Gerol, as well as information from a Sheriff’s Office detective.

“He talked about the increase in methamphetamine cases, and people on heroin trying to switch to meth,” Kozicki said.

The Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office has two K-9 officers trained in drug tracking; the department also makes use of tip line reports of children in drug-endangered situations. Kozicki said tip line use has increased each year it has been in use. There were 107 tips in 2017.

“Those have been really helpful, because they’re real time,” Kozicki said.

The Heroin Task Force also discussed the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The program allows medical providers to record level one prescriptions in a centralized database, where other doctors or pharmacists, law enforcement or medical examiners can check prescriptions.

The system was established to give doctors a place to find out if patients were using multiple doctors and had prescriptions they did not reveal. With the system, doctors can crosscheck the database to ensure their patients are not doctor-shopping or seeking level one medications they already have. Police can check the system as well in the course of investigations.

“It’s a great resource,” Kozicki said.

Kozicki also said the task force had 417 people view the Hidden in Plain Sight room, a teenager’s mock bedroom in which adults may walk through, attempting to identify dozens of common items that potentially indicate drug use.

To learn more, or to get involved with the Task Force, go to

Aldermen back rezoning for Genesis House move, expansion
Purchase of blighted strip mall across from City Hall also approved
By Cara Spoto - Freeman Staff
Feb. 7
, 2018

WAUKESHA — A proposal from Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin to convert an adult day center at 2000 Bluemound Road into a 22-bed, live-in drug and alcohol treatment facility for men and women has received the zoning it needs to move forward.

Following more than an hour of public comments – most focused on the need for more treatment options in the area – the Common Council voted 11-1 on Tuesday to rezone the property from industrial to institutional.

The building, which is already owned by LSS, sits next to Monkey Joe’s, near the intersection of Springdale Road. In addition to being used as an adult day center, the building is currently being utilized as an overflow homeless shelter.

The project is an expansion of the organization’s 12-bed Genesis House facility, currently located at 1002 Motor Ave., that currently only serves men.

Moving the program to the Bluemound Road location will allow the organization to serve both men and women, explained Debra Adamus, manager of addiction and restorative justice programs at LSS. It would also allow the organization to offer a longer, transitional treatment program in addition to a more intensive 28-day treatment program.

Under the plan, the Motor Avenue facility would close and go back onto the tax rolls, LSS staff said Tuesday.

 Mentioning his own struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, Waukesha resident Patrick Reilly speaks Tuesday at City Hall about the need for Lutheran Social Services’ expanded treatment facility at
2000 Bluemound Road.

Cara Spoto/Freeman Staff


“Right here in Waukesha County there is no affordable treatment for women... Roger’s Memorial Hospital has the Herrington Recovery Center (in Oconomowoc). It’s a great program, but it’s expensive,” said Adamus, addressing aldermen during the public hearing. “We are providing affordable treatment for both men and women.”

More than a dozen people turned out to speak in favor of the proposal, including several men and women who spoke of their own struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.

“It’s not as if someone is coming to our community with no clinical experience whatsoever and saying ‘can I open a treatment facility.’ We are talking about Lutheran Social Services,” said Waukesha resident Patrick Reilly. “Today I stand before you 76,552 hours, 3,190 days, 104 months, and 8.7 years substance free. This is only because I was able receive treatment.”


The only speaker to speak against the rezoning was Jeff Miller, the owner of Monkey Joe’s. Miller said he understood the need for more treatment facilities, but he expressed concern about whether the nonprofit could control the behavior of would-be clients who are not allowed into the facility.

“I’ve had a lot of issues with the Salvation Army having the (overflow) homeless shelter there: People coming out of the bushes, chasing my employees... We agree we should have (this facility), but having it next to a children’s amusement center?... I am not sure that is a good mix.”

In voting against the rezoning, 2nd District Alderman Eric Payne stated that he wasn’t concerned about the service the nonprofit was providing or its clients, he just “didn’t think it was the right place to put a recovery facility.”

Plan Commission backs Genesis House move, expansion
By Cara Spoto - Freeman Staff
Jan. 11
, 2018

WAUKESHA — A proposal from Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin to convert an adult day center at 2000 Bluemound Road into a 22-bed, live-in drug and alcohol treatment facility for men and women has cleared its first hurdle.

The Waukesha Plan Commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday to recommend that the Common Council grant the nonprofit the conditional use permit and rezoning needed to make the project a reality.

The project is an expansion of the organization’s 12-bed Genesis House facility, currently located at 1002 Motor Ave.

That facility only serves men.

Moving the program to the Bluemound Road location would allow the organization to serve both men and women, explained Debra Adamus, manager of addiction and restorative justice programs at LSS. It would also allow the organization to offer a longer, transitional treatment program in addition to a more intensive 28day treatment program.

“At present there are no affordable residential treatment programs in Waukesha County for women. Our new program, which will be called the Aspen Center, will allows us to include women,” Adamus said.

“In my 38 years in the addiction field I have never felt the level of urgency that I feel today in response to the opioid epidemic. We want to expand our services in Waukesha County to be responsive to this unmet need in our community.”

Adamus was one of more than two dozen supporters who packed the City Hall Council Chambers for the meeting.

Several supporters spoke of their own or family members’ struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, including Waukesha County Supervisor Christine Howard, who said she had lost both a brother and nephew to drug addiction.

First District Alderman Terry Thieme, whose district includes the proposed program site, also spoke in favor of the project The building, which is already owned by LSS, sits next to Monkey Joe’s, near the intersection of Springdale Road.

In addition to an adult day center, the building is currently being utilized as an overflow homeless shelter.

The property is currently zoned for manufacturing, but LSS is requesting the parcel be given a institutional zoning.

In a memo recommending the rezoning, a city planner states that while planners would normally be against such “spot zoning,” institutional properties are “often interspersed throughout the community, and don’t necessarily need to be located in similar districts.”

LSS plans to remodel the building’s interior extensively, but it currently has no plans to change the exterior.

The Common Council could make a final vote on the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday.

Narcan in schools
Districts taking on opioid epidemic through new proposed policies
By Ashley Haynes - Freeman Staff
Jan. 10
, 2018

PEWAUKEE — At this week’s Policy Committee meeting for the Pewaukee School District, committee members were presented with a rough draft of a proposed policy that aims to regulate the use of Narcan, a nasal spray that can be administered to stop the effects of an opioid overdose in its tracks, by trained staff members on campus.

Superintendent Mike Cady had stated that this policy had been in the works for the past several months since Attorney General Brad Schimel spoke on campus about the opioid epidemic. Pewaukee’s proposed Narcan policy states that any district employee, volunteer or staff member who has been authorized in writing to administer medication now has authority under section 118.29(2)(a)2g of the state statutes to administer Narcan to any person who appears to be undergoing an opioid-related drug overdose, under certain conditions. They must have received prior Department of Public Instruction-approved training, the person administering the Narcan must call 911 as soon as practicable, and if the Narcan has been given to someone other than who it has been prescribed to, the person administering the Narcan must have the knowledge and training needed to safely administer the drug to an individual undergoing an opioid-related overdose, as provided under section 448.037 and section 441.18 of the state statutes.

“What we have is really just a rough draft so far,” said Cady. “It’s largely fashioned around state statute 118.29. ”

Cady explained that the district is still in the process of writing the policy and applying legal and medical advice to ensure they have all necessary elements in place.

The proposed policy will be coming back for review at the February Policy Committee meeting and then to the regular School Board meeting in March.

Pewaukee isn’t the only school district looking to modify its policies to include the usage of Narcan. The Oconomowoc Area School District reviewed a revision to policy 453.4 (medication administration) in December as well. The policy had been revised to include the administration of Narcan as a stock medication, similar to an EpiPen. Reasons cited for the revision include recommendations from district medical directors and the district’s nursing association. The addition to policy 453.4 states: “Stock emergency medications, including Epinephrine and Naloxone (NARCAN), may be obtained and administered by trained staff to a pupil or other person whom is believed in good faith to be experiencing such an emergency, according to written protocol as approved by district Medical Advisor. In such instances in which these emergency medications are given, the person who administers the medication shall dial 911 as soon as practical.”


Narcan at the collegiate level

Across the state, University of Wisconsin campuses are also armed with Narcan. In December, Schimel and UW System President Ray Cross reached a partnership with Adapt Pharma, Inc., the manufacturer of Narcan nasal spray, to bring the product to nine UW campuses, including UW-Milwaukee. Law enforcement and campus security on UW campuses were provided with 4mg of the nasal spray at no cost. The effort was part of an attempt to better educate students about opioid misuse and prepare campus leadership in the event of an overdose.

Pewaukee school district to develop policy on use of Narcan
By Freeman Staff
Jan. 6
, 2018

PEWAUKEE — On Monday, the Pewaukee School District Policy Committee will meet to discuss and develop a policy regarding Narcan, the nasal spray that can be administered to stop the effects of an opiod overdose in its tracks.

The Policy Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. in the District Office, 404 Lake St.

Superintendent Mike Cady said in an email that the district had been discussing including an opioid antagonist such as Narcan as a component of their safety procedures for the past several months, ever since Attorney General Brad Schimel spoke on campus about the opioid epidemic.

“We have researched the topic and have conferred with the Village PD, Waukesha County, medical advisors and our school nursing staff as we have worked toward a proposed policy,” said Cady.

He explained that they have also reached out to review the policy and procedure of a neighboring school district. On Monday, the Policy Committee will be presented with a draft of the proposed Narcan policy and procedure.

CleanSlate addiction center opens in Waukesha
By Freeman Staff
Jan. 4
, 2018

WAUKESHA — CleanSlate Centers announced the opening of a new facility in Waukesha Wednesday that will attempt to meet the need for doctors specializing in opioid addiction treatment in the area.

The group, which started admitting patients in Waukesha last week, is a national medical company that provides treatment for addiction with a focus on opioids and alcohol due to the high demand for therapies, according to a press release.

CleanSlate staff pose with signs showing the values of the company. From left: Physician Assistant Viet Vignieri, Waukesha center manager Katrina Jenkins and Medical Assistant April King.
Submitted photo

“Our goal at CleanSlate is to bring proven medication-assisted programs and medical teams uniquely trained to treat addiction to communities like Waukesha that are being devastated by the opioid epidemic,” said President and CEO of CleanSlate Centers Gregory Marotta in a statement. “Medication-assisted treatment saves lives, as we’ve seen through successfully treating thousands of patients across the country.”

According to the press release, data shows that opioid-related overdose deaths in Wisconsin more than tripled from 2003 to 2014 and the number continues to grow. On top of that, the state has a shortage of doctors focused on addiction medicine and people seeking treatment are often placed on long waiting lists.

Shanna Belott, media spokeswoman for CleanSlate, was unable to answer by press time Wednesday if the new Waukesha facility has a waitlist or how many spaces will be available in the center.

CleanSlate currently runs 38 centers across the country and is in the process of opening more to meet demand for services.

For more information about the CleanSlate Center in Waukesha, visit or call 833-505-HOPE.

Attorneys announce filing of Washington County’s pharma suit
Lawsuit pins blame for opioid epidemic on manufacturers
By Ralph Chapoco - Daily News
Nov. 8
, 2017

WEST BEND — For weeks, attorneys from three law firms have been encouraging leaders from Wisconsin counties to join them in a lawsuit targeting pharmaceutical manufacturers for their role in the national opioid epidemic.

On Tuesday at the Old County Courthouse, attorneys from Crueger Dickinson LLC, Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC and von Briesen & Roper S.C. hosted a news conference to announce they have filed separate lawsuits on behalf of county representatives who voted to join them in their efforts.

“These companies’ aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opioid pain pills as safe and efficacious for long-term use has led to a drug epidemic in both Wisconsin and around the nation,” Attorney Erin Dickinson said.

“Overdoses are just the tip of the iceberg, however,” Dickinson continued. “County governments are bearing the cost of this crisis. The crisis has overwhelmed county-provided services and has had a devastating effect on the counties’ ability to pay for those services.”

The event in West Bend was specific to the suit filed for Washington County, but the attorneys filed similar complaints on behalf of 27 other counties alleging representatives from pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Purdue, Endo, Cephalon and Janssen misled the public about the addictive nature of their products.

Washington County officials recently voted to be a party to the lawsuit, approving a resolution during Thursday’s meeting. Similar action is being taken throughout the nation, as states such as Washington and Ohio are filing their own lawsuits.

WITI-Fox6 News reported on Tuesday that the largest southeastern Wisconsin counties — Waukesha, Milwaukee, Dane, Racine and Kenosha — have not joined the lawsuit.

Complaint alleges pharma companies used ‘misinformation’

It is alleged in the complaint the motivation for distributing what is described as “misinformation” is to expand the use of the pharmaceutical companies’ products to generate additional revenues. The complaint says that, in the past, opioid medications were used to treat pain in the short term — acute pain, recovery from surgery, cancer or palliative care.

The market for that use is small, however, and the complaint says pharmaceutical representatives wanted to access the more lucrative space of long-term chronic pain relief. To do that, they would need to alter physicians’ knowledge, understanding and prescribing habits for pain-related symptoms.

The complaint alleges pharmaceutical companies created and distributed literature that understated the risks while overstating the benefits for long-term use, provided the appearance of independent research and shaped the opinions of those in the medical field.

‘‘We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense,’’ Purdue Pharma said in a statement that also said the company is ‘‘deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution.’’

Endo Health Solutions said in a statement its ‘‘top priorities include patient safety and ensuring that patients with chronic pain have access to safe and effective therapeutic options’’ while preventing opioid abuse. It said it couldn’t comment further on pending litigation. Johnson & Johnson did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment.

Contributing: The Associated Press and Steve Van Dien, Freeman Staff


Opiod lawsuit press conference
Posted 11-07-17

A weapon against opioids
Walgreens announces all U.S. stores will stock Narcan
By Ashley Haynes - Freeman Staff
Oct. 27
, 2017

WAUKESHA — On the same day that President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, Walgreens came out with an announcement of its own. The retailer announced that as part of a comprehensive plan to combat drug abuse, all 8,000 Walgreens pharmacies will stock their shelves with the FDAapproved nasal-spray form of Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan. The medication can be used in the event of an overdose to counter the effects of opioid drugs.

“By stocking Narcan in all our pharmacies, we are making it easier for families and caregivers to help their loved ones by having it on hand in case they need it,” said Rick Gates, Walgreens’ group vice president of pharmacy.

In addition, Walgreens is adopting Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations by educating patients about Narcan when they are prescribed a controlled substance greater than 50 morphine milligram equivalents and may be at risk of accidental overdose.

“This effort, combined with the opportunity for patients and caregivers to obtain Narcan nasal spray without a prescription in 45 states, is critical in combating the crisis,” said Seamus Mulligan, chief executive officer for Adapt Pharma, makers of the nasal spray.

Pharmaceutical wholesaler AmerisourceBergen distributed Narcan demo devices at no cost to Walgreens pharmacists so they can teach patients on how to properly administer the spray.

In Waukesha County, the effects of opioids can easily be seen. At the beginning of last month, County Executive Paul Farrow proclaimed Sept. 1 Overdose Awareness Day in remembrance of the 60 residents who died from the drugs in 2016.

“Walgreens’ decision to carry Narcan in its stores is an important step in the fight against the opioid crisis,” said Farrow. “Prescription opioids are the main cause of drug overdose deaths and poisonings in Wisconsin, so the ability to easily access Narcan can help save lives in Waukesha County, the state of Wisconsin, and across the country.” John Kettler, clinic supervisor at the Waukesha County Department of Human Health Services, echoed the sentiment that easier access to Narcan could be beneficial.

“Our position is that the more Narcan we can get out there the better,” said Kettler. “It can save lives. We’re very excited about this. This is a good partnership.”

Waukesha County received a grant from State Targeted Response to fight the crisis, and has been focusing on community level action. Community members can be trained in how to administer the Narcan nasal spray, and even local library directors received training on how to spot and stop a drug overdose. Still, opioid overdose deaths continue in Waukesha County, with 17 deaths being reported earlier this month.

Opioid deaths continue in Waukesha County
Coalition releases guide to help community
By Brian Huber - Freeman Staff
Oct. 15
, 2017

WAUKESHA — So far in 2017, the number of confirmed drug-related deaths is far lower than at this point last year, but an official in the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s office said the preliminary numbers may be inconclusive as far as trends go.

According to numbers updated this week, so far in 2017, 17 people have been confirmed to have died in drug-related deaths in Waukesha County, compared with 62 at this point last year.

“Don’t read too much into that,” said Kris Klenz, supervisor for deputy medical examiners in Waukesha County. “We send out the testing, we get responses back as cases are completed by them. ... Seventeen is just the confirmed number of drug-related deaths based on death certificates we’ve signed so far this year.”

Klenz said the 17 figure accounts for cases investigated through May; she declined to speculate on what the approximate number of actual drug-related deaths may be based on the number of pending cases. Seventeen for about half the year does not automatically mean the county is on pace for 34 this year, she said.

When asked if such a difference in numbers from last year to this means people can conclude opioid deaths are falling, Klenz said, “I would tend to say no. With this year’s data there are not enough numbers to compare alone. But with heroin in 2015 there were 20 and in 2016 it was 24, so we are certainly not seeing fewer heroin deaths,” she said.

“I don’t have a crystal ball to say we’ll have fewer or as many heroin deaths than last year. We all hope it would be fewer,” Klenz said.


Of those 17 deaths this year:

12 were accidental, five were listed as suicide — where people succumb to overdoses based on a mix of drugs including alcohol, non-opioid prescriptions or even street drugs of abuse.

Eight involved heroin, alone or in combination with other substances. Six involved opioid medications, and one involved non-prescription synthetic opioids like fentanyl or a derivative of it; and two involved other drugs or medications like anti-anxiety or antipsychotic medications.

Nine were males, eight were females.

Ages ranged from 21 to 71 years old.

Waukesha County has not seen dramatic spikes like the 11 deaths reported in a fourday span recently in Milwaukee County. But they can come in bunches here too, Klenz said.

“We might go in spurts but for us a spurt would be two or three in a week, not 11 in a weekend, so it’s a much, much smaller scale,” she said.

Turning the tide

Klenz said the county is looking at a drug fatality review team, to complement similar groups examining deaths of children and elderly people. Klenz said the team would examine deaths in the county to try to learn from them in the hope of making a difference.

Turning the tide involves a multifaceted effort, from training people to use the drug Narcan to counteract the effects of opioids, to awareness and education, getting information to people so families know what to look for and where to turn for help — “There’s so many different things because there is not going to be one easy solution to a lot of this,” Klenz said.

To that end, the Waukesha County Drug Free Communities coalition has put out an Opiate and Heroin Guide this week for community members to get a look at the opioid problem, how to spot signs of usage, how to respond to an overdose, treatment resources and options, and more, including personal stories from people affected by opioids, either users themselves or a family member of an overdose victim.

Mary Simon, executive director of Elevate, a nonprofit agency in Waukesha and Washington County that provides referrals and other support services for people and works with the coalition, said the guide is being given to hospitals and the sheriff’s department, and an effort is being made at getting it into schools.

“I think what we hope to accomplish is to educate the community, and keep raising awareness this is an issue because there are still some people who don’t believe it can happen in Waukesha County,” she said.

Even for people who may not have insurance to get private treatment, there are options, beginning with a call to the 211 service that can refer people to resources where they can get needs addressed, she said.

Elevate also works with children as young as high school in a Peers for Peers program. Students are trained to be peer listeners so if friends or classmates have addiction concerns, they can provide direction for getting help.

The hope is to prevent children from using drugs and alcohol, because the younger people are when they start to use such substances the likelihood that they will become dependent grows, she said.

Elevate compiled a similar guide specific to Washington County as well, and other organizations are doing similar things in southeastern Wisconsin, Simon said.

“There is a wealth of information in there about heroin and stuff, opiates, and why this is happening and what we can do to prevent this and I would really encourage people to pick it up and read it or go online and look at it, talk to your kids and lock up your prescriptions,” she said.

The guide is available at

Heroin Task Force to hold three talks this month
News Graphic Staff
Oct. 10
, 2017

CEDARBURG — Recovery, drug threats and medication management are slated for discussion in the Heroin Task Force’s lecture series this month.

The task force is holding three lectures this month, They are:

Wednesday, 2017 Drug Threats Statewide and in our Backyard

Oct. 18, Navigating Addiction, Treatment and Support

Oct. 25, Understanding Pain Management, Medication Disposal and Patient Advocacy

Each lecture is scheduled to run from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m. in the Ozaukee Pavilion on the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds, W67 N866 Washington Ave. in Cedarburg. During each of the lectures, the Heroin Task Force will also have the Hidden in Plain Sight display open.

Hidden in Plain Sight is a model teen bedroom with with several dozen signs of alcohol or drug use. It was built earlier this year by a Heroin Task Force work group, based on a similar display the group had previously borrowed from another county.

Participants walk through Hidden in Plain Sight, trying to identify the signs of drug and alcohol use that have been planted. Tours will be available each Wednesday, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ozaukee Pavilion. The display is for adults 21 years or older only.

The lecture series and the Hidden in Plain Sight demonstration are both part of the task force’s efforts to make progress this year. During task force meetings and workshops earlier this year, the group concluded this year’s initiatives had to be “actionable,” and the educational lecture series and Hidden in Plain Sight room were two of the main goals the task force formed.

Kirsten Johnson, director of Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department, told the County Board that all of the items planted in the room – items commonly used to conceal or enable alcohol and drug use – were purchased on the internet through Amazon or Wal-Mart, easily accessible to teenagers.

For more information on the task force and the events planned, go to online or call 262-284-8170.

‘Building Awareness: A discussion on drug use in our community’
Starting Point event to include stories of young people in recovery
News Graphic Staff
Oct. 5
, 2017

MEQUON — A free event to promote awareness of addiction and drug use in local communities will be held.

Parents and their children in seventh grade through high school are invited to the presentation at Homestead High School in the James Barr Performing Arts Center Monday, Oct. 23. There will be a resource fair from 6 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., offering information about the resources and organization available in southeast Wisconsin.

At 6:30 p.m. the presentation will begin with an introduction, followed by keynote speaker Dr. Brian Fidlin, a licensed clinical psychologist with 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents and adults.

After Fidlin speaks, break-out sessions are scheduled for 7:20 p.m. to 8 p.m. According to event information, there will be a session on the parents’ perspective and stories from young adults in recovery, both with question and answer opportunities.

At the end of the free event, Fidlin will speak again, discussing resilience and grit in recovery.

The event is organized by Starting Point of Ozaukee County, sponsored by the Mequon-Thiensville Junior Woman’s Club and moderated by Joyce Garbaciak. For more information, call Starting Point at 262-241-1004.

Oconomowoc council votes to allow drug and rehab center in city
By Jake Meister - Freeman Staff
Oct. 4
, 2017

OCONOMOWOC — The majority of the gallery within the Oconomowoc Common Council Chambers was mostly smiling Tuesday night after two very different, well buzzed-about endeavors were approved following limited discussion.

The council first approved a conditional use permit and two associated ordinances that will allow a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility, Ladders Recovery Community, to operate at 1331 W. Capitol Drive.

The steps up the Ladders

The path to the pro-Ladders vote wasn’t easy. On Aug. 22, the council approved the first reading related to rezoning the 5.3 acre parcel at 1331 W. Capitol Drive from industrial to a general commercial district following a public comment period that likely made that council meeting the most heated of 2017. The other reading changed the land use designation for the parcel to a general commercial district.

Both items pertaining to zoning were not signed off by the Oconomowoc Plan Commission during its Aug. 9 meeting, which also boasted a well-attended public comment period.

According to city documents, the commission’s reasons for not supporting the measures included a desire not to remove more than 5 acres of industrial land from the city and keep the industrial land use consistent with other areas. The commission also reasoned that a subdivision to the west of the property was platted with the expectation that the zoning would remain industrial and that property owners in the area expect it to stay so.

But at that Aug. 22 council meeting, the crowd heavily supported the facility, as did the council. A few businesses in the area of 1331 W. Capitol Drive voiced concerns, but other businesses in that same area showed support.

On Tuesday night, Alderman Matt Rosek asked City Planner Jason Gallo if the city has received any complaints from homeowners in the area of 1331 W. Capitol Drive regarding the possible addition of Ladders.

Gallo said the city has received no such complaints that he was aware of and the only complaint from a business was the same the council had heard at the last meeting.

Then the issue of safety was rehashed.

City Attorney Stan Riffle said that if the Oconomowoc Police Department or other emergency responders get excessive calls to Ladders, Ladders Operator Jacob Jansen would be brought before the council for a meeting in which the aldermen would decide whether it wants to revoke the conditional use permit. Oconomowoc Public Safety Director and Police Chief Ron Buerger said he is comfortable with Jansen’s plan for Ladders.

Opioid epidemic discussed at Legislative Breakfast
State attorney general among those in attendance
Sept. 23
, 2017

The heroin epidemic has become a national crisis, one that has vexed policy makers, elected officials and public health representatives — and Washington County residents are not immune to the effect.

Given the magnitude and extent of the problem, prominent members of the community descended upon the village of Richfield to discuss a problem that defied simple and easy answers — how to address the growing opioid epidemic facing the area.

Staff from the Washington County Heroin Task Force and Elevate Inc. — a nonprofit that tries to address the root causes of high-risk behaviors through prevention, intervention and residential programs that focus on drug and alcohol issues, mental health and delinquency — hosted their fifth annual Legislative Breakfast on Friday at Terrace 167 in Richfield, inviting stakeholders to discuss their thoughts and provide ideas for dealing with the issue.

“It is a complicated issue,” Elevate Executive Director Mary Simon said. “It is a really, really, complicated issue. We are dealing with people, right? Have you met a simple person? I haven’t met a simple person.”

Washington and Ozaukee County Health Officer Kirsten Johnson and Behavioral Health Manager Jaclyn Moglowsky review their materials Friday at Terrace 167 in the village of Richfield during the fifth annual Legislative Breakfast hosted by Elevate Inc. and the Washington County Heroin Task Force.
Ralph Chapoco/Daily News

The event was structured differently than past events. Friday’s format was meant to foster discussion, identify the issues and the barriers to solving the problem. It was organized around the recommendations presented by President Donald Trump’s commission and Gov. Scott Walker’s task force meant to address the opioid problem.

Three of the recommendations were presented individually by Dolores Bomrad, moderator for the event. That was followed by input from Simon and local subject matter experts, including Behavioral Health Manager Jaclyn Moglowsky to Elevate’s Ronna Corliss who works on prevention measures.

Organizers then opened the discussion to attendees who were invited to give their thoughts on the subject. A range of topics were discussed, from possible treatment options to prevention.

Some suggested treating drug addiction by prescribing pharmaceutical products.

“We encourage the use of a medication called Vivitrol, we are not going into details but what Vivitrol does, but it is an injectable medication that reduces cravings and is a very effective tool,” Simon said.

Ronald Naab, a member of the Heroine Task Force, and whose son is an addict, agreed.

“My understanding in talking to the people who are working with him, that particular medication, along with counseling, is 92 percent effective,” he said. “Ninety-two percent effective,” he reiterated. “Whereas some of the drugs are less than 30 percent effective, so somehow it would nice if we could get the drug companies to reduce the cost the shot.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel sits in front of a photograph of Rob Franklin as he listens to Elevate Inc. Executive Director Mary Simon express her thoughts regarding the lack of data that is available for researching the opioid epidemic in Washington County. Organizers placed posters throughout the venue of people who are in recovery from the disease or who have died as a reminder to attendees about what is at stake.
Ralph Chapoco/Daily News

Access to the medication is difficult. The medication is given once per month for at least one year — and each injection is about $1,000 — making it cost prohibitive for many who want to incorporate it as part of their treatment.

Part of the discussion focused on preventative measures where Wisconsin Rep. Janel Brandtjen challenged parents to discuss deterrence strategies with their children “My kids’ exit strategy: ‘They are going to admit they are sick,’” she said. “If they are in a situation they want to get out of, they are going to tell them they are going to throw up.”

However, much of the event was directed toward the unknown, what officials didn’t know or still had to learn.

“The measure that I would like to begin to get an understanding of, how to find data to measure this, is to understand why people start,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said. “I think that is the most important thing if we are going to be effective.”

Many have collected anecdotal evidence that have guided their decisions for implementing specific programs that prevent the onset of addiction, but few have measured the effectiveness. Officials know fewer details about children’s substance abuse habits — knowledge they require for dealing with the issue.

“It would allow us to target our educational efforts,” Simon said. “If we found out of the kids that are using, 85 percent of them are using OxyContin. Then we need to target our education around OxyContin. We don’t need to talk about heroin because kids aren’t using heroin.”

Simon said she wants to know about situations where people try to access treatment options but couldn’t — is the issue finances, provider access or transportation? She said she is also interested in learning about the options interest them.

In total, the event presented the barriers to treatment and potential ideas for addressing the problem, but few concrete solutions were introduced.

“What I said at the end was that we wanted to make this an ongoing conversation,” she said. “For a lot of people, this is the first time they are even hearing some of this information. To expect people to come up with solutions the first time they are hearing it, it is not realistic.”

‘You’re trapped when you’re actively in addiction’
By Alison Henderson - News Graphic Staff
Sept. 5
, 2017

OZAUKEE COUNTY — A few years ago, Grafton resident John Pospichal was stealing and selling possessions, draining his bank account, taking out loans from check-cashing stores and forging his father’s checks to satisfy a prescription painkiller-induced opioid addiction. It started with a sprained ankle and ended with several felony charges, losing an ex-girlfriend to an overdose and six months and four days in jail.

Now, with an apartment, a job and a reinstated license, the 31-year-old musician immersed himself in treatment, has gotten involved with the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force, has started a support meeting and works as an assistant manager at a sober living house. On Nov. 4, he will have been sober for three years. During September, his and thousands of other recoveries will be celebrated through National Recovery Month, which raises awareness of mental and substance use disorders, celebrates individuals in long-term recovery and acknowledges the work of prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

In 2015, 43.4 million adults had a mental illness, 20.8 million people 12 or older had a substance use disorder and 8.1 million adults had both a substance use disorder and a mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

The survey found that 2.3 million people – or 10.8 percent of people 12 or older – who needed substance use treatment had received it at a specialty facility in the previous year.

“Addiction affects all of us one way or the other,” said Shea Halula of Starting Point. The Ozaukee County organization connects people to substance abuse prevention and intervention resources, like support and recovery groups.

Halula said recovery month highlights that there are a lot of people in recovery, which can be from any substance that has mind-altering or damaging effects. SAMHSA said it celebrates recovery much like people celebrate improvements for other health conditions like hypertension, diabetes and asthma.

“There are millions of Americans whose lives have been transformed through recovery,” the SAMHSA website states. “Since these successes often go unnoticed by the broader population, Recovery Month provides a vehicle for everyone to celebrate these accomplishments.”

For Pospichal, recovery is freedom.

“It’s life, it’s a new way of living,” he said. “You’re trapped when you’re actively in addiction.”

Pospichal said it was fear that brought him out of that trap, but it was determination that kept him away.

“I was so tired of fighting. The lifestyle got really tiresome, but unfortunately you can’t stop because you get really sick so it becomes a vicious cycle,” he said. “I don’t want to go back to Ozaukee County jail or prison, and I actually enjoy life sober now. You get to a point in recovery where it’s not about staying sober, it’s about emotional sobriety and maintaining an even flow of emotions where consistently, you feel good. … It works if you work it. If you don’t put in the work nothing’s going to change.”

There are many types of recovery, Halula said, and while it often requires working a program or attending treatment and support groups, he said it also requires being honest with oneself.

“It’s all about hope. People can and do get better, it’s just a matter of taking the necessary steps, being honest and getting help,” he said.

In a press release recognizing National Recovery Month, Starting Point encouraged people to educate themselves and others about the signs to look for in friends, family and coworkers. These include a decline in performance, poor attendance at work or school or sudden changes in behavior or personality. The press release also encouraged asking doctors to actively screen and diagnose dependence and addiction and asking employers to help make treatment available.

“We also can help spread the word and educate people with substance use and their family members about treatment options, support services and employee assistance programs that can guide people into recovery while still maintaining their jobs,” the press release stated.

A number of treatment and recovery resources for mental and substance use disorders are available in Ozaukee County and can be found through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services or by visiting

Overdose Awareness Day features speakers, butterfly release
By Ashley Haynes - Freeman Staff
Sept. 1
, 2017

WAUKESHA — On Thursday morning, before the Waukesha County Courthouse, County Executive Paul Farrow proclaimed that the day would become Overdose Awareness Day in Waukesha County. The proclamation coincided with International Overdose Awareness Day. At the event, 60 butterflies were released to represent the 60 confirmed drug-related deaths in the county last year.

   A butterfly sits on the wrist of Rachael Cooper.
Kenny Yoo/Special to The Freeman

There were several speakers, including Jennifer Dorow, chief judge of the Third Administrative District, who explained the importance of Drug Treatment Court in the county.

“When I started my career in Waukesha in January of 2012, I soon became aware of the gravity and the extent of the opiate epidemic as I presided over case after case of drug-dependent offenders,” said Dorow. “In many respects, it’s the last hope for individuals who are at risk of dying or going to prison.”

   Judge Jennifer Dorow holds one of 60 butterflies in preparation for release.
Kenny Yoo/Special to The Freeman

One of the first people to pass successfully through Waukesha County Drug Treatment Court also spoke. Paul Page was present when his best friend overdosed in November of 2011. Both of them were charged with possession and Page was sent to Drug Treatment Court. Page described how he received tough love from the judge who presided over his case, but it was just what he needed.

“The court system had been an enemy of mine for a long time, but I saw that this was different,” said Page. “They never treated me as anything less than a human being.”

Page, who is now approaching five years sober, is simultaneously dealing with the recent death of his best friend, who wasn’t as lucky as he is. The butterflies released Thursday morning were in remembrance of people like Page’s friend.

Christine Howard, County Board supervisor, has also been personally affected by the opioid epidemic. She lost a brother in 2006 and has also lost a nephew.

“We share stories, because this crisis affects everyone,” said Howard as she extended a heartfelt thanks to Paul Page for sharing his story.

   Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow speaks during a ceremony to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day at the Waukesha County Courthouse on Thursday.
Kenny Yoo/Special to The Freeman

The last speaker of the morning, Farrow pulled out the official proclamation naming Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day. He said the goal of the proclamation is simple: to see the number of overdose survivors become greater than the number of lives lost. A major focus in this year’s county budget will be increasing funds to the Health and Human Services Department and the Sheriff’s Department to fight the opioid epidemic.

“The opioid crisis is very real and it affects everyone, which is why I am making fighting this crisis a priority,” said Farrow. “Our goal is to bring forth awareness of what this epidemic really is.”

The county also received a new grant from a State Targeted Response to the crisis, which will further allow officials to look at affected communities. The STR grant is in addition to Waukesha County’s participation in the Wisconsin Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths Prevention Project, announced in May. Waukesha County has been focused on fostering community level action by training citizens how to use Narcan, developing rapid community response projects (such as health department surveys) and expanding use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring program.

Task force considers suing drug companies amid war on opioids
Panel examines new tactic after spike in deaths
By DAVE FIDLIN - Special to the Post
Aug. 25
, 2017

MILWAUKEE — As the war against the recent spike in overdose deaths from heroin, opioids and other drugs continues, a countywide panel devoted to exploring prevention options is considering a new tactic - suing drug companies.

Michael McNett, a pain management physician with Aurora Health Care, lays some of the blame in the overdose crisis at the doors of drug manufacturing companies. All too often, McNett said highly addictive drugs are presented as the solution to patients’ treatment needs in lieu of other options.

The state and federal court systems have traditionally sided with drug manufacturers in past attempts to file lawsuits against the companies, though the tide has slowly begun turning, according to a handful of local medical professionals.

“I think there’s been a misunderstanding on the part of the courts,” McNett said at a recent City-County Heroin, Opioid and Task Force meeting. “No one sets out to become addicted.”

   Bevan Baker
Photo supplied

CoryAnn St. Marie-Carls
Photo supplied

A cross section of persons sits on the task force. Bevan Baker, commissioner of the Milwaukee County Health Department, chairs the panel. A number of elected officials also sit on it, including Milwaukee Aldermen Michael Murphy and Khalif Rainey and St. Francis Mayor CoryAnn St. Marie-Carls.

The task force, convened early this year as overdose statistics continued to rise, also includes a number of other persons in an effort to provide as broad a perspective as possible.

Michael Macias, a former heroin addict, pulled up a chair on the panel more recently. He has been sober for a year and a half and described his ongoing path toward recovery as “a hard road.”

Although there have been signs of hope, Macias, from his first hand experience, said he remains concerned about the spike in overdose deaths in recent years. Macias said he considers himself fortunate to have not succumbed to his addiction.

“We all know — we see it in the news every day,” Macias said of the cases. “This really is an epidemic.”

Macias also spoke openly of a recent encounter he had with a physician as he was recovering from an accident.

“My physician handed out the OxyContin like they were Tic Tacs,” Macias said.

Local physician George “Chip” Morris, who serves on  the Medical Society of Milwaukee County, said he agrees doctors need to reconsider how they are prescribing next steps for pain management.

“We can talk about chronic pain and what not to do about it, managing it,” Morris said, pointing out he advocates for alternatives whenever possible.

Because heroin, fentanyl and opioids are highly addictive, Morris said of the epidemic, “This is a public health disaster. This is the essence of a true emergency.”

Baker said the expertise from the medical community is valuable as next steps are pursued.

“We need you in the space,” Baker said of doctors and other medical professionals. “Your leverage and your advocacy is necessary.”

While results from lawsuits against drug manufacturers have been spotty, the task force in its recent discussion remains open to potentially considering it as an avenue to curtailing overdose statistics.

Other ongoing efforts that have been discussed are the partnerships municipalities have forged with pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens to serve as drop-off centers for unused medications.

The collaborative effort, to date, has been fully taxpayer —  funded, however.

The task force meets about once per month. Its most recent gathering was Aug. 18.

Naloxone training offered for families of opiate users
Freeman Staff
Aug. 24
, 2017

BROOKFIELD — Healing Corner, a local clinic, is offering training for the friends and family of people who use opiates. The training will cover the use of the medication naloxone, which can save the lives of opiate users.

Training will take place on the third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at The Healing Corner, 19115 W. Capitol Drive, Suite 117.

For more information call 262-781-0240, extension 1005, or email

A drug and alcohol treatment center in Oconomowoc?
Common Council vote on rezoning favors venture
By Jake Meister - Freeman Staff
Aug. 23
, 2017

OCONOMOWOC — The Oconomowoc Common Council’s chambers were packed to the rafters Tuesday night for its most intense meeting of 2017 — one that resulted in two votes that could eventually help to bring a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility to West Capitol Drive.

After a marathon public comment period and a aldermanic discussion that was at times contentious, the council approved the first readings related to the rezoning of the area in an effort to accommodate the rehabilitation business, known as The Ladders Recovery Community.

One reading would rezone the 5.3 acre parcel at 1331 W. Capitol Drive from industrial to a general commercial district. The other would change the land use designation for the parcel to a general commercial district.

   A drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility might be coming to this building at
1331 W. Capitol Drive in Oconomowoc.

Jake Meister/Freeman Staff

These items came to the council after John Van Kempen of Hills of Erin, LLC submitted an application to allow changes to the vacant 15,000 square foot building that used to rent to Paper-Less, LLC. and Information Systems Engineering. Should the zonings change for the building, the property owner would seek a conditional use permit to allow for converting the building so that it can accommodate the 24/7 drug and alcohol recovery community supporting up to 30 people at a time.

Should The Ladders Recovery Community be built, Jacob Jansen, a recovering drug addict himself, would operate the business as executive director. Jansen owns sober living facilities for women in other communities.

Both items pertaining to zoning were not signed off by the Oconomowoc Plan Commission during its Aug. 9 meeting, which included a well-attended public comment period.

According to city documents, the commission’s reasons for not supporting the measures included a desire not to remove more than 5 acres of industrial land from the city and keep the industrial land use consistent with other areas. The commission also reasoned that a subdivision to the west of the property was platted with the expectation that the zoning would remain industrial and that property owners in the area expect it to stay so.

The commission’s ruling disappointed a large group of people who support the addition of the facility, and it showed. Many people — perhaps more than in any public comment period at a council meeting this year — spoke in favor of the rehabilitation facility Tuesday night. Most seemed to have been impacted by drug or alcohol addiction, specifically opiate abuse.

Like several members of his family, Jacob Jansen spoke. He told the council that, should the zoning changes not pass, he feared the city would send the message that rectifying the heroin and opioid epidemic is not a priority in Waukesha County.

He said the facility’s goal is to provide residential treatment for less than $2,500 a month — a figure he suggested isn’t possible at other centers.

Oconomowoc High School counselor Scott Bakkum voiced his strong support for the facility. Bakkum said he personally knows of 15 Oconomowoc High School graduates who have overdosed, many of whom he said were in their 20s.

Nearly everyone who took the podium spoke in favor of the zoning change. One group who didn’t support it was Oconomowoc Molded Products, a company that at 1220 Capital Drive is a golf swing away from the proposed treatment center. While a representative from the company said he sympathized with the families impacted by addiction, he added that it shouldn’t be in an industrial park.

Council weighs in

Before the aldermen were able to speak, Mayor Dave Nold let the crowd know what the Oconomowoc Plan Commission’s role is in the whole situation.

“The Plan Commission does not consider the politics of the situation,” Nold said. 'They’re not there to judge the project by its merits.”

Nold went on to add the council would be the group to consider the complicated variables at hand.

Alderman Kevin Ellis jumped right in to voice his strong support.

“The times are changing now, guys. We need to change with them,” he said.

Alderman Jeff Schmidt said he favored what the facility would be bringing, but did have his worries.

“I’m just not really sure about this particular lot and location,” Schmidt said. He was also concerned with the size of the police department and how it would be impacted if The Ladders Recovery Community was created.

Schmidt added he was concerned that the subdivision to the west of the location wasn’t mailed the public notice pertaining to the meeting.

City Planner Jason Gallo said the city followed statutes and sent public notices to the properties that needed to be notified.

Alderman Tom Strey peppered Jansen with questions, one of which pertained to security.

Jansen said the residents will be living on the second and third floors and security cameras will be put on the floors, monitoring, registering and recording their movement from the facility. He said the facility will be locked at various points and a curfew will be instituted.

Then things got very tense.

Strey questioned that drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, causing loud, angry roars from the crowd. One comment seemed to especially anger the crowd.

“Nobody told Tom Strey to have his first Pabst Blue Ribbon,” Strey said to a cloud of jeers.

The crowd softened up after comments from Alderman Lou Kowieski — applauding to the point that Nold had to pound the gavel.

Kowieski said he was strongly considering voting against the resolutions before the meeting, but the events of the meeting changed his mind.

“One thing I love about this community are the hearts, so I hope you can be welcomed to this community,” Kowieski said to cheers.

Strey chimed in again, stating that he wasn’t allowed to finish his comments earlier. This time, he won the crowd over by exclaiming he would, despite the wishes of many constituents, be voting in favor of changing the zoning ordinance.

After a few more quick comments, the council settled in and voted to approve the first readings on both items related to rezoning.

A resolution to act on the conditional use permit for the Ladders Recovery Facility was held off until the council’s next meeting, which will be held Sept. 5.

Bringing heroin out of hiding
Task force works to educate community with demonstration, lecture series
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
Aug. 22
, 2017

OZAUKEE COUNTY — The Heroin Task Force is taking action on its goals to educate and prepare the community for the fight against the heroin epidemic.

“We had seen in 2013 an uptick in overdose deaths,” said Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department Director Kirsten Johnson, who gave a presentation to the County Board last week, updating the board on the task force’s recent work.

The Heroin Task Force began in 2014 with informational summits in response to the rise in drug use in the county, which led to work groups and volunteers forming goals for Ozaukee County’s fight against the Heroin epidemic. The groups formed then by the 100 or so people who came to work at the second summit were medical education; policy and advocacy; community education; treatment; and law enforcement.

“The community events really did bring people together,” Johnson said.

The Task Force has refined its direction with specific projects and programs currently underway. At a series of task force meetings earlier this year, members of the group decided that this year’s work needed to be actionable and have results.

Johnson said the task force is working on community education and support as much as possible, to encourage people to be aware and open.

She showed a painting during the County Board update that had been done some years earlier by a high school student; the painting included a syringe, an injection sore and other indicators of drug use.

Johnson said that when the art teacher who received the painting spoke to the artist’s parent, concerned about the painting, the parent said her child was just acting out for attention, she did not use drugs. The student survived an overdose a couple years later.

“There are warning signs this plain, that families don’t feel comfortable coming forward or talking about,” Johnson said.

The most recent success of these efforts is the Hidden in Plain Sight demonstration. It is a simulation of a teenager’s bedroom, laden with items that can be used for or signs of drug use. The Heroin Task Force built the simulation, designed for members of the public to go through, looking for the signs and learning what to look for. There are about 40 indicators planted in the mock-bedroom.

Johnson said that all the items planted in the room were purchased online from and Wal-Mart.

“These are things that are easily accessible for kids,” she said.

Hidden in Plain Sight was set up at the Ozaukee County Fair; an email from Amy Kozicki, Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department health educator, said 417 fair-goers toured the demonstration.

The Hidden in Plain Sight room is next scheduled to be available in October, when it will be set up in conjunction with another Heroin Task Force project, an educational lecture series:

Oct. 11, 7 p.m., Early detection, drug recognition and addiction behaviors

Oct. 18, 7 p.m., Recovery roads, personal stories of recovery

Oct. 25, 7 p.m., Pain management

More information will be available on the lectures as they approach.

Hidden in Plain Sight will be set up in conjunction with the lectures in the Ozaukee Pavilion building on the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds in Cedarburg, with the demonstration available for touring from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. those days.

Johnson also told the County Board that the task force has been working on support infrastructure for those in addiction recovery, establishing more support groups and coming up with transportation resources for those who need support groups but have no means to get to them.

Teens search for ways to address opioid crisis
Summer program at CUW led by pharmacy professor
By Kali Thiel - Special to the News Graphic
Aug. 8
, 2017

MEQUON — For some teens, summertime means a break from learning, but for the 10 Milwaukee-area high school students who participated in the Advanced SMART Team program at Concordia University Wisconsin, this summer has meant an opportunity to delve into the science behind the opioid epidemic.

Last Friday, students from schools in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties wrapped up a six-week program that had them learning about the drugs that bind proteins in order to find or create new ways to address the opioid abuse crisis.

Concordia Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Chris Cunningham led the program.

  Abby Arnholt of Cedarburg was part of a team of high school students who studied ways to prevent individuals from becoming dependent on opioids. She did the work as part of a six-week-long program run by a Concordia University Wisconsin Pharmacy School professor.
Submitted photo

“We have an immediate health crisis concern in our nation,” Cunningham said. “This program not only exposes students to that dire concern, it helps them become interested in math and sciences, as well as drug discovery, and those are all very worthwhile goals, in my mind.”

The program is part of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s 500 Stars Summer Internship Program.

The CTSI 500 Stars Initiative is a 10-year strategic, comprehensive and community-focused effort that seeks to replenish and increase diversity in the translational science workforce.

The CUW Advanced SMART Team program is also an extension of a Milwaukee School of Engineering program, called SMART (Students Modeling a Research Topic) Teams, where students learn about STEM fields, proteins and biology before “graduating” to the CUW program. This coming Friday, teams from both programs will gather at the Medical College of Wisconsin to present their research findings.

One CUW team will share its efforts to make more potent antagonists to help patients recover from an opioid overdose – similar to Narcan, only more powerful.

Students from another team will share their efforts to make kappa receptors, which can act as antagonists or blockers, and could be useful for treating other widely abused drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.

Abby Arnholt of Cedarburg and her team will present their efforts to develop a new class of delta opioid receptor antagonists that would prevent a person from becoming dependent on opioids in the first place.

Such agents have been shown to block the rewarding effects of morphine in mice, though FDA-approved agents are lacking.

Arnholt said the group will send their research to the National Institute of Health Psychoactive Drug Screening Program , led by Dr. Bryan Roth at the University of North Carolina, to test their effectiveness. The results could play a role in altering mainstream medication administration.

“I have some pretty good molecules, so I think there will be some positive results,” Arnholt said. “Hopefully it will shed more light on the opioid epidemic and lead to more research so that we can have more non-addictive opioids.”

Heroin Task Force to unveil new exhibit at the fair
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
Aug. 1
, 2017

CEDARBURG — The Ozaukee County Fair this week will be host to the county’s own Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit.

The display is a project of the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force this year. Hidden in Plain Sight rooms are demonstrations, designed to increase awareness among adults of the warning signs of a teen’s drug and alcohol abuse. The room is a simulation of a teenager’s bedroom, containing hidden clues that might indicate substance abuse.

“These signs are everyday items that are commonly manipulated for alcohol and drug use by teens,” according to a press release from the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department.

The Health Department and the Heroin Task Force are presenting the room in the Commercial Building on the fairgrounds. It will be open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

According to the press release, there are about 40 warning signs hidden in the room. It is open to those 21 and older.

“This partnership between the Ozaukee County Fair and the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department is expected to increase awareness of substance abuse in the community greatly,” the press release stated.

The Heroin Task Force took on building a Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit as one of its three main initiatives this year. Members of the task force volunteered to design, organize and construct it.

Ozaukee County has used a Hidden in Plain Sight room before; one of the mock teenage bedrooms was in Port Washington last year for an event, on loan from Washington County. Using that experience as a model, the Heroin Task Force undertook creating their own to increase use and availability of the demonstration for local initiatives and events.

Information from the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department indicates there were 56 drug-related hospitalizations and 146 alcohol-related hospitalizations in Ozaukee County during 2016.

The other two initiatives of the task force this year are creating an educational lecture and speaker series and increasing availability of support to those in recovery.

To learn more about the Heroin Task Force, go to For more information about the Hidden in Plain Sight room, contact the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department at 262284-8170.

Music in memory of Kimmie
Event aims to help those battling addiction
July 24
, 2017

After losing her 21-yearold daughter to a heroin overdose last year, Jessica McConkey is advocating to remove the stigma of drug addiction within the community. She hopes the “Concert for Kimmie” is an event that can open up the discussion about the growing epidemic.

“Pretty soon, if we don’t get this under control, everybody is going to know somebody that has died from an overdose,” McConkey said. “It’s not just going to be heroin; it’s going to be all these other drugs.”

McConkey, her daughter and Kimmie’s sister, Samie Landon, and Aspired Executive Director Melissa Twitty have orchestrated a festival larger than they originally imagined.

  From left, Kimmie Landon, her mother Jessica McConkey, and her sister Samie Landon are seen in this undated photo. McConkey and Samie are organizing the “Concert for Kimmie” on July 30 at Regner Park.
Submitted photo

It will start at 8 a.m. July 30 at Regner Park in West Bend. Beginning with the 5K Run for Recovery followed by a family friendly festival that will provide free food, face painting, a bounce house, a silent auction, a meat raffle and a music festival Kimmie would be proud of.

“Kimmie loved music festivals,” said McConkey, recalling how the 21-yearold was always singing and dancing.

According to Samie Landon, that was just one part of her sister’s bubbly personality.

It is all thanks to helpful friends, family and community members. Everyone involved has donated his or her time and resources to make the event free to the public and all cash donations and proceeds from the 5K, will go toward the Kimmie Landon Fund.

Samie Landon said the event all started to fall into place after The Nix got in touch to perform. The band wanted to be a part of the event, because the cause is something they strongly believe in.

The Kimmie Landon Fund will support others trying to stay sober who seek support from Aspired.

“I wanted to start a scholarship fund with the 5K because it promotes healthy activity, and a lot of people, when they’re in active addiction, they don’t take the best care of their self,” Twitty said.

The money will also be used to help anyone struggling with addiction, including men, or addicts of any drugs or alcohol.

“The scholarship is not just for heroin (addiction),” McConkey said. “I want to stress that, it’s for all addiction.”

The event will honor Kimmie’s life, and it will advocate for addiction awareness within the community. Tables will be set up for Narcan education, as well as information on where to go if you are looking for help. Samie Landon will be a guest speaker to talk about her experience.

“We just want to prevent other families from going through our nightmare,” Samie Landon said.

The family did not know about Aspired’s sober living home before working with them to curate the event, and McConkey said she believes the program could have saved Kimmie’s life.

“I wanted to open my own home like this, and my friend Julie found Aspired,” McConkey said. “We went and checked it out ... it was exactly what I had in mind, and they’re amazing.”

Twitty said Kimmie’s story is already making a noticeable impact. Aspired, which only accommodates six currently, is full and has a waiting list for the first time in years. The family encourages people to reach out to them if they are in need of help.

Samie Landon and McConkey said they don’t plan to stop campaigning for the cause after the event July 30.

“It’s more of my mission. I’m not even going to stop with just this,” McConkey said. “I think there is a bigger picture that needs to be looked at.”

‘Off-the-charts dangerous’
Local emergency responders worry about contact with dangerous opioid
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
July 20
, 2017

OZAUKEE COUNTY — It’s a fraction of the size of a penny, and it’s lethal enough to have local police and first responders searching for a shield against it.

The drug carfentanil is a synthetic opioid related to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a narcotic sometimes used in small doses as a pain killer; it can cause respiratory arrest or death if taken in too great a dose.

Carfentanil, however, was designed as a tranquilizer for elephants, and is not approved for any use in humans. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is lethal at 2 milligrams and about 50 times more potent than heroin, and carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.

  The frequency of law enforcement encountering fentanyl has risen drastically since 2013. The DEA attributes the increase to availability from Mexico, where fentanyl and carfentanil are illicitly manufactured, and China, where production, sale and export of carfentanil were legal until earlier this year.
Graphic courtesy of Center for Disease Control

“We’re facing a new synthetic drug danger,” Grafton Police Chief Charles Wenten said.

DEA information states that the presence of carfentanil, as well as fentanyl and other fentanyl derivatives, has increased dramatically in the last two years. Brought into the U.S. mostly from Mexico and China, drug dealers cut it with heroin or sell it as heroin to increase profit margins; users often do not know they are taking something more lethal.

Wenten said he is coordinating with Fire Chief Bill Rice to design precautions and get specialized gear to protect against carfentanil, which can cause an overdose for anyone who simply touches it.

According to the DEA, carfentanil and fentanyl can be ingested, injected, inhaled or absorbed through skin contact. While the exact threshold for a lethal dose of carfentanil is not known, as the drug is not designed for humans, only 2 milligrams of fentanyl can kill. By comparison, many over-the-counter pain reliever capsules are 200 milligrams.

“It is off-the-charts dangerous,” Wenten said.

The Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office has already altered its protocols to compensate for the new danger.

Sheriff Jim Johnson said that the department has switched to nitrile gloves, which are more resistant to being permeated than latex, and patrol officers no longer field test drug.

Testing drugs is now done on a two-detective system. Johnson said the first detective wears nitrile gloves while performing the test, and a second detective stands outside the immediate area to monitor the first detective for signs of exposure.

Carfentanil can cause respiratory depression or arrest, drowsiness, disorientation, sedation, pinpoint pupils and clammy skin, with onset of symptoms occurring within minutes of exposure. Sheriff's Office personnel also carry multiple doses of Narcan, according to Johnson, which counteracts opioid overdose. DEA information states counteracting carfentanil can require multiple doses. Ozaukee County Coroner Tim Deppisch said he is all too aware of the concern of coroners and medical examiners who fear they may come into contact with the drug at a death scene. He said simply kneeling down next to a body could cause a major health threat. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with,” Deppisch said. Last weekend, a police officer in Menasha ended up in the hospital after accidental exposure to carfentanil. Shortly after responding to an overdose death Sunday, the police officer began having symptoms while driving on Interstate 41, according to statements from the Menasha Police Department. The officer left the interstate and made it to the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department, where he was given two doses of Narcan to counteract the carfentanil and then taken to the hospital. News outlets across the country have reported similar incidents, as police officers and emergency medical technicians come into contact with the drug while apprehending drug suspects or collecting evidence, often not even realizing it has happened. This danger of accidental or unknown exposure drives the need for protective clothing and equipment.

“We haven’t had a contact with it, but we cannot wait until we do to be prepared,” Wenten said.

“We cannot stumble through this one,” he added.

Because the carfentanil powder can cause overdose by skin contact or inhalation, it also presents a danger to K-9 units trained to detect and find drugs, though Johnson said K-9 handlers typically clear a scene for visible drugs and dangers before bringing their dog in.

Narcan is also safe to use on dogs.

Library directors face battle against opioid abuse head-on
Learn about awareness, prevention and administering Narcan
By Ashley Haynes - Freeman Staff
July 15
, 2017

PEWAUKEE — On Friday morning, library directors from across Waukesha County gathered at the Pewaukee Public Library to attend the first overdose and awareness prevention class. All of them had a singular goal in mind: to help reduce the number of opioid-related deaths in Waukesha County.

“Waukesha County is committed to dealing with this prescription painkiller crisis,” said Jill Fuller, marketing and communications coordinator for Bridges Library System. “Libraries are just one piece of the puzzle of the larger plan of the county to educate the public.”

The class was part of Waukesha County’s four-part plan to fight the opioid crisis through training first responders and key community members in prevention and treatment strategies.

 Lee Clay, a health education specialist with Waukesha County Health and Human Services, gives a demonstration on what to do if someone is suffering from a suspected drug overdose.
Ashley Haynes/Freeman Staff

Lee Clay, a health education specialist with Waukesha County Health and Human Services, let the library directors know the numbers behind the opioid crisis. Of all the overdose deaths in the county, 41 percent are from opiates and more than half of those who overdose from an opiate get the drug from someone they know. More than 80 percent of these overdose deaths are witnessed by someone.

“This is not what I like to call a back alley problem,” said Clay. “This is a huge problem. Had we had the knowledge, we could have saved 80 percent of those people.”

Clay emphasized that opioid abuse strikes close to home and doesn’t happen the way most people may imagine. Most problems with opioid drugs come from legitimate misunderstanding of a doctor-prescribed medication. An overdose doesn’t happen the way it is so often shown on television. The process can sometimes take hours and be caused by a mistake, like forgetting taking medication and later consuming alcohol.

“That’s why it’s important for you as librarians to be aware of this,” said Clay. “Someone probably won’t shoot up on your premises but all kinds of people will come in throughout the day.”

Clay taught the directors the signs of an overdose, how an overdose can occur and the correct procedure to follow if they suspect one is occurring. She stressed they should only act in ways they are comfortable with. Then, she demonstrated how to properly administer Narcan nasal spray, a drug that presses the pause button on an overdose attack.

“I struggled with the ethical issues surrounding that,” said Clay.

“Then I thought by golly, we have an epi-pen for people who get themselves into situations they don’t intend to. Why not Narcan?”

 The emergency will also include other first-aid items such as latex gloves and a barrier to perform CPR.
Ashley Haynes/Freeman Staff

While directors did not walk away with a Narcan kit after Friday’s meeting, they were able to see the product and gain a better understanding of how it works. Community members can be trained on how to administer Narcan, because even if it is incorrectly administered there is no negative effect to the recipient. It lasts about 30 minutes within the body once administered.

A federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration funded the class and the purchase of Narcan kits, which library directors can obtain if they decide to pursue further training.

Don’t be ashamed of loved one’s addiction
By Tony Luke Jr. - The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
July 13
, 2017

I’m sitting in my restaurant not long after my son Tony Luke III dies, and an elderly gentleman comes in and he says to me: “Hey, Tony, I heard your son passed away. I just want to tell you how incredibly sorry I am.”

“Well thank you. I appreciate it.”

“Do you mind if I asked you how he died? Did he have cancer, was he ...”

“No,” I said, “he died of a heroin overdose.”

“Damn it, these kids, the choices they make.”

I didn’t get upset with him. I just thought: “Wow. This is the view. This is why no one talks about it.”

Yes, my son was absolutely responsible for his actions. But when there’s an addiction — and I believe it’s a disease — those are not the actions, the choices, of a rational, thinking person. Those are the actions of people who are in absolute survival mode.

When that survival mode kicks in, when it’s live or die, take the pain away or don’t take the pain away, you’re scared to death, and you’ll trample over people to get what you need.

Every day I saw my son, he had the look of being ashamed, as if he were losing, as if he were weak. Because that’s what he hears. You’re weak. A strong person could get out of this.

Tony had fallen into partying when he was young. Marijuana, pills. That was their version of alcohol. You never think it’s going to lead to anything more.

But he was always athletic and he was a wrestler in school. When he got into a car accident and hurt his back, the doctors put him on Percocets. But one wasn’t enough to take the pain away, so he’s taking two, three, four. But he was still hurting and got his prescription refilled and before we knew it, he was addicted. He had to have them. He couldn’t function without them.

After a while, the doctors figure you’re better and they cut you off. So then you start buying them on the streets. But pills are super expensive — 25, 30 bucks a pop. You can keep that going for a while if you have a job and money, but as he got older, Tony lost his job and he had lost his health care. Then he had a car accident that complicated the pain and back issues. He was taking so many Percocets and they didn’t do much for him because he’d been using them for so long.

So what do you do when there’s no money and nowhere to turn? You go to heroin. It’s ridiculously cheap. Anyone can afford it.

No one wants to be an addict. No one wants to feel like crap every single day of their life when they get up. They don’t want it. Tony had been to rehab twice, and each time he came out, he was better. He was trying, he really was trying. He was really working his butt off to be better.

But this is a disease that takes over your whole body. It ravages your body. You don’t have any control. It gets into your mind, your body, whatever the illness is. You fight, you fight, you fight.

My son Michael calls it the Monster. It’s a great term because it is a monster. It’s so big, it’s so large and it’s so scary that you can’t fight it. You fight it but — it would be like me literally fighting a great athlete, who was 6-foot-11 and 400 pounds of solid muscle. If I fight him every day, I just get tired. I can’t beat him.

Tony was a good kid, truly he was. But the Monster took over, made that kid do things, say things, act in a certain way that he never would have, ever, ever. But the Monster has to feed and nothing matters then. You lie, you manipulate, you say whatever you need to do to take the pain away.

And that’s the road he traveled. That’s the road he fought for eight years, nine years. It was ridiculous to fight. Go to rehab, come out. “I got this, Dad.” Go to the pastor, go to the church every day, go to meetings. “I got this, I’m trying.”

And he did. He tried and tried and he tried. And then, on March 27, he had a moment of weakness and made a decision, and the Monster beat him for good.

The day before, Sunday, he was sweeping and mopping the floor of my store and he said: “Dad, I can’t stand it anymore. My back. Do you mind if I go home?” And I’m like: “No, we’re done. I’ll finish the rest. We’re good.”

He said: “Dad, I’ve been humbled. I just, I want to take care of my children, I want to ...”

Then he kissed me, and as he left, I said, “Tony, I’ll see you on Wednesday,” because we were closed Monday and Tuesday. And he died Monday.

I like to feel that he died with some hope in his heart, that there was something. And I can’t imagine the pain he was in to shoot up again, knowing that there’s something here, maybe. So he had to be in, physically, so much pain.

After the guy said that to me in the store I thought, “Man, if I feel this way, how many families are feeling this way?”

At the same time, everywhere I look in the news I’m hearing about opioids, and I hear 3,000 dead, and 4,000 dead, and I’m thinking to myself: “This isn’t about numbers. My son is not a statistic.”

But he is if the media don’t connect those numbers to real people and the families who love them. And too often they don’t connect the dots because families are silent, because they’re ashamed of what people will say about them or their addicted kids.

So I finally said: “You know what? I’m not ashamed. I don’t care what anyone says about me. My son was not a number. My son was not somebody to be thrown away. My son was not weak.”

I wanted to get this story out, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. I didn’t think we needed another charity or a foundation. And in the meantime I’m researching heroin, and seeing the terms “brown” and “white” everywhere, and then I finally think, well what about an initiative? What if we find a way to encourage people to talk about the people they love? To promote conversations between survivors and the public? To remove the stigma?

I thought, if people see me taking the heat, they’ll realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of. That it’s OK to talk about addiction and their loved ones.

I worked with a group of people that helped me come up with Brown and White as just a hashtag (brownandwhite). I didn’t want Tony Luke on there. This is not about me. It’s about my son to me, but not to you. I don’t want you to think this is my cause.

It’s our cause.

Next I get a call from a local TV station, and they said, “Would you come in to talk about your son?” And I said, “I will.”

And then boom, it exploded.

So, keep it going. Go to Twitter and put pictures of your loved ones there. Get those faces out, those names out. Put a name to your story. Send it to your congressman. Tell them: “I am not a number. Brown and White. I am not a number.” Let them know that this isn’t a statistical problem to be solved, these are people to be helped.

(Tony Luke Jr. is a Philadelphia-area entrepreneur and media personality. Follow him on Twitter tonylukejr. He wrote this for The Philadelphia Inquirer.)

Public library directors will be trained to administer anti-overdose drug
By Ashley Haynes - Freeman Staff
July 11
, 2017

WAUKESHA — Public library directors from throughout Waukesha County will be trained on Friday on how to administer the drug Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, to help reverse opioid and heroin overdoses.

Staff from the Clinical Services Division of the Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services will conduct the non-public training at the Delafield Public Library.

“Library directors throughout the county have expressed a desire to be a part of the solution to the problem of the rising misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin,” said John Kettler, mental health and substance abuse supervisor for Waukesha County HHS.

The interim director for the Waukesha Public Library, John Klima, has chosen to forgo the Narcan training. According to Kori Hall, head of program development and community engagement, it will be more appropriate for the new fulltime director to make the final decision regarding the training once appointed.

“To my knowledge, I think that we have had some issues in the past, but they’re not very frequent here,” said Hall.

She says that because the library is a space that has open resources for the public, all kinds of people may enter, including those that may abuse drugs. There isn’t any characteristic in particular that might make the library prone to seeing more overdose incidents than any other public space. However, having a higher amount of foot traffic does increase the probability that first responders will be needed in the case of a drug overdose.

In Oconomowoc, the Narcan training program has not been fully introduced, but there has been some talk of providing the instruction.

“I know that direct abuse and use is a concern and at least one library was considering using Narcan,” said Betsy Black, Oconomowoc Public Library director.

Training of the library directors will include how to recognize opioid misuse and how to administer the overdose- reversal drug as a nasal spray. Within Waukesha County, sheriff’s deputies and other emergency responders are trained to administer Naloxone. Those who complete Friday’s training will be provided with a Naloxone antidote kit.

Waukesha County statistics for the past three years indicate the age group with the highest number of heroin overdoses is 20-29 year-olds. The death rate within the county has increased in the past decade, from two deaths in 2006 to 20 in 2015.

In May, the Waukesha County HHS announced it was selected as a pilot site by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for the administration of services through a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. A component of the grant is to offer free, community- level training on the administration of naloxone and to distribute kits containing the opiate reversal agent. The training is not required and library directors will make the decision on whether or not to participate.

Answer lies within for opioid addicts
Waukesha woman one of first to receive implants for fighting addiction
By Brian Huber - Freeman Staff
July 3
, 2017

WAUKESHA — Raynell Hammer of Waukesha has had her share of ups and downs: motherhood and grandmotherhood on one end, temporary homelessness, job loss, a stay in prison, and an opioid addiction on the other.

She’d used alcohol, crack and pills. After being prescribed pain pills for dental work, Hammer said, she got addicted to them — first it was for pain, then recreation, then it became a habit, and she eventually turned to heroin to feed the demon inside her.

But with the help of Dr. Siamak Arassi and staff at Brookfield’s Healing Corner Recovery Center, the mother of four and grandmother of four has turned a huge corner.

“I have a new life,” Hammer said this week. “In everyday life I was used to being drugged up, on the streets. That was the only life I knew. ... Once I recovered, I got to deal with feelings I didn’t know what to do with them.”


   Dr. Siamak Arassi at the Healing Corner Recovery Center in Brookfield holds a rod of buprenorphine on Thursday. Four such rods are implanted into patients like Raynell Hammer to deliver a constant low-level dose of a drug used to combat opioid addiction.
Brian Huber/Freeman Staff 

The boost she got was much more than a shot in the arm: It was an implant called

Probuphine, the generic name being buprenorphine, one of the medications making up the suboxone used by many with opioid dependencies to treat cravings.

After a year on suboxone treatment with Arassi, Hammer was deemed a good candidate for the therapy. Four 1to 1.5-inch rods containing the medication were implanted in her left arm in April. They are good for six months, at which time the implants will be removed, and new ones put into her right arm. Then both arms are repeated over the two-year therapy.

Hammer said she feels a difference daily. Under the fog of addiction, she barely had energy to get out of bed and felt sick until she took the drugs her body was craving. Now, she said, she feels “good. On suboxone, you go up and down. You wake up, feel sick, take a suboxone and you’re OK, but by the end of the day you feel like (crap). Here, it’s level. This has got me feeling no sickness at all. I can just get up and go.”


   Raynell Hammer points to the spot in her arm where she received a buprenorphine implant to help her in her battle against opioid dependency. She said the treatment has made a profound difference in her life and helped improve her daily functioning and relationships with family members.
Brian Huber/Freeman Staff 

That’s exactly what is supposed to happen, with patients staying in a steady state rather than the stress of highs and withdrawals, Arassi said. Having the medication implanted is like a steady drip from an IV without the IV — the best way to administer it, he said. He said buprenorphine acts both as a opioid in the absence of opioids and as a blocker when opioids are present. He said buprenorphine could be used to counteract an overdose, but Narcan is quicker. He put it into terms most Wisconsinites can understand.

“Think of it as the Bears and the Packers. Both are football teams, both are in the NFL. There is a musical dance here. One is going to win over the other. Buprenoprhine/ suboxone is the stronger competitor. It acts as a blocker and knocks (other opioids) out of the game.”

Arassi said he was told by a representative of the firm behind buprenorphine that he was the first in the state to implant the drug, in December of last year, and with 17 patients similarly treated is also the state’s leader. But what makes his practice different, he said, is most clinics don’t do the supervised medicine intake, drug testing and making sure patients follow through with other treatment. Sessions with Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other counseling are key factors in assisting the implants for long-term success and actually are mandated by authorities and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for medication- assisted treatment, he said.

Patients are first put on a months-long regimen of suboxone that gets them to a point where none of them needs more than 8 mg in 24 hours, a fraction of the maximum allowable. They must refrain from alcohol and other drugs before the implants are even considered, he said.

Changes needed

“There’s lots of things that have to change in one’s life to increase the odds of success,” Arassi said. “You have to move away from the people and stressors that lead you to use. Change that relationship. The village has to change for the person to change.”

Arassi said obstacles to contend with are the lack of public transit for his patients to get to his office and insurance coverage. He also said society needs to change its outlook toward and the stigma on opioid addicts, and look at them as having more medical needs than criminal issues.

He compared it to diabetics who are unable to control their condition but aren’t put in jail for it.

“We treat you as a person with mental health needs. We don’t judge you,” he said. “I think our website says it best: We meet you where you are to help you.”

Hammer would agree. She admits she gave Arassi and his staff “hell” in badgering them for more suboxone prior to her implants. Now, she said, she is restoring her life, working on her relationships with her children, which have improved “tremendously.” One of them, himself battling the addiction issues that Hammer said run in her family, and often battling his mother along the way, told her recently she was his role model. The others have told her they are proud of her, too, Hammer said.

She is again reaching toward her goals: being a better mother and grandmother, going back to school, running her own business with clothes and jewelry.

“I think it’s a second chance at life. I feel like I’ve got to make up for lost time,” she said.


Waukesha County launches new plan to fight opioid epidemic
By Jake Meister - Enterprise Staff
May 18
, 2017

WAUKESHA — State and Waukesha County officials unveiled Monday a new plan to combat the heroin epidemic in Waukesha County.

The plan is made possible by a $225,000 grant the county will receive each of the next five years under the Wisconsin Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose - Related Deaths Prevention Project.

Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services Director Antwayne Robertson said the plan will train first responders and community members in preventing opioid abuse and treating overdoses using four unique strategies.


  Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel speaks in Waukesha on Monday during an event that officially kicked off the county’s newest plan for battling the heroin epidemic.
Jake Meister/Enterprise Staff 

These four strategies include: A countywide environmental scan to analyze the risk in each community for heroin and opioid abuse; Free public training on the proper administration of the opiate reversal agent Narcan, as well as the free distribution of Narcan kits; Lessons on opiate overdose prevention to be taught throughout the county; The outreach of county crisis workers to individuals who have been impacted by an opioid overdose.

“This is a proud moment for us,” Robertson said of the plan’s launch.

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow touched on the Narcan administration training process, describing the lessons as “fast and easy.”

Also speaking at the event was Lori Badura, whose son Archie died of a heroin overdose three years ago Monday. Badura, who has been a strong advocate for opioid abuse awareness since her son’s death, praised the benefits of Narcan training.

“You could be walking down the street, and if you’re trained, you could save an individual,” Badura said.

The county is hosting a number of upcoming events related to Narcan training and opioid abuse education, including: 3rd annual “Jump for Archie — Jump for Life,” 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Oconomowoc City Beach, 910 N. Lake Road, Oconomowoc. Free Narcan training and kits will be distributed throughout the event.

First in a series of monthly Narcan administration trainings and kit distribution, 5:30 p.m. June 1, 318 W. Broadway, Waukesha. The other trainings will be held at this location on the first Thursday of each month.

Heroin Task Force resumes its efforts Wednesday
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
May 2
, 2017

CEDARBURG — The next meeting of the Heroin Task Force is Wednesday.

The Task Force has already met twice this year. At the first 2017 meeting, those attending agreed that this year’s task force work has to be “active and actionable.”

The meeting Wednesday will take place at the Ozaukee Pavilion on the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds, W67 N890 Washington Ave. in Cedarburg, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The task force has begun work on several projects, and split into work groups to plan and eventually execute those projects. The public is invited to attend.

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Hidden in Plain Sight project is a simulation for parents and guardians of teens. A simulation bedroom will be built, and within that bedroom approximately 200 items or warning signs will be placed.

Those attending the Hidden in Plain Sight simulation will be given 30 minutes to peruse the bedroom, looking for signs and seeing what they do or don’t recognize.

Lecture Series: The work group for lectures has already come up with a list of some ideas for educational lectures that could be held.

Lectures would include different speakers with experience or expertise in different topics, such as professional, medical, personal or family perspectives on drug use, addiction, warning signs, intervention, recovery testimonials, law enforcement perspective and medical effects and treatments for addiction.

Support groups: The task force is also focusing on gaps in local support for those suffering drug addiction. While there are support groups around Ozaukee County, there are specific communities without groups available, and even where there are groups, most communities do not have them more than once or twice per week. Some people in recovery could use more frequent support.

To learn more about the Heroin Task Force or to get involved in a project, Ozaukee County Public Health Educator Amy Kozicki can be contacted at

For information on local treatment providers, sober housing and other resources, go to

Heroin Task Force to meet May 3
News Graphic Staff
April 18
, 2017

CEDARBURG — The Ozaukee County Heroin Drug Task Force will meet from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. May 3 at the Ozaukee Pavilion, W67 N890 Washington Ave., Cedarburg.

The Task Force was created in January 2014 in response to opiate and heroin-related problems in the county. The issue touched everyone from babies born addicted to opioids, to crime victims, to those who died of an overdose and their families.

A drug prevention guide for families is available for download on the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force website. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports the rate of opioid overdose deaths has almost doubled, from 5.9 deaths per 100,000 people to 10.7 deaths.

The 28-page Prevention Awareness Toolkit provides local stories and experiences, the names of commonly abused prescription medications, health consequences of prescription medications, what to do if a family member is suspected of using drugs, how to recognize a relapse and much more.

A parents’ guide is also available for families to review. The download also provides a coupon for a free home drug testing kit. It is available at

Assembly approves nine bills to fight opioid abuse
By Jake Meister - Freeman Staff
April 6
, 2017

WAUKESHA — The Wisconsin State Assembly approved on Tuesday nine special session bills designed to help combat the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic.

Each of the bills were recommended to Gov. Scott Walker at the suggestion of Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, who co-chair Walker’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

The bills and the purpose each serves, according to the Wisconsin State Legislature, is as follows:

Special Assembly Bill 1 will protect public and private school employees from any civil liability when administering an opioid antagonist — such as Narcan — in an effort to save the life of someone he or she believes might be overdosing on an opioid drug.

Special Assembly Bill 2 annually provides the Department of Justice $2 million that it would disperse to counties for the treatment alternatives and diversion program, or TAD. The TAD program allows counties to establish programs that treat people with drug or alcohol related offenses as an alternative to incarceration for those offenses.

Special Assembly Bill 4 would prevent anyone from legally obtaining the opioid codeine without a prescription. Currently, a schedule V drug such as codeine can be provided to a person without a prescription under certain circumstances.

Special Assembly Bill 6 allows for establishing a single charter school for high school students who suffer from addiction. The school, which will operate under a four-year pilot program, will serve as many as 15 students.

Special Assembly Bill 7 is designed to increase the amount of graduate medical training related to addiction. The bill would accomplish this by awarding a total of $63,000 in additional grants to hospitals for developing a fellowship program in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry.

Special Assembly Bill 8 is designed to create as many as three additional opioid treatment programs in areas of the state that need such programs. The current program, according to the state, requires the Department of Health Services to create opioid treatment programs in rural and underserved, high-need areas. Under this bill, those areas wouldn’t have to be rural. The two to three programs will receive up to a combined $1 million per year.

Under Special Assembly Bill 9, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services would be required to develop and administer an addiction medicine consultation program designed to help medical professionals better serve patients with substance abuse issues. The program would get $500,000 a year from the state.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice would get up to $420,000 a year to hire new criminal agents that would investigate drug trafficking under Special Assembly Bill 10.

“The additional Division of Criminal Investigation agent positions, approved as part of this package, aid our efforts at the Wisconsin Department of Justice to make our state safer and stronger,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said, according to a press statement. “The partnership between the medical community, law enforcement, and policy makers is key to ending opioid abuse and I look forward to continuing this fight together.”

Special Assembly Bill 11 will provide $200,000 annually for developing a program that would teach educators to address mental health issues in schools. The training is designed to help schools identify alcohol or drug issues related to mental health disorders. “The nine Special Session bills approved today will have a great impact in Wisconsin as we continue to fight the prescription opioid epidemic,” Nygren said in a statement. “We’ve focused our efforts on expanding treatment and diversion (TAD) programs, improving access to wideranging addiction medicine opportunities, and partnering with law enforcement to fight drug trafficking.”


CUW to host heroin symposium
News Graphic Staff
April 4
, 2017

MEQUON — Concordia University Wisconsin will host a symposium Saturday that school officials hope will play a part in combatting issues surrounding heroin.

“Face to Face with Heroin” will include various keynote speakers and breakout sessions as it takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Mequon campus, 12800 N. Lake Shore Drive. The event is free and open to the public. Reservations should be made by emailing

Experts will provide information about the biological, familial, community, societal, legal and spiritual responses to the heroin epidemic, and on what treatment and prevention means for the community, according to a news release.

The event is being spearheaded by students in CUW’s psychology program. Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology Tracy Tuffey said students approached her with a desire to respond to the dire concern in the community, and a task force, involving CUW pharmacy Professor Chris Cunningham and Ben Rader of the Wisconsin Psychological Association, was convened to organize the event.

“I had students say to me, ‘Professor Tuffey, too many people are dying of heroin overdoses, even young kids. We have to do something,’” Tuffey said. “This effort has truly been a collaborative effort, and one that we think will powerfully impact the community.”

Keynote speakers include:

9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. — Jessica Geschke, who will share her personal testimony, having witnessed the effects of the epidemic firsthand as an alcohol and other drug abuse counselor and president of the nonprofit Stop Heroin Now.

10 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Chris Cunningham will speak on “Heroin 101: The biology of addiction and possible solutions.” Cunningham is assistant professor of pharmacy and pharmaceutical and administrative sciences department director at CUW.

1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. – John Kumm, who will speak on “Combating Heroin.” Kumm is a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and head of the Heroin Task Force in Wisconsin.

During breakout sessions – from 11:15 a.m. to noon, and again from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. – participants will hear from medical, civic, legal, religious and academic experts and leaders in the community.

The event will culminate in a devotion and call to action. CUW students have created a visual display which will symbolize the lives lost or impacted by heroin.

“The day promises to be a moving experience,” Tuffey said. “The CUW students involved in this recognize that the heroin epidemic is breaking our community, and with this symposium they want to leave a legacy of hope, healing and all that is possible when people come together to serve one another. How beautiful is that?”

Simulation room, more support groups part of anti-opioid effort
Heroin Task Force focused this year on producing outcomes
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
March 30
, 2017

OZAUKEE COUNTY — With nine opioid overdose deaths staring them in the rearview mirror from 2016, the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force is working to make progress on several initiatives this year.

The group held its second meeting of the year at the county fairgrounds last week. During its meeting last month, members agreed that this year’s work needs to be actionable and productive.

“We discussed what the gaps are. … We went through and identified what goals really rose to the top,” said Washington Ozaukee County Health Director Kirsten Johnson, who is one of those who runs Task Force meetings.

An estimated 30 people attended last week’s meeting and broke into three groups to discuss and plan how different programs will be implemented this year.

Hidden in Plain Sight: A simulation program for parents and guardians to learn what they should look for to indicate drugs or other risky behaviors among their children. The Task Force intends to build a teenager’s bedroom; people attending the simulation are given 30 minutes to peruse the bedroom, searching for approximately 200 items that could indicate depression, drug or alcohol use or other dangerous behaviors.

The group made plans to visit an existing Hidden in Plain Sight setup – Washington County has one already. The room is planned for a 12foot-by-12-foot space, and once Ozaukee County’s is built, it can be located at the Ozaukee Pavilion on the fairgrounds, W67 N866 Washington Ave. in Cedarburg.

The Task Force will try to obtain donations for the materials to build the exhibit.

Lecture Series: The Task Force is planning an educational lecture series, which would feature speakers who have dealt with addiction from a professional, personal or family perspective. Amy Kozicki, public health educator for the department, said they are hoping to run the series this fall; it could be held in conjunction with the Hidden in Plain Sight display.

Ideas for the lecture series included early intervention, indicators of substance abuse; a panel of “unexpected faces” of addiction; recovery testimonials; law enforcement perspective; effects of substance abuse on families; faces of recovery: withdrawal, medications and all aspects.

The group selected 30 minutes as a good length for lectures. Speakers could be recruited from law enforcement, employers and the task force. Volunteers would be used to distribute information on the lecture series.

Support Groups and Transportation:

The third group discussed the need for additional support and involvement in the community. While the group knew of some support groups in the area, there is not a full network across the county. A list of county communities was made for where additional groups could be formed.

The groups’ goals included finding locations where addiction support groups can be held and facilitators. One concern voiced was that even where groups are available, many meet only once or twice a week, while some people could use more constant support. Another suggestion made was the possibility of online support groups. While concern was voiced that some people might not be willing to discuss their addictions online, those who are might be able to have more frequent meetings. The other concern addressed was transportation, as some of the people may not have a vehicle, a license or either. The group discussed using a county van with volunteer drivers, and setting a follow-up meeting with county staff to discuss it.

The task force was started in 2014 as a multipronged approach to attack the heroin epidemic in the county. In addition to the nine deaths last year, there were 10 in 2015, according to Ozaukee County Coroner Tim Deppisch.

A study by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services showed that in 2015, 73 people in the county were administered Naloxone, a drug used to block the effects of an opioid in people who have overdosed.


For More Information

The next meeting of the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force is set for 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 3 in the Ozaukee Pavilion, W67 N866 Washington Ave., Cedarburg, on the county fairgrounds. For more information on the Task Force or how to get involved, contact Public Health Educator Amy Kozicki at or visit the Hope of Ozaukee page on Facebook.

Washington County and Elevate seek grant to address opioid problem
By RALPH CHAPOCO - Daily News Staff
March 17
, 2017

Staff from the Washington County Human Services department will petition for additional federal funding to address the area’s opioid problem.

Members of the Human Services Committee offered their support Thursday when Behavioral Health Services Manager Jaclyn Moglowsky approached them and asked for direction in applying for a federal grant related to treatment and diversion. There is no required match for this grant.

“We are asking you guys to allow us to apply for this grant at this point,” Moglowsky said. “It is going to allow us to add some additional things that we’re already doing with our TAD (Treatment and Diversion) grant that we have.”

 Deb Stolzenburg of Hartford walks from the reception desks, where she works, to get supplies near a photo of her hung Thursday afternoon at the offices of Elevate Inc. in the Jackson. Her photo is hung with other faces of addiction around the office. Stolzenburg is currently in recovery. Elevate and the Human Services Department of Washington County are partnering together to apply for a federal grant for $400,000.
John Ehlke/Daily News  

According to the accompanying committee report, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and the Bureau of Justice Assistance administers the grant, which could provide up to $400,000 in a 36-month period.

The funds would support programs that would allow non-violent clients charged with a misdemeanor and diagnosed with an opioid-use disorder to enter a treatment program and avoid prosecution and sentencing.

The grant mandates that funding recipients identify those who frequently misuse opioids across multiple systems, document the prevalence of those with the disorder at various intercept points, or engage a research partner to provide skills and assistance in identifying performance measures.

The implementation stage will link those with an opioid issue to treatment, implement a plan to screen those entering supervision and/or jail for overdose risk, and reduce the risk of overdose deaths and enhance treatment services for pretrial and post-trail populations.

“It also allows us to focus a little bit more on women, and specifically pregnant women, and getting them a little but more options for services, which we get a very limited number now, and being able to enhance that will have a big impact on us,” Moglowsky said.

County staff will partner with staff from Elevate Inc. based in Jackson to administer the program and draft portions of the grant.

“We already have one grant from the state of Wisconsin to implement TAD for opiate offenders that will start accepting clients in June or July,” Elevate’s Executive Director Mary Simon said. “This federal grant will help us potentially expand the number for that program because, right now, the state funding will only allow us to serve about 30 people a year.”

Simon hopes to double that number with money they receive from the federal grant.

Simon added it is an intensive drug treatment program where clients will be tested for substance abuse multiple times each week.

Supervisor Joseph Gonnering asked whether there is money to track patients who fill their prescriptions at various pharmacies on the area to curb abusive practices.

“It does incorporate more use of the PMDP,” Moglowsky said, a program that tracks the prescriptions filled. “It is very helpful to know anyone who is coming in and is prescribed an opiate or any scheduled medication, the nursing staff does confirm whether they have had other scripts filled and relay that information to the doctors. This would be continuing to process those processes as well.”


Rona Corliss is Elevate’s point woman in the war on heroin
By GAY GRIESBACH - For the Daily News
March 16
, 2017

Ronna Corliss lives by the motto, “If you want to make change, don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”

Corliss, county prevention manager at Elevate, started her career a long way from West Bend.

Graduating in 1990 from Emporia State University in Kansas with a degree in sociology and a minor in psychology, she moved to Sitka, Alaska, where she spent 13 years working in the field of alcohol and drug treatment and prevention.

She moved to Washington County in 2002 to focus solely on drug and alcohol prevention. When Elevate was formed through a merger of Nova Services and The Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse in 2014, Corliss took on her present role.

“I knew I wanted a career in service, working with adolescents,” Corliss said.

That year Elevate took the lead in a community forum about the growing heroin epidemic that drew more than 700 people to a forum at West Bend High School.

From there, a group of about 60 people became the Heroin Task Force, each joining subcommittees that focused on prevention, treatment and advocacy.

Ron Naab became a member of the Task Force and got to know Corliss after he attended that forum.

“She’s an extremely dedicated person, helping those affected by addiction, whether it’s the individual or by supporting the family,” Naab said.

Corliss said the Task Force has had some wonderful successes when it comes to getting the word out about the connection between prescription drugs and heroin.

“People don’t wake up one morning and use heroin. They start with marijuana, alcohol, prescription pills. From there, they move to something stronger, cheaper that has easy access. That is heroin,” Corliss said.

She said there is evidence that heroin has become a public health epidemic. In Washington County alone, over 100 people have died from drug overdoses in Washington County since 2011.

Stacy Rohleder, who works in crisis intervention at Washington County Acute Care Services, started working with Corliss on the Heroin Task Force two years ago.

“Ronna has brought a wider awareness of opiate addiction to the community,” Rohleder said.

“I have great respect for all of her efforts to get drug and alcohol education, awareness, and prevention efforts out in the community,” Slinger School District Superintendent Daren Sievers said.

Spearheading Elevate’s latest effort — Hidden in Plain Sight — showed a full-sized bedroom that had 35-plus red flags that signaled potential drug or alcohol abuse.

Hosted by Moraine Park Technical College with the help of the West Bend Rotary, the life-sized Hidden in Plain Sight room was used to educate over 800 people and kicked off a five-part lecture series.

Corliss said Task Force subcommittees are still working on new strategies to educate the public and passing additional legislation that would make it more of a challenge to obtain large quantities of prescription pills.

Over the past 28 years, Corliss said her motivation hasn’t changed.

“I still want to assist youth to make successful choices for their future,” Corliss said.

When she had her own children, now in their 20s, it confirmed her belief, that there is no one easy answer to prevent drug and alcohol abuse.

“It takes multiple strategies. If you have more than one child, you know one strategy or motive won’t work for both,” Corliss said.

Jessica Geschke is the full-time director of alcohol and drug abuse services at Affiliated Clinical Services, a member of the Heroin Task Force and the president of a statewide nonprofit called Stop Heroin Now.

Geschke started working with Corliss when she needed volunteers for Stop Heroin Now rallies.

“Ronna has constantly stepped up to the plate. She’s helped me organize rallies that raise (money) for those that can’t afford treatment for their addictions,” Geschke said.

Since starting her own nonprofit, Geschke has turned to Corliss for more than volunteers.

“She’s been mentor for me - she took me under her wing, gave me contacts and has been a big sister to me,” Geschke said.

Corliss is motivated by her faith, family and friends.

“Those are three things that keep me going for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional,” Corliss said.

Corliss, who lives in West Bend, has been married for 26 years to Mick Corliss. The couple has two sons Jacob, 23 and Caleb, 20 and a dog, Lucca.

To decompress from what may seem like a daunting job, Corliss enjoys time with Mick, who is a social worker, and turns to quilting, a craft she picked up while living in Alaska.

“I like to be able to look back on a finished product and know the story behind it. I have one quilt — my dad lived with us for eight years and when he passed away, I made a quilt out of all his dress shirts. When I look at one square, I remember that dress shirt and places he was at. It brings back happy memories,” Corliss said.

She also believes when things are at their worst, you have to have faith in tomorrow.

“I can’t imagine doing anything different. I have always had the luxury to be in a career I’ve chosen, that I’m passionate about and that I have the support of my family and friends to keep going,” Corliss said.

MPTC event looks at heroin addiction
By RALPH CHAPOCO - Daily News Staff
Feb. 24
, 2017

About 100 people took time out of their evening and made their way to Moraine Park Technical College — not to attend class or participate in an academic exercise, but to watch a video. For 20 minutes, attendees watched as medical staff engaged in a mock exercise to save the life of someone who overdosed on heroin.

The video was part of the final lecture series event Thursday hosted by the Washington County Heroin Taskforce, Elevate Inc., Moraine Park Technical College and Rotary. The organizations had hosted similar gatherings in previous weeks, all offering a different perspective for an ongoing heroin issue in the area.

“I am always impressed with the turnout,” said Ronna Corliss from Elevate. “It really amazes me how many people are interested in this topic, are willing to talk about this topic publicly, just the heartfelt emotions that come with it.”

Barb Engel of West Bend braces her head on her hand as she watches a video depicting a simulation of medical officials treating an opioid overdose during the Hidden in Plain Sight presentation Thursday night at Moraine Park Technical College in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News  

Some of the previous sessions included anecdotes of families whose loved ones became addicted to heroin. They heard stories from those who are struggling and the legal consequences of drug abuse.

They watched as a group of nurses tend to the patient, learning his name, ascertaining what happened, taking vitals and administering life-saving measures.

They heard terms that described his medical status, such as breathing rate and pulse, and saw the track marks that were visible on his arm.

Mostly, they reacted as they watched as the patient hysterically describe his history, how he became an addict and observed as he remorsefully asked for assistance.

Panelist Jessica Geschke leans in to hear a question with the Wisconsin Sharing Without Shame quilt displayed behind her during the Hidden in Plain Sight presentation Thursday night at Moraine Park Technical College in West Bend. The blanket depicts the faces of addiction. The gray squares represent people incarcerated, the white squares represent people in recovery, the red squares represent someone in active addiction and the black squares represent someone who has died because of addiction.
John Ehlke/Daily News  

The video was meant to simulate the impact and danger the drug can have for those who choose to use it, and the measures medical personnel must undergo to reverse the effects. After the video, a panel of nurses and advocates gathered at the front of the room to field questions from audience members.

Attendees asked what how they can help a friend suffering from addiction, or whether they will be turned into the authorities when transporting an overdosed patient to the hospital. Many learned more about a drug with the potential to save the life of someone who overdosed on heroin.

The learned they could be certified to administer the drug, Narcan, that it is free for those who choose to become certified, how it works and where they can purchase it.

At the end, they learned how they can memorialize someone they know who has suffered from the disease. They can submit their loved ones’ names to place on a quilt, called the Wisconsin Sharing Without Shame indicating whether they are in recovery, succumbed to their struggle, or are in prison for it.

“A big reason I think it is important is because I have been there myself,” said attendee April Wery when asked why she attended the workshop. “I have many friends who have struggled with it and many people affected by it.

Heroin Task Force ready to take action
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
Feb. 14
, 2017

OZAUKEE COUNTY — The Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force is kicking things off for 2017, and plans to keep moving.

Between 50 and 70 people attended a Task Force meeting last Wednesday.

“We had quite a few people from the community,” said Kirsten Johnson, director of the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department.

According to Ozaukee County Coroner Tim Deppisch, there were nine opioid overdose deaths last year and 10 in 2015. He said that compared to surrounding counties, where such deaths are much higher, things could be worse here.

“I just think everybody is doing their jobs in Ozaukee County and it’s helped,” Deppisch said.

Johnson ran the meeting with Amy Kozicki, public health educator for the department, who said that the meeting was organizational, since it had not met since early in 2016. The plan was to discuss goals and projects for the coming year.

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said participants went through a list of subjects and then broke into small group discussions. They then reconvened for further discussion.

Kozicki said that they asked attendees to consider what ideas and initiatives were most important to them, and which they would be interested in working on, as well as what gaps they see in Ozaukee County’s current resources for addiction and substance abuse and any resources they had to offer moving forward.

“The attendees shared their answers and provided a discussion of what they thought were the most meaningful ideas and changes we could make at a county level,” Kozicki said afterward. “They also spoke a lot about additional residential treatment and support for individuals struggling with addiction need, as well as more early diversion programs, mental health counseling, affordable treatment, access to naloxone and gaps in insurance when needing support post-incarceration.”

Johnson said the projects discussed for the coming year included increasing medical education for providers, a new sober living house in Grafton for women and an updated edition of the opiate and heroin awareness toolkit.

The toolkit, also referred to as a prevention guide for families, is expected to have a new version released this spring. W.I.N.D.S., which stands for Women Integrating New Directions in Sobriety, runs a sober house for women in Ozaukee County. The group posted online through Facebook Friday that it has found a second location and will have the facility up and running soon.

“Whatever we do, this next year has to be actionable,” Johnson said.

The Heroin Task Force intends to hold another meeting in March, though it is not scheduled for a particular date yet. During that meeting, Johnson said the group will formalize its goals and assign projects to different participants.

The Heroin Task Force, which began in January 2014, includes five work groups: law enforcement; policy and advocacy; community education; medical education; and treatment.

Anyone looking for more information on the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force and its work can email or visit the Task Force online at


Attorney general, FBI warn meth threat now rivals opioids
Associated Press
Feb. 9
, 2017

MADISON, Wis. — Methamphetamine use has quietly surged in Wisconsin and now rivals opioid abuse as the state's most serious drug problem, Attorney General Brad Schimel and FBI agents warned the Legislature's criminal justice committees Thursday.

Schimel and Justin Tolomeo, special agent-in-charge of the FBI's Milwaukee office, presented the committees during a hearing with a November law enforcement report that shows meth use in the state has grown at a staggering rate. According to the report, use increased between 250 percent and 300 percent from 2011 to 2015. The state crime lab saw a 349 percent increase in meth cases during that span; heroin cases the lab analyzed rose by 97 percent over that same period, the report found.

"While public safety officials, health care personnel, and policy makers have been courageously battling opiate addiction, it's time we begin fighting on a second front: methamphetamine use," Schimel told the committees.

The report found rural areas, particularly northwestern Wisconsin, are seeing the most meth use. Barron County saw a 193 percent increase in meth-related arrests during that span; the city of Prairie du Chien saw a 700 percent increase, according to the findings.

Tolomeo said state laws limiting access to prescription drugs such as pseudoephedrine used to manufacture meth have driven down the number of home labs. But Mexican drug cartels have been flooding the state with methamphetamine, relying on Minneapolis-based gangs to distribute the drug in western Wisconsin. He noted that heroin users are beginning to turn to meth out of fear of overdoses and a desire to "level out" their highs. Meth is a stimulant; heroin is a depressant.

Schimel told reporters after the hearing people can become addicted to meth after just one use and many meth distributors have taken to offering free samples to create customers.

The attorney general told the committees that he plans to use money the state Justice Department has won in legal settlements to launch a meth awareness campaign similar to his "Dose of Reality" opioid awareness effort. He added that the state Department of Justice has secured a $1.5 million federal grant that he plans to use to help fund local drug task forces, reimburse sheriff's departments for overtime and hire another state crime lab analyst.

The hearing was meant to inform the committees about the issue and the panels didn't take any action. Republican Rep. John Spiros of Marshfield, who chairs the Assembly criminal justice committee, told Schimel and Tolomeo that everyone's focused on fighting opioids and he had no idea meth had become such a problem.

Members of both committees pressed Schimel for solutions. Democratic Rep. Evan Goyke of Milwaukee asked if lawmakers should consider harsher penalties for possessing meth; Sen. Van Wanggaard, a Racine Republican who chairs the Senate committee, asked whether providing more money for the DARE program so officers can educate kids about the dangers of meth in schools.

Schimel responded that he supports DARE but tight budgets have forced many local police agencies to drop the program. As for tougher criminal penalties, he said meth addicts don't think rationally and tougher sentences won't deter them from using the drug. The best path is educating people about the drug, he said.

"As we've seen, we've found ways to control the supply of ingredients to make methamphetamine," he said. "The source simply shifted to Mexican cartels. When we arrest a trafficker, there's so much money (at stake) that someone else just slides in. We will not win this battle unless we address the demand side."

Searching for solutions to heroin, opioid addiction
Panelists gather to discuss ongoing epidemic
By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman
Feb. 7
, 2017

WAUKESHA — Like many teenagers, Reese was inquisitive in his formative years. The character trait had its positives, but it also led to a downward spiral of negatives that could have cost him his life.

Reese, whose last name is not being divulged, is a recovering heroin addict. He was one of more than a half-dozen speakers at a panel discussion Saturday that put a spotlight on the ongoing war against drug overdose deaths.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, facilitated the forum, which was held at addiction treatment facility SALS Recovery Houses and Coaching in downtown Waukesha.

Reese, who grew up in western Waukesha County, lives in Waukesha. A smile came across his face as he revealed he has been drug-free for more than seven years, though he has endured a series of trials and triumphs since making that pivotal decision.

For Reese, the path toward a serious drug addiction did not occur overnight. The seed, he said, was planted when he began drinking alcohol.

“It wasn’t as bad as I had heard,” Reese said of the first time he was intoxicated. “Nothing terrible happened.”

Thinking he was invincible, Reese’s experimentation eventually led to taking heroin intravenously, oftentimes in the company of friends.

Getting choked up, Reese revealed to the panel he keeps a photo album of nearly 30 persons he has known personally who succumbed to drug addiction.

The growing threat heroin, opioids and other dangerous drugs pose in the suburbs has been widely trumpeted in recent years. Despite the recent attention, however, the number of deaths continues to climb.

Baldwin said she convened the panel discussion, in part, to bring people from disparate backgrounds together and help create meaningful solutions, including state and federal

laws, to eradicate the epidemic. At the forum, Baldwin pointed to some of the legislative steps she has taken toward the effort.

Last week, she was one of three federal lawmakers who wrote a letter to President Donald Trump and said abolishing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement would wipe out $5.5 billion currently allocated toward addiction services across the U.S.

Panelists at Saturday’s roundtable discussion included local lawmakers, a representative of law enforcement and the professionals working on the front lines of addiction recovery treatment.

County Supervisor Christine Howard, who lost her brother to drug addiction, said one of the simplest changes is in the hands of society. She said the stigma surrounding the condition can be an impediment toward treatment.

Despite his sometimes disheveled appearance, Howard said, she took her brother shopping and did what she could to help him.

Not long before he died, Howard said, she told her brother what he taught her throughout the difficult journey.

“We are an amazing family now,” she said. “We are caring, and we are not judgmental.”

Several professionals said one of the greatest challenges in resources — and they were quick to point out state and federal funding is as important now as ever because the epidemic is not waning.

From his vantage point, Joe Muchka, director of the Waukesha- based Addiction Resource Council, said his organization and others like it are at risk of losing staffing in coming years, in part because certified personnel who specialize in addiction are aging out of the profession.

“We’re at a great risk of losing the workforce we need,” Muchka said.

Julie Schuller, executive vice president of Milwaukee-based Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, was among the panelists who echoed the sentiments in Baldwin’s letter about the potential ramifications concerning changes to the ACA.

“Ensuring there’s ongoing funding is critical,” Schuller said. “This is an epidemic.”

A definitive solution to the heroin and opioid epidemic remains elusive, panelists agreed, though many speakers agreed strong collaboration and multiple plans of attack could bring meaningful solutions.

“Arresting, prosecuting and detaining isn’t the end-all solution,” said Delafield Police Chief Erik Kehl, who pledged several years ago to step up efforts after his community lost two persons to drug overdose deaths.

“There has to be something else,” Kehl said. “I think it’s a greater societal issue. I think we have to address it from multiple avenues.”

Report shows drop in opioid prescriptions
Freeman Staff
Feb. 7
, 2017

WAUKESHA — More than 10 million fewer opioid prescriptions were dispensed in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to that quarter in 2015, according to the findings of a report publicized Monday by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

The report, the second conducted by the Controlled Substances Board on the success of the Wisconsin Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, states that the number of opioid doses dispensed to patients between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2016 decreased by more than 11 million compared to that time frame in 2015.

“This report indicates our efforts throughout Wisconsin to fight prescription drug abuse and misuse are working,” Governor Scott Walker said, according to the press statement issued by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services’ statement, there were 1,261,095 opioid prescriptions dispensed in Wisconsin between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015, which is equivalent to 82,874,267 drug doses. The Controlled Substances Board report shows that between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2016, there was an 11.7 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions and a 13.3 percent reduction in drug doses dispensed when compared to quarter four in 2015. Additionally, there were 3,142,961 fewer opioid doses dispensed in quarter four 2016 than in quarter three 2016.

The report also includes information on the number of requests for data made by health care professionals about their patients, the number and makeup of reports submitted by law enforcement, and data on doctor shopping and pharmacy hopping. It further provides information on the number of individuals receiving both opioids and benzodiazepine prescriptions.

The Wisconsin Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was deployed in June 2013. Since its inception, the program has primarily been a tool to help health care professionals make more informed decisions about prescribing and dispensing controlled substance prescriptions to patients, according to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. It also discloses data as authorized by law to governmental and law enforcement agencies.

Wisconsin renews rebate deal for heroin antidote
Associated Press
Feb. 2
, 2017

MADISON — Attorney General Brad Schimel says the state has renewed a deal that provides public entities with rebates on an opioid overdose antidote.

Schimel issued a news release Wednesday saying he has renewed an agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals that calls for the company to continue to provide a $6 rebate for each Amphastar naloxone syringe public entities purchase through Feb. 1, 2018.

Naloxone is often branded as Narcan. It can be administered as a nasal spray or injection and can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose within minutes.

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in 2013 that permits first responders and paramedics to administer naloxone if they’ve received the proper training.

Heroin Task Force to resume after 10 months
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
Jan. 24
, 2017

OZAUKEE COUNTY — The Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force is meeting in two weeks, for the first time in nearly a year.

The Heroin Task Force is scheduled to meet Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. The last meeting of the Task Force as a whole was April 11, 2016, according to Amy Kozicki, the public health educator for the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department.

She said there are subgroups of the Task Force that have met over the past year, but a meeting of the whole group has not occurred.

“Waiting to see what the state would do, we kind of put it on hold,” Kozicki said.

A statewide task force was formed last September to address the opioid use and addiction issues in Wisconsin. Earlier this month, Gov. Scott Walker issued three executive orders pertaining to the heroin crisis: Order 228 directed several state agencies to take action combating opioid abuse and addiction; Order 229 directed Wisconsin Department of Health Services to apply for federal grant funding through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant; and Order 230 convened a special session of the Legislature to address the crisis and its effects in Wisconsin, including a list of fund allocations toward antidrug initiatives.

Kozicki said the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force is going through best-practices now, deciding how to align the local efforts with the state, which will be part of the February meeting.

“It’s mostly just the Task Force getting together, restructuring and setting goals for 2017,” Kozicki said.

The statewide efforts will support the local Task Force, but more action is called for, according to many. Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol, who is involved with the Task Force, said all the local intervention in the world won’t stem the source problem.

“There needs to be a ‘broad spectrum’ effort by the federal government against the product. The very best of therapy or treatment can’t compete when the entire region is swimming in high quality, inexpensive heroin. It’s like being asked to stick to a diet when your neighborhood is filled with fast food restaurants and candy stores. You see it every day, smell it every day and are surrounded by temptation, Gerol said.

Gerol has been active with the Task Force and many local efforts to remove heroin from Ozaukee County. Even so, he says that these efforts need to keep growing and expanding until they are universal throughout the American government, and not just in individual states and counties.

“None of the heroin we see, or the fentanyl, comes from this county. Until we do something meaningful to interdict and damage the flow of drugs into this country, we’ll be chasing our tails. Only the federal government can
accomplish this and I’ve seen no true focus on this part of the equation in recent years,” he said. “If some nation or criminal gang had exported a poison or a biological agent that had caused the deaths of this many Americans, we would have declared war against them,” Gerol added.

More information on the Heroin Task Force meeting and its agenda will be available as the meeting draws closer. It is open to the public, and scheduled to meet at the Ozaukee Pavilion, in the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds, at W67 N866 Washington Ave. in Cedarburg.


What’s prompting the increase in armed robberies? 
They reflect drug crisis, police say
By Lauren Anderson  - Freeman Staff
Jan. 21
, 2017

WAUKESHA — In recent weeks, communities around Waukesha County have seen incidents of armed robberies and burglaries in unusually quick succession.

This week, two were charged in Waukesha County Circuit Court with armed robbery of a Delafield PDQ store on Wednesday in which a robber brandished a knife before making off with about $172.

Also this week, a man was charged with a count of attempted robbery with a threat of force, after he allegedly asked the owner of Lares Fashions in downtown Waukesha to put money into an envelope that contained an empty bullet.

The Waukesha Police Department is currently seeking information regarding two chalices that were stolen earlier this week from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Those are just a few examples among a string of alleged crimes this week throughout the county. And while there isn’t a definitive answer about why there has been a recent rash of incidents, law enforcement officials say a general increased trend in robberies could reflect the drug crisis.

“The opiate addiction is that bad,” Waukesha Police Capt. Dan Baumann said. “What we’re seeing is these drug-fueled crimes that people are going at any lengths necessary, just shy of violent crimes against persons — we’re not seeing an increase in substantial battery or homicide — but we are seeing an increase in property crimes.”

Such crimes aren’t unique to Waukesha area, but local communities certainly aren’t immune.

“It’s a nationwide issue,” Baumann said.

Meanwhile, Baumann said, as more businesses install surveillance equipment, police departments can release footage of the incidents, which raises the community’s awareness of them.

“I think that’s the reason it’s becoming more pronounced,” Baumann said. “We’re able to release a picture and/or video of these violent crimes to the community, whereas before it would just be a little blurb. The reality is a video or picture speaks more volumes compared to a couple of sentences.”


When it comes to deterring such crimes, Delafield Police Chief Erik Kehl said, his department puts an emphasis on patrolling potentially affected areas.

“I think seeing more patrol cars in the business area is going to have people considering, ‘Well, I don’t want to do it because I’ll get caught,’” he said. “We try to make sure our presence is known.”

Baumann said business are likely to increase their security measures in the wake of such incidents, including more surveillance and glass barriers.

“I think that mom-and-pop feel is going to be a thing of the past,” Baumann said.

He added that while attention is often paid to the amounts stolen and whether there were any injuries, the other effects of an armed robbery on victims shouldn’t be discounted.

“There’s property crime of loss of the money at the gas stations or banks, but the bottom line is you have a victim that is traumatized for the rest of his or her life,” he said.

When an armed robbery is underway, Kehl said, the best course of action is to obey the robber and not put oneself at risk.

“Do what they’re told, especially when it’s a threatened armed robbery,” Kehl said. “Give the money and try to be as observant as possible.”

The clerk who was a victim of this week’s armed robbery at the PDQ gas situation Kehl said, was a “textbook” example of what to do in such a scenario, as he took note of the suspect’s description and his vehicle, which ultimately helped in police detaining him.


Heroin and opiate medication deaths remain prevalent in county
Fentanyl, synthetics pose cause for additional concerns
By Jake Meister - Freeman Staff
Jan. 7
, 2017

WAUKESHA — The number of drug-related deaths in Waukesha County throughout 2015 was almost the same as in 2014 despite the fact heroin-related fatalities increased during that span, according to case numbers recently compiled by the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Several of the cases from 2016 are still pending and the final figures for that year aren’t likely to be completed until near the end of the year, Waukesha County Deputy Medical Examiner Kristine Klenz said .

“I can’t predict at this point whether the figure from 2016 will decrease or increase from 2015,” Klenz said.

In 2015, the office counted 49 drug-related deaths, 39 of which were accidents, seven by suicide and another three were undetermined. The previous year included 50 drug-related death cases, 40 of which were deemed an accident.

In 2012, the office completed 59 drug-related cases — the highest amount it’s encountered since at least 2008.

Users favoring both heroin and opiate medications

The total amount of heroin-related death cases completed in 2015 was 20, five more than the previous year. The number of deaths related to opiate medications was 23 in 2015, compared to 29 during the previous year, according to the office’s findings. The office investigated two deaths in 2015 where morphine was identified. However, it could not be determined whether the morphine originated from heroin or a prescription.

Though the number of drug-related cases the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office closed in 2015 was one less than 2014, Klenz said what the numbers convey is that the county is far from victory.

“We had one less death, but to me, that’s essentially the same,” Klenz said.

She said it’s not encouraging to see the amount of deaths related to heroin usage have become increasingly similar to the amount of deaths related to the use of opiate medications.

In 2011, the office completed 35 cases where opiate medications were related to a death, compared to the six cases which were related to heroin. Since then, the total amount of heroin-related deaths the office investigated has not dipped below 11 in any calendar year, and the amount of opiate medication- related deaths has not gone above 29 in a year.

Other frightening finds

It takes some time for medical examiner offices to release finalized death figures because they typically have a lot of tests and a lot of results to review.

Klenz said it takes at least 10 weeks to get the preliminary set of results back from a toxicology panel. After those results are provided, additional testing may be needed to complete the case.

One test the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office has began running more often, according to Klenz, is an examination of a body for the presence of analogs of Fentanyl.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines Fentanyl as a “powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine, but is 50 to 100 times more potent.”

Analogs of Fentanyl, according to Klenz’s description, are doses of Fentanyl which have been modified from their original state.

New substances troubling

Klenz is also discouraged by the potential for Waukesha County to be impacted by new classes of synthetic substances.

One of the substances Klenz cited is U-47700, a synthetic opioid that she said is relatively new to her office.

Since substances such as U-47700 are not classified as either heroin or prescription drugs, any death related to those substances would not be projected in the figures released by the medical examiner.

“That’s just a testament of how new the (synthetic opioid and and analogs of Fentanyl) substances are to us,” she said.

Walker demands fight against opioids

Earlier this week, Gov. Scott Walker provided new orders to state agencies on how to continue the fight against the state’s pres cription opioid and heroin epidemic during a special session of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

According to a statement provided by Walker‘s office, the orders stem from a report issued by Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren on Thursday titled “Combating Opioid Abuse.”

Kleefisch and Nygren are the co-chairs of Walker’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

“This is a public health crisis, and that’s why I’m calling a special session of the legislature and directing state agencies to ramp up the state’s response,” Walker said in a statement. “I thank Lt. Gov. Kleefisch and Rep. Nygren for making these recommendations, the work of the task force, and the many first responders, medical professionals, and family members who are on the front lines of this effort.”

The directives Walker provided during the session came through Executive Orders 228, 229, and 230.

Those orders, according to Walker’s office, are as follows:

Executive Order 228 directs state agencies to take additional action to combat opioid abuse and addiction based on the recommendations made by Kleefisch and Nygren.

Executive Order 229 demands the Wisconsin Department of Health Services file applications for federal funding developed by the passage of the 21st Century CURES Act, which will make as much as $7.6 million available annually for two years to state programs involved in the response to the opioid crisis through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant.

Executive Order 230 requested the Wisconsin State Legislature meet in the Thursday special session to act on legislation related to various topics pertaining to the use of drugs.

“I thank Lt. Gov. Kleefisch and Rep. Nygren for their report and tireless efforts highlighting the harm drug abuse and the opioid epidemic are causing throughout Wisconsin,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said in a press release Friday.

“As chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, I commit to serving as a partner when federal assistance is required,” Johnson said. “Together, we will continue working to reduce the harm that the abuse of these drugs causes.”


New year, old problem
Drugs pervasive in Ozaukee County’s rising crime
By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff
Jan. 5
, 2017

PORT WASHINGTON — Lanile Kimbrough Jr. sat next to a public defender in the Ozaukee County jail Tuesday as Circuit Judge Sandy Williams worked her way through the initial appearances of the 10 people taken into custody over the long New Year’s weekend.

The 24-year-old Milwaukee man has the dubious honor of being 2017-CF-1, the first person charged here with a felony this year.

If his background and the current charges are any indication, brace yourself for more of last year.

Ozaukee County set a record in 2016 with 393 felony criminal complaints. That’s a 15.3-percent increase from 2015. Either directly or indirectly, experts say it’s fueled by drugs.

Kimbrough was charged with possession with intent to deliver marijuana, second-offense possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

A sheriff’s deputy pulled over the car in which Kimbrough was a passenger on Interstate 43 in the town of Grafton at about 9 p.m. last Sunday. The driver – Kimbrough’s brother – was arrested for operating while intoxicated. The Sheriff’s Department K-9 officer came to the scene and indicated drugs were in the car, according to the complaint.

A search turned up 18 baggies of marijuana packaged for distribution and a 3.1-gram rock of cocaine in Kimbrough’s underwear. Deputies found a digital scale in the car. They determined Kimbrough was on probation and had prior Milwaukee County convictions for possession with intent to deliver cocaine and ecstasy, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors are seeing more people like Kimbrough. Last year, 60 percent of all requests to the district attorney for charges involved suspects who live outside Ozaukee County.

District Attorney Adam Gerol said when he was hired as an assistant prosecutor in 1992, police rarely saw heroin – “now we see it frequently.” In Gerol’s first year here, there were 117 felonies; the number has more than tripled.

The increase in felony charges isn’t just due to people being charged with drug crimes, although drugs are at the root of many cases, Gerol said.

“It’s the credit card frauds, the identity thefts, the retail thefts of significant amounts,” he said. “All in all, you’ll find drug activity in there somewhere.”

The drug cases are getting more serious, too. Ozaukee County prosecutors charged three people last year with first-degree reckless homicide – so-called Len Bias cases involving the delivery of drugs that led to a death. Another case, charged in 2015, concluded late in 2016 when a jury found Shuntaye Crenshaw, a Milwaukee man, guilty of driving to Mequon to sell heroin to a Concordia University Wisconsin student, who was found dead of an overdose the next morning in his dorm room.

Law enforcement, prosecutors and judges take drug crimes seriously in Ozaukee County. All police departments in the county contribute resources to the Anti-Drug Task Force, which frequently sets up drug deals with undercover officers. Prosecutors have started charging individuals for drug deals that occur in Milwaukee County if they can prove the drugs were intended for distribution here.

Sentences here tend to be stricter. The man pulled over on New Year’s Day never spent a day in prison after pleading guilty in Milwaukee County in 2015 to the two felony drug-dealing charges, according to court records.

The impact of drugs in Ozaukee County goes beyond the courthouse.

Shea Halula, executive director of Starting Point of Ozaukee County, an organization that offers substance abuse prevention and intervention resources, said the problem runs deeper than the rising crime statistics.

“I’m not surprised, unfortunately,” he said. “A lot of (drug) habits can be really expensive. The only way to keep things going is by stealing, forgery, shoplifting – you name it. A lot of times, I think it just depends on how crimes are coded. They enter the system and we find out later there is a drug component.”

Halula said he and his staff have seen an increase in calls from loved ones seeking help for a child, spouse, brother or sister.

Much of the drug activity involves I-43 – like Kimbrough’s case – and communities just off the freeway.

“We border the largest city in the state and do see many of our investigations taking officers and detectives back to Milwaukee in an effort to solve them,” said Mequon Police Chief Steve Graff, who added the city is not the quiet farming community is was years ago.

“There is a lot more activity, which keeps our police officers very busy,” Graff said. “Whether the offender was under the influence at the time of the crime or whether he or she was committing a crime to make money to buy drugs – or both – drugs are a constant in many of the crimes we investigate.”

The heroin coming into the area is produced in Asia, South America and elsewhere, Gerol said.

“What can Ozaukee County do to stop it? In the grand scheme of things, nothing,” he said. “It has to be a national effort. To me, one of the great benefits of increased border security is the ability to interdict.

“All the treatment in the world will fail if you’re swimming in heroin,” he added. “We have to attack the supply.”



Opioid overdose deaths spike in 2016
New task force to be announced this year
By DAVE FIDLIN - Special to the Post
Jan. 5
, 2017

MILWAUKEE — Opioid abuse has grabbed countless headlines, sparked numerous neighborhood-level meetings and brought together people from different professional backgrounds. But recent statistics reveal more work lies ahead.

Although a spotlight has been beamed on the dangers of heroin in recent years, fatalities stemming from it and other drugs remain a pervasive problem, as evidenced by year-end statistics out of the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office.

Following an upward trajectory throughout the year, county officials have confirmed at least 290 drug-related overdose deaths throughout 2016. The number is tentative and could increase once investigations into a number of pending cases are concluded.

According to data from the medical examiner’s office, opioid overdose deaths within the county have more than doubled within the past five years — from 144 in 2012 to the 290 confirmed cases in 2016.

While the dangers of heroin have been widely circulated in recent years, the drug prevention conversation is beginning to shift toward fentanyl, a potent, synthetic prescription medication that is used to relieve pain quickly. Its ability to work rapidly has also resulted in its growing abuse.

The medical examiner’s office began teaming up this past year with the Medical College of Wisconsin to distill recent data and look into future prevention strategies.

The number of fentanyl-specific overdose deaths has been credited with at least some of the increase during the five-year period under the microscope.

In 2012, five of the 144 overdoses within the county were linked to fentanyl. In 2016, at least 77 cases have been confirmed, based on the closed cases.

“Fentanyl is a powerful and dangerous drug that we see more and more frequently in overdose cases,” Brooke Lerner, a doctor leading MCW’s analysis, said.

Part of the problem, Lerner said, is the amount of misinformation on fentanyl and its dangers.

“In some cases, users may know that fentanyl is present, but in many cases, it may be mixed into their drugs without their knowledge,” Lerner said. “Fentanyl is always dangerous when used without medical supervision.”

The city of Milwaukee also is joining in on the effort to review data and seek out new solutions. Alderman Michael Murphy last month announced his intent to form a city-county task force aimed at delving deeper into the issues of drug abuse and overdoses.

Alderman Michael Murphy 
Photo supplied

Murphy went before the city’s Public Safety Committee in December to discuss the task force and said more specifics will be revealed this month. Interest, he said, has been strong.

“I want to make sure we’re including all of the right participants,” Murphy said of the new task force at the Public Safety Committee meeting. “There’s been a strong response so far.”

Murphy listed Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and at least one representative from the local U.S. Attorney’s office as likely participants in the task force, as well as a cross section of other persons with insights to bring to the table.

In a news release, Murphy said the task force is a response to the statistics.

“It’s alarming because (drug overdose deaths) are getting more attention than ever before, and yet still the rate of overdoses is climbing,” Murphy said in the statement.

In a region as diverse as Milwaukee County, Murphy also pointed out opioid overdoses impact people across a wide spectrum of demographic statistics.

“The breakdown of data by race, by age and by geographic location shows the problem is as ubiquitous as ever,” Murphy said. “Absolutely anyone in any part of the county can fall victim.”

The city’s Public Safety Committee is expected to further discuss and act on the member composition of the task force later this month.


Opioid overdose deaths in Milwaukee County

2012 — 144

2013 — 181

2014 — 220

2015 — 231

2016 — 290 (tentative)

Source: Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office

Kleefisch to introduce legislative proposals addressing heroin
By Andrea Fencl - Freeman Staff
Dec. 15
, 2016

TOWN OF OCONOMOWOC — State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Town of Oconomowoc, finished his Coalition to Combat Heroin on Dec. 13 and from it has created several legislative proposals.

According to a press release the coalition began in August when group members discussed heroin’s transition from medicine cabinets to the street. The group was divided into three teams of Over-Prescription, Education and Criminal Justice, who met separately to come up with bill ideas and solutions.

“Kids in our community are dying,” Kleefisch said in a phone interview. “We need to pull out all the stops, and some stops will be uncomfortable.”

In a press release, Kleefisch stated that he plans to introduce several legislative proposals at the turn of the year.

“We want to give better access for heroin-sniffing dogs to police and school districts that suspect opioids on school grounds and at school activities,” he said.

After seeing the success of random drug tests at Arrowhead High School and the Oconomowoc Area School District, Kleefisch wants to make random drug tests a necessity.

“As horrifying as random drug tests can be, the death of a child at the hands of heroin can be much more horrifying,” he added.

Kleefisch also mentioned that there needs to be a way to find drug users and that police say finding them is the key to finding drug dealers.

“We’re looking at a proposal to have prescription drop boxes in every county so over-prescribed opioids don’t end up in the hands of potential users,” he said.

The final legislative proposal Kleefisch mentioned was to make possession and distribution of any future synthetic forms of heroin illegal.

Schimel releases new PSA on heroin abuse
Freeman Staff
Nov. 30
, 2016

MADISON — Attorney General Brad Schimel’s newest public service announcement warns Wisconsinites about the dangerous link between prescription painkillers and heroin through a fictional yet realistic account of one young man’s journey from sports injury to drug overdose, a reality faced by many people across the nation.

The PSA was released on Tuesday.

“We will only end the opiate epidemic if we prevent additional victims from getting hooked in the first place,” said Schimel. “The content of this ad may seem shocking, but this epidemic has claimed thousands of lives in our state over the last decade and the reality of heroin use and its link to prescription drugs needs to be brought to the forefront.” Schimel’s Dose of Reality public awareness campaign launched in September 2015. The campaign’s goal is to inform and educate the public; warn about the dangers of inadequate storage and disposal of prescription painkillers; inform each audience about the role it plays in education and abuse, from businesses to the medical industry to schools to young people; and to encourage positive action in response to the opioid epidemic.

For more information and materials to share on prescription painkiller abuse in Wisconsin, go to:

18 indicted in drug network
Believed to be connected to two county deaths
By Brian Huber - Freeman Staff
Oct. 31
, 2016

WAUKESHA — Eighteen people have been indicted in a drug network believed to have been the source of at least two overdose deaths in Waukesha County, and which has supply lines running from Philadelphia, Pa., Chicago, Florida and Puerto Rico, according to documents filed in federal court this week.

Officers in June executed search warrants at five Milwaukee residences and two in Kenosha that are believed to be connected to distributing drugs shipped through Chicago, according to a 113-page search warrant affidavit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But according to the document, two recent drug overdose deaths in Waukesha County were directly connected to the network.

In one case, Amanda Ebert died in Summit Oct. 29 of a fentanyl overdose. The person who procured what was believed to be heroin for her, Samantha Muehlbauer, 32, was convicted in circuit court of delivering narcotics. Muehlbauer was sentenced to five years of probation, 250 hours of community service, and up to 50 days in jail, along with an order to continue cooperating with the investigation.

Muehlbauer, while in a Milwaukee hospital, received heroin from Jason Rivera, 35, of Milwaukee, and had to be revived with Narcan, the federal documents state.

Rivera also was charged with reckless homicide in the case, but the charge was dropped as he was part of the federal investigation, online court records indicate; he was among the men indicted in the case.

In another case, Elm Grove resident Cody Schoos died of a fatal heroin overdose June 21, 2015. An investigation showed he’d been in contact with Ramon Elizondo, whose phone shows he then contacted a phone used by members of what the federal document referred to as the Rivera drug trafficking organization.

In the affidavit, authorities described how they used informants and phone and vehicle trafficking to monitor alleged sales, money-handling activities and conversations between various members of the organization. Thus, the affidavit said, authorities tracked the progress of multiple kilograms of heroin in Illinois and Wisconsin and into the Milwaukee area. One suspect was tracked to Kenosha and later stopped in a car, possessing a bag containing $42,000 in cash, the affidavit said.

‘Stairway to Heroin’ offers urgent message about addiction
Special to The Freeman
Oct. 28
, 2016

WAUKESHA — As a packed crowd entered the auditorium at Waukesha South High School Tuesday night, parents, students and members of the community saw stage risers full of shoes.

Each pair — 190 in total — belonged to a young person who died from a drug overdose in Waukesha County in just the past few years.

Tyler Lybert, who abused drugs for 12 years, spoke at this week’s “Stairway to Heroin” program at Waukesha South High School. Lybert sits among the pairs of shoes of teenagers who died in Waukesha County due to drug use.
Photo courtesy of the Waukesha School District

That visual backdrop set the tone for “Stairway to Heroin,” a program that offered raw dialogue and sobering statistics. Opiate drug overdoses have now surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of death in Waukesha County, and as Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel pointed out, the source is often in our own medicine cabinets.

Prescription drugs — painkillers such as OxyContin — are killing young people at alarming rates, according to the presentation.

One in five teens abuse prescription drugs.

Contributing to the problem is that people often share prescriptions with others, thinking they are safe because they are prescribed by a doctor. Schimel said four out of five heroin users start by abusing painkillers. One solution, Schimel said, is to keep prescription drugs locked up.

Other speakers included a mother who identified herself as Melanie C. She lost her teenage daughter to a drug overdose after trying heroin for the first time with her boyfriend. Melanie showed graphic photos of her daughter dying in a hospital bed, and then added a pair of shoes to the display on stage.

Dr. Timothy Westlake of Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital said drug overdoses in his emergency department have no boundaries. The hospital sees girls, boys, rich and poor kids. He said too many people depend on drugs for chronic pain and encouraged usage of Tylenol or ibuprofen for pain management.

Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper and Chris Kohl from the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department reminded parents to be vigilant about their children’s friends, activities and mobile device usage.

The Lybert family ended the presentation with an emotional account of their 12-year addiction journey with their son, Tyler. Tyler and his sister, Ashley, were joined on stage by their parents, Rick and Sandy.

County leaders serve on opioid abuse task force
By Brian Huber - Freeman Staff
Oct. 27
, 2016

WAUKESHA — When the State Task Force on Opioid Abuse convenes Friday in Green Bay, some of Waukesha County’s leaders will be part of the effort to combat Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic.

Gov. Scott Walker’s office announced the formation of the task force and its members, saying they will meet for the first time Friday. Among the 20 people serving on the panel, those with Waukesha County ties include Attorney General Brad Schimel; Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch; who co-chairs the panel; and Circuit Court Judge William Domina.

In 2014, more Wisconsin residents died from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes, and the number of drug overdose deaths in the state doubled from 2004 to 2014. Prescription opioid pain relievers contributed to 47 percent of the 843 drug overdose deaths in 2014, while heroin contributed to 32 percent, state figures show.

“While we’ve made great strides to combat opioid abuse in Wisconsin, this task force is a unified effort to help end opioid abuse and overdoses in our state,” Walker said.

Domina, who was named 2015 Judge of the Year by the State Bar of Wisconsin in large part for his work on Waukesha County’s Drug Treatment Court, thanked the governor for his confidence in him. “When I became a judge and was assigned to complex criminal and juvenile matters, I was stunned by the connection between prescription painkillers and heroin dependency and criminal behavior,” Domina said Wednesday. “I was also struck by how young and normal the individuals were who found their way into my court. These addicts almost all started the same way — with use of opioid medication ... This is why I agreed to serve as the first drug treatment court judge and to be active on this issue.”

Others on the task force include state Rep.John Nygren, co-chair; state Sen. Leah Vukmir; state Sen. Janet Bewley; state Rep. Jill Billings; officials from the state departments of Corrections, Safety and Professional Services and Health Services; and members of law enforcement as well as the state pharmacy society, hospital association and medical society and other health organizations.

Heroin awareness program continues
Event to be held Oct. 19
By Jonathan Richie - Special to the Enterprise
Oct. 13
, 2016

OCONOMOWOC — There are many misconceptions about addiction: it isn’t a disease, it just shows a weak spirit; gateway drugs are far more dangerous than anything a doctor can prescribe; and heroin could never seep into my family.

The heroin epidemic has spread throughout the country and into our community. Oconomowoc School District along with their partners are doing something about the heroin epidemic that has spread into the community by helping to break down these stigmas.

Oconomowoc High School is sponsoring the event Deadly Decisions as part four of the Stairway to Heroin program on Oct. 19. There will be a resource fair with educational materials designed to help families at 6 p.m. and the event will begin at 6:30 p.m., both are open and free to the public.

“This is one of those events that parents need to put on their calendar,” said Scott Bakkum, school counselor and AODA coordinator for Oconomowoc High School. “This one is different, it’s coming from a different angle and with additional information.”

Bakkum is one of nine speakers for the event and he will focus on parenting strategies. The speakers will cover other sides of this topic.

“It is an impactful combination of factual information provided by a law enforcement perspective, mental health perspective, treatment perspective and personal testimonies provided by those who have experienced the devastation and loss associated with alcohol and/or drug abuse,” Katie Westerman, coordinator of the Stairway to Heroin Educational Series, said in an email.

Tackling Stigma

Bakkum said it’s important for parents to feel they’re not alone in this.

“I think there ís still a stigma out there. It’s hard to come to terms when it’s your son or daughter or even yourself struggling with it,” Bakkum said. “We have to overcome this, because addiction is a disease.”

Stairway to Heroin is a part of Your Choice to Live and began working with the school district in the spring of 2014 with their first program. It focused on the overall experience of drug addiction and recovery. The second program is specifically designed for younger children and risk factors they face.

“Wake up Call” is third in the series and takes parents into a teenager’s bedroom and shows how unruly it can be and highlights possible signs of drug and alcohol use including paraphernalia. Deadly Decisions puts focus on how young people in this transitional phase and how they’re predisposed to drugs, in any form.


“Our district is committed to this,” Bakkum said. “We’ve had excellent administrative support and they’ve been amazing along with the school board.”

Bakkum also said the feedback he has received in over 1,500 surveys from optimistic parents saying how important this has been for their families.

“We believe that it takes a community coming together to effectively address this problem and tackle it,” Westerman said. Your Choice to Live has been expanding throughout southeast Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

To register for the event visit

All other information about these events can be found at

Legislative Breakfast addresses opioid abuse
By RALPH CHAPOCO  - Daily News
Oct. 1
, 2016

Participants entered the Washington Fair Park facilities and couldn’t help but notice them — photographs placed on an easel that begged for attention. On them were portraits of the fallen, the survivors and those still recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.

Such was the scene as local, state and federal officials entered the Park Pavilion at the Washington County Fair Park on Friday for the fourth annual fall 2016 Legislative Breakfast hosted by the Washington County Taskforce and Elevate Inc.

“It is import to have elected officials at the table with us, and they are very busy people,” Elevate Executive Director Mary Simon said. “Sometimes they weren’t able to make it to our meetings and found it harder to communicate with them. We thought, ‘Let’s bring them all together and give us a chance to communicate with them and to communicate with us.’” Seated in a line at the front was the panel, including members of the Washington County Board of Supervisors, West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow and state officials like Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Bob Gannon, who answered questions from a moderator.

In the crowd were citizens, municipal administrators and county department heads interested in finding a solution to the community’s drug and alcohol abuse issue.

The first topic introduced was an opportunity to divert drug and alcohol cases from the court system to a path more suited to treatment such as drug courts. Nearly all the panelists responded in the affirmative, although some had caveats.

Stroebel favored the transition, provided there was a method to identify those who will benefit from the program early in the process. Sadownikow preferred evaluating issues on a case-by-case basis. There are some it would benefit, but he believes prison is appropriate for those who make the issue a persistent problem.

Washington County Supervisor Kristine Deiss said she supports it, but funding and procedural matters are an issue.

“We have four judges and in a county with a population of 110,000 people, compared to some others who have five judges,” Deiss said. “When that state gives us that fifth judge, we can seriously look at providing a treatment court.”

Supervisor Christopher Bossert said county administrators did not apply for a grant because there weren’t enough resources to have a drug court.

“When I said I would support a drug court, I would support a drug court and the funding necessary to do it, but I would do it similar to other legislators and offer a tough-love drug court,” Gannon said. “If you are not ready to make immediate changes to your lives and about to be incarcerated, and enter this period of rehabilitation, we have a prison system that will take you.”

The second question is about the legalization of marijuana, similar to states such as Colorado, and all panelists said they would decline to pass into law.

“I have yet to hear an employer say more of their employees should show up high,” Sadownikow said to the applause of the crowd. “I have yet to hear a teacher say, ‘I wish more of the kids would smoke dope in class,’ and I have yet to hear to say police or fire department they are bored because they are not pulling enough people off the streets that are doing drugs.”

Bossert said he would be responsive to examining the issue of legalizing parts of the plant such as cannabis oil for medicinal purposes that have no value in terms of recreational use.

Another topic was to use zoning laws and funding to create an area designated for those struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Gannon said he didn’t think it was effective and Supervisor Michael Miller agreed.

“I would not be in favor of zoning for this type of housing because when I look out and ask, ‘Which one of you would like it in your neighborhood?’ Everybody would say, ‘I really like it, but I don’t want it in my neighborhood,’” Miller said.

But others, including Deiss, said it was a plan to get victims the help they need.

Other topics dealt with financing, including contributions from municipalities when it comes to matching funds for grants and where the opioid issue stood in the county’s priority-based budgeting process.

A majority said they are open to contributing funds for a grant and Bossert said some opioid programs are listed as the highest priorities while smaller initiatives are in the second to lowest priority.

Panelists also answered questions submitted by the audience. One asked why drug companies were not required to fund treatment for those struggling with addiction when it their products contributed to the problem.

“You don’t want to go there, and I know your heart tells you to, but think this all the way through,” Gannon said. “Before you know it, GM (General Motors) is going to be responsible every time you do something stupid with your car.”

Simon said the goal is to create a dialogue between legislators and their constituents.

“I think we achieved that,” Simon said. “I think there was some good discussion on both sides of the table about what we are doing.”

The next step will be to follow up with panelists and petition for needs, either through financial donations or in kind activities.

Task force discusses priorities in fight against opioid epidemic
By Karen Pilarski - Freeman Staff
Sept. 28
, 2016

WAUKESHA — The Waukesha County Heroin and Other Illicit Drug Task Force met on Tuesday. The county has a multi-pillar drug strategy focusing on prevention, harm reduction, treatment and law enforcement. Wisconsin Community Health Alliance President Dorothy Chaney said the individual pillars meet as often as needed but the task force meets two or three times a year. They have been working on this issue for two years. Chaney said they have miles to go, but the task force works well together.

In her experience, public health issues take up to 10 years to see a real outcome. Chaney explained the group has laid a strong, solid foundation to leverage tangible solutions.

“We can get leaner and meaner,” Chaney said.

Chaney led the task force in group discussions about what priorities need to be addressed. Some of the gaps shared in the larger discussion included assistance for pregnant women who are addicted to opiates, reducing the stigma of addiction and the need for prescriber education.

Program Manager of Waukesha County Birth to Three Program Linda Wetzel expressed the need for more support for pregnant women who struggle with opioid addiction. She discussed the need to increase awareness of babies who are born drug addicts, educate providers and provide better screening to address treatment before a woman becomes pregnant. Wetzel also expressed the need for more gender-specific services in the county and incorporating family support.

Stigma reduction was brought up due to the Waukesha County International Drug Overdose Awareness Vigil in August. Several comments indicated people were ashamed to discuss a loved one’s addiction due to that stigma.

Other priorities discussed included resources for the elderly population with opioid addiction, Naloxone training and finally the need for more funding.

The task force plans on meeting next in October.


Walker creates task force to battle opioid abuse rise 
Associated Press
Sept. 23
, 2016

MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker is taking additional steps to combat the rise of opioid abuse in Wisconsin by creating a task force aimed at stemming the misuse of the powerful painkillers, which officials say contributed to nearly half of the 843 drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin in 2014.

Walker on Thursday signed an executive order setting up the panel tasked with making recommendations on fighting abuse of pain relievers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. He named Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren to lead the panel. Nygren, whose daughter has struggled with drug addiction, has been at the forefront of legislation to fight drug abuse in Wisconsin.

The task force includes the secretaries or designees from the state corrections, insurance, health services, safety and professional service departments as well as Attorney General Brad Schimel, several legislators, law enforcement, health officials and citizens. They are expected to meet in the coming months to map strategies, the governor said.

Walker signed his order at a Milwaukee Walgreens drug store to highlight the chain’s drug take-back program. Walgreens has installed medication disposal kiosks at 18 stores around the state where citizens can drop off unused or expired medications, including controlled substances.

‘‘The more drugs we get out of people’s home and into places like this, the safer we’re all going to be,’’ Walker said. ‘‘Even if you’re coming in for a soda and a bag of chips, it’s easy to drop it off.’’

The Walgreens stores with disposal bins are in Appleton, Brookfield, Greenfield, Janesville, Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison, Marinette, Menomonee Falls, Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, Racine, Sheboygan, and Wausau.

Walgreens has also made naloxone, an opiate antidote commonly called Narcan, available without an individual prescription at all of its pharmacies in the state.

Earlier this year, Walker signed a number of bills aimed at slowing opiate abuse by creating more guidelines on dispensing prescription opiates.

Nygren, a Marinette Republican, wrote the eight-bill package as part of his so-called Hope Agenda, a series of reforms to fight heroin and opiate abuse. He began the initiative after watching his daughter, Cassie, struggle with heroin addiction.

Board bans synthetic heroin; Kleefisch praises decision
By Freeman Staff and The Associated Press
Sept. 21
, 2016

MADISON — On Tuesday, the state’s Controlled Substances Board voted to make U-47700, a synthetic heroin, illegal in Wisconsin, effective Nov. 7.

As it is chemically different from heroin, U-47700 is currently legal in the state. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug is easily and cheaply accessible, with many obtaining it through the Internet.

U-47700 was developed in the mid-1970s as a painkiller. The drug is eight times more potent than morphine and has been linked to at least 50 deaths nationwide. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued notice earlier this month than it intends to outlaw the drug effective in early October.

State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Town of Oconomowoc, praised the board’s decision. “In our fight to stop the deadly effects and addiction of heroin, the Controlled Substances Board’s action today is a major victory,” said Kleefisch.

As the board’s action is temporary, either a permanent rule will need to be put in place, or legislation must be passed to make the change permanent in state law. Kleefisch has drafted legislation that will make U47700 permanently illegal in Wisconsin.

“Making this drug illegal is just the first step of our work here in Wisconsin,” said Kleefisch. “We need to keep the public informed of the dangers of opioid use and abuse and do whatever we can to aid law enforcement and help save lives in Wisconsin. Our Coalition to Combat Heroin is working hard to find ways to help stop heroin addiction and deaths in our state.”

Memories remain
Candlelight vigil held in honor of West Bend woman who struggled with drug abuse
Sept. 20
, 2016

The pangs of raindrops from a storm whose intensity varied throughout the evening were a constant presence for the scores of people at the Silver Lining Pavilion at Regner Park on Monday evening.

When it was time, they raised their Dixie cups, filled not with drinks, but with small candles. They collectively illuminated the darkness as they watched in somber silence as two adolescents sang a song.

The attendees were different ages and backgrounds, but were there for a single purpose — to honor the life of a friend, relative and loved one they lost.

Jason Casey of West Bend holds his daughter Serenity Krueger as the two raise candles in memory of Casey’s stepdaughter and Krueger’s sister, Dakota Krueger, during a candle light vigil Monday night at Regner Park in West Bend. The vigil was held in memory of Dakota Krueger and for those that have lost loved ones to heroin or other drug abuse. Proceeds from the event will be given to the Krueger family. 
John Ehlke/Daily News


Lost to heroin memorial ceremony in West Bend
Posted 09-20-16

Dakota Krueger succumbed to her illness Sept. 7, and died due to a heroin addiction. Her sister, Serenity Krueger, learned of her passing when their father called her from the bedroom to the downstairs area with her mother and police officer waiting.

“I had been waiting to get this call for four years,” Serenity said. “I had been waiting to hear my sister is dead. You prepare for so much, but you can’t really prepare for it at all. So I sat down and saw my mom crying and I already knew what he was going to say. I just broke down crying.”

She was told by others there weren’t many other ways it could end.

“For me, I had known it was going to happen,” Serenity said. “People would tell me, ‘They would end up in jail or end up dead.’ She has already ended up in jail, so I knew the next thing coming, unless she got clean somehow, she was going to end up dead, so I had been expecting the call.”

Dakota’s ordeal began with an abusive relationship.

“My sister was with a guy when she was 18 and he was an alcoholic,” Serenity said.

“One night, it got abusive and he broke her jaw. She had to go on painkillers, and she got addicted from there. They got too expensive, so she went to heroin.”

Luminary bags set out with messages written on in support of loved ones that have passed away from drug abuse are seen during Monday’s candlelight vigil.  
John Ehlke/Daily News

Dakota was in and out of treatment facilities, remitting and relapsing. Serenity remembered the painful times — the arguments, the emergencies when her mother would go to meet Dakota and the anxiety and depression she endured because of the tumultuous situation.

Through all of that, Serenity also remembered when Dakota was in recovery.

“When she was in rehab, she does so well,” Serenity said. “She would understand things, realize what the problem was. That she had a problem and needed to fix it. She would get closer to us and understand where we were coming from.”

Serenity remembered Dakota’s life prior to the addiction. She remembered her sister’s free-spirited personality, someone who challenged convention and was excited to live.

Serenity reflected about the woman who enjoyed coloring books and loved to play with animals.

“She was very loving,” Serenity said. “That was the most I have ever seen her love anything, when she was around animals. She treated them like they were her own kids. She liked being around animals more than she liked being around people.”

Travis Derosier, 17, of West Bend watches his candle burn as he is comforted by a friend during a candlelight vigil Monday night at Regner Park in West Bend.  
John Ehlke/Daily News

She thought back to the times when the family traveled to Wisconsin Dells and played outdoors.

“We went swimming a lot,” Serenity said. “We went to Wizard Quest and she loved going in there, and I would want to go there with her.”

Serenity remembered the times she recovered.

Others recalled similar times, including the vivacious young woman who was not afraid to tell other people what she thought of them.

“Before all this she was pretty level-headed,” said her godmother, Luan Sabish. “She loved her family. She loved everything and was always smiling.”

She told of a woman who enjoyed the Mall of America, was spunky and lived life to fullest.

Even in the midst of remembering who she was, her loved ones long for what she could have been.

“She could have been a lot,” Sabish said. “She could have been someone who could have gone far. I think if she got past all this and become the person she wanted to become, she could have been so many other people’s roots with their addictions and their struggles.”

Serenity said Dakota wanted to be a marine biologist and after her addiction, had a passion to help people as a drug and alcohol counselor.

Anita Hilleman, prevention coordinator for Elevate Inc., helped organize the event, Regner Jams, for three years, but said the candlelight vigil is a new initiative.

“The vigil is brand new,” Hilleman said. “We threw it together in about a week.”

They did it for Serenity and show support for her.

“I am so grateful for all the people who put this together,” Serenity said. “It means so much to me that I have this strong support system.”

Nation’s opioid epidemic hits our home and yours
Brother lost to overdose was good man with fatal habit
By Brian Huber - Freeman Staff
Sept. 17
, 2016

My brother may not have been a shining example for all mankind, but then again, few of us are.

But his death is yet one more clarion call to all of us about what’s going on in homes of every stripe across America.

On Labor Day, my brother Matt — Matty, to us — died at 41, one of 13 who died of probable drug overdoses in Milwaukee County over the holiday weekend, one of thousands across the nation who have lost their lives in the whirlwind of opioid addiction. The sounds of my mother’s heart breaking, the sight of my father’s tears, the crushing feeling of seeing it coming and our worst fears being realized, will be forever etched on my heart.

And then, a week later, there he was on the TV news, footage from an incident involving him and his girlfriend in March. They were a previous version of what happened in Ohio last week, where a couple was photographed passed out in a car on drugs, with a child in the back seat. The people who found my brother contacted my friends at Channel 12 and there it was, video of them oblivious to their surroundings. Victoria shaking off the haze, coming to after getting a Narcan shot, while Matty is still splayed out on the sidewalk.

After that incident, both went into treatment. Victoria cleaned up, but had a bump in her supervision. I knew Matt had a relapse at least once. But when I saw him a week before his death, I could see he was much better, he’d been clean or much cleaner. And then Labor Day weekend — the rest of the family but me out of town, he got high, and the whirlwind came, the breath of God to take him home.

Matt was the third of four sons but always the biggest boy of the family, earning a short-lived nickname of House on the high school football field. Fittingly he was a headstrong man whose heart was always in the right place, someone willing to do almost anything for anyone he knew. He lived large, loved larger, but despite his stubbornness was enslaved by opioids. The pull of addiction for most is stronger than the flesh, and even the spirit. Even Houses fall. Even rocks crumble under pressure over time.

He had the biggest shoe size of my brothers, and leaves deep footprints in the lives of many more than we know. And his shoes will be present at his funeral service next week. I want them there as a visual reminder when I deliver his eulogy, signifying that we can’t judge another man until we walk in his shoes — and, frankly, Matt’s shoes won’t fit most and can’t be filled by anyone.

The whirlwind howls

As a Freeman editor and reporter, I’ve seen this happening, knowing it could happen to us. As of Thursday, in Milwaukee County, where we live: In 2015, there were 254 fatal drug overdoses; this year is on track for 288. In 2011, there were 180. Opioid-related deaths: 231 last year, on pace for 288 this year. Fentanyl, the powerful painkiller used as a cutting agent, was involved in 30 overdoses last year; this year it’s on pace for 75.

“But I think we’re gonna see a lot more than that. This does not take into account August or this month,” said Karen Domagalski, operations manager at the Medical Examiner’s Office there.

And the whirlwind is howling: In the last seven weeks alone, there were 71 probable drug overdoses in Milwaukee County — 10 a week, more than 1 a day. The city is on track for 75 fatal car accidents this year. The overdose rate in that short time is about triple the annual murder rate.

“That’s what we hear from other families, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a question of when,” she said.

In Waukesha County, in 2015 there were 44 drug-related deaths; 21 of them were related to opioid medications — the legal pharmaceuticals. Another 18 were related to heroin. Kris Klenz at the ME’s office here tells me there have been 15 drugrelated deaths so far this year, but there are numerous cases still pending, so that number certainly will rise.

And it’s not just about counting the dead — so far this year in Waukesha County, 114 people have been charged with simple possession of narcotics. Will they follow my brother’s footsteps to the end?

Opper: ‘No shame, no stigma’ to opioid addiction

Searching for understanding, I reached out to District Attorney Sue Opper, whose job entails working with families whenever this happens to them. Her advice is useful to families everywhere, no matter whether their children have died from opioid use, or are using now, thinking it won’t happen to them even as it happens to their friends.

“Really the message I try and send to the families is there is no shame, there is no stigma,” Opper said. “I have met so many people from so many different backgrounds that this isn’t a look-down-your-nose-at-somebody type of issue where your loved one is a junkie or your loved one is an addict. It’s been so far-reaching and so many families and people from all walks of life. ... These are good people who don’t wake up and say, ‘I am gonna be an addict today.’ These are good people with good families and good lives who are sucked in by this evil.”

But Opper said there are ways to break through. Treatment programs abound, and always are available even to people, like my brother, who encounter initial success and make measurable progress in improving their lives before falling off the wagon. There are success stories in such programs and in the county’s Drug Treatment Court of people getting out from under their addiction.

“I haven’t tried to kid anybody into thinking it’s easy,” said Opper. “There are success stories. There are people in recovery. It can be done. It is it easy? No. It takes every ounce of the addict themselves and the community. ... They are in the fight of their lives.”

Opper said people are noticing the toll this is taking — churches, community groups, law enforcement, legislators. Klenz told me mine was just another of the families who have done all they can to help a loved one who tries with uneven results to change his life.

A warning to the world

Yes, it sucks to have some of the family’s dirty laundry aired on TV. Yes, it hurt a friend and us to know people were trashing Matt’s memory. But I maintain that unless those people are themselves addicted to opioids, or lost someone like this, or have someone in their lives who could be lost like this, they mostly don’t know. Those people didn’t know Matt. They didn’t know his problems or his strengths.

But my family’s conviction is to let our hurtful truth be a warning to the world, to maybe break through to even just one person, whose own footsteps can affect countless other lives, so Matt’s death won’t have been in vain.

Since this happened, I learned more people in my life than I knew were in a similar situation: the childhood friend who we lost touch with whose dad died at 44. The former co-worker of mine from my hash-slinging days whose longtime boyfriend was another of the 13. The middle school buddy of mine who had a friend succumb the same way years later. Klenz’s message rings true for all of us: “The final outcome of a person’s life doesn’t define who they were.”

I hope all you Channel 12 viewers out there would agree.

Instead of haranguing a very good reporter who was doing his job, I called him asking to relay a message to his source. I told him to tell her I am sorry her kids had to see that, and, more importantly, that I said to thank her for making a difference.

We as a family, a community and as a nation are experiencing a range of emotions: Profound sorrow and piercing anger at our loss. Relief that our loved ones are free from their mortal suffering. Frustration that there are no easy answers.

The support of our friends and family from all our lives supports us as the whirlwind whips the waves around us. So are we all in this together, each connected to the others, the fabric that make up our human tapestry of any size.

In the maelstrom of the past two weeks, I heard from a friend of Matt’s I’d never known, who had lost his own mother just this way years ago. But he, too, got lost in the fog of addiction. He said he was the one to get Matt into a support group. Matt repaid the favor by offering the support his friend needed to find a way back to the light, where he has been clean six months running, even as Matt couldn’t find a way out of the fog. This man lost another friend to opioids, too, and he said simply, “This has to stop.”

So, when it’s your family, your son, daughter, sibling, or a friend or a child of one who may have, like Matty, been a Scout, an altar boy, a kind and funny man who lost his way and refused or ignored the voices pleading with him to correct his path, all that matters is this: What will you do to make a difference?


Mapping out the road to addiction recovery
Area doctor provides glimpse into fighting a number of addictions
By Jake Meister - Enterprise Staff
Sept. 8
, 2016

SUMMIT — Addictions come in many forms. Gambling, sex, legal and illegal substances — all are things that have taken over the lives of countless individuals of varying socioeconomic status, race, gender and vocation. Though the probability of overcoming addiction often seems too overwhelming for many, moving past the dilemma and taking back control of a person’s life is possible in the majority of cases, said Dr. Michael M. Miller, medical director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital.

Miller has practiced addiction medicine for more than 30 years. He worked through the cocaine epidemic that swept the nation from about 1980 to 1995. He has also helped to put a dent in a heroin and opioid epidemic that he believes is beginning to just now peak despite the fact that it started around 1995.

Miller said the governmental and media focus of both opioid and heroin abuse is completely justifiable and that the issue hasn’t been overstated, especially as it relates to rural communities. Despite the bleakness of the epidemic, Miller believes that there have been strong indications that medical professionals, law enforcement and courts have made some headway in the fight against the epidemic. Though he cautioned that it will take some time, Miller believes that the epidemic will eventually be defeated if the issue is handled correctly.

Dr. Michael M. Miller works with many patients fighting addictions as the medical director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital, pictured here.
Submitted photo

Getting addicts on the road to recovery

Though there is a variety of addictions, the mindset of all addicts tends to be quite similar. Miller said that in most cases, an addiction continues for an individual because he or she will tell themselves that the problem isn’t as bad as it truly is.

It isn’t until someone steps in (maybe a pastor, family member, friend, or the criminal justice system) and lets the addict know that the addiction is indeed a crisis, that an addict will realize that there is a major problem.

“The people watching what’s happening have a pretty clear idea that there is an issue,” he said.

Just because an addict has successfully been persuaded to come to Rogers Memorial Hospital, that doesn’t mean that he or she is completely committed to taking back control of their life. In some cases, Miller said the addict will still be ambivalent, and as a result, they will attempt to bargain with fate or cut any corner to make the path as easy as possible. For example, Miller said someone who is addicted to a substance might tell themselves that they will get off of the substance with the plans of later returning to the substance once the habit is more manageable “It’s human nature to not believe you’re a failure ... so people tell themselves they can handle it,” he explained.

It’s when an addict has not only come in to receive treatment, but has also accepted the fact that they must take the proper course to recover, that the improvements often begin.

“A lot of people say ‘for so long I thought I can handle it,’” Miller said. “They say ‘I’ve proven to myself that this isn’t working and I need to come in.’”

Achieving recovery

If the correct methods are used, the probability that a willing addict will improve their life and take control of the addiction that has hobbled it is greater than that of a coin toss. In fact, Miller said addiction treatment is quite effective and that recovery can usually be found through a carefully calculated treatment plan encompassing a bevy of methods.

Medications can help fight some addictions. For example, there are a number of Federal Drug Administration approved medications for treating addictions to opioids, alcohol, and nicotine. For those addictions and many others, Miller recommends a person also receive psychosocial treatment — something he said is as equally effective as all classes of drugs.

When the two methods are used in conjunction, that’s when treatment is most successful.

“We believe every patient should have an opportunity to get medication and physiological treatment,” Miller said.

Some of Miller’s favorite methods for psychosocial treatment of addictions and what they entail according to his definition are:

Group therapy: A method that Miller believes to be more effective than individual therapy as the number of people involved can help to provide a setting that is more emotionally effective.

Cognitive behavioral therapy: A hands-on psychotherapy that challenges the thoughts of an addict, their assumptions of themselves and what they believe to be the impact of their behaviors. Miller said this therapy helps to rid addicts of the excuses they make for why their life is troubled. Typically, addicts will not blame those troubles on their addiction prior to receiving this treatment.

Motivational enhancement therapy: A therapy that helps addicts to develop more acceptance of their need to change. The setting for this type of therapy is very supportive as opposed to older psychological treatments that involved confrontational methods. Those older treatments, which used to be popular, have been proven to be ineffective, said Miller.

Family and friend-oriented therapy: This form of therapy can involve input and assistance from a spouse, child, parent, or friend of the patient. This form of therapy is often conducted in a large group; however, a single isolated group involving one addict and their friends or family can also be conducted. These closed sessions typically last about an hour and often take place once a week.

Experimental therapy: This unique form of therapy can involve the incorporation of art, recreation, movement or other things. Art therapy shows an addict how enjoyable life can be without drugs by introducing the person to the joys of creating artwork. Recreational therapy helps addicts to better construct their schedules and fill their leisure time with positive activities, something addicts often have trouble doing, Miller said. Movement therapy introduces an addict to physical actions, such as yoga or dance, that can help fill a physical void with something positive. For more information on Roger Memorial Hospital go to


Stories of those LEFT BEHIND
Observing International Drug Overdose Awareness Day
By Karen Pilarski - Freeman Staff
Sept. 1
, 2016

WAUKESHA — People wore purple ribbons and held candles as they wept on Wednesday evening during a vigil to observe International Drug Overdose Awareness Day. In the north parking lot of the Waukesha County Courthouse, a crowd gathered to reflect on the lives lost to the growing epidemic.

Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow said bringing awareness to the opiate epidemic is one of his goals.

“We have a huge drug problem in Waukesha County,” Farrow said.

County Supervisor Christine Howard said in 2015, 44 people in the county died of drug overdoses in the county. While the statistics may be jarring, it was the stories of lives turned upside down that sent a jolt to those listening in the crowd.

Dennis Radloff launches a hot-air balloon in memory of the 44 people who died of opiate overdoses in Waukesha County last year during a candlelight vigil on Wednesday evening. Radloff is the chair of the harm reduction pillar of the Waukesha County Heroin and Illicit Drug Task Force.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Words are power

Through tears, Autumn Berg spoke about the death of her brother Kenny Kuzel, who died of a drug overdose. Berg said her brain has chosen to block out many memories of the pain she has experienced.

“If I think really hard I can remember the good memories — they are blurry at the edges but they are still there,” Berg said.

She spoke of trying to rid her mind of bad memories of growing up fast and the pain her brother’s addiction had on the family. The drug epidemic doesn’t just alter the addict, but shakes his or her family’s foundation.

Lauri Badura spoke her son Archie Badura, who died in 2014. She was quite candid about her son’s battle, describing the time when he ingested an opiate patch and was foaming at the mouth in jail. The Badura family gives out bracelets that say “pay it forward;” they want to inspire others to start a conversation about drug abuse. Archie’s brother Augie Badura, 19, said he is glad everyone is coming together for events like the vigil. When he gives presentations, young adults have come up to him and shared stories of their own struggles.

“My story can be anyone’s story,” he said.

A woman holds a candle aloft during a vigil on Wednesday night for the victims of drug overdoses.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Jean Humphrey spoke of her son Thomas Pike, who had a fatal overdose in 2009. He died after a man who gave him drugs took off with Narcan and left him to die. She said it isn’t just her family who suffered but also the family of the man, who is currently in prison.

Humphrey said her son had an outgoing personality and loved his children.

“Thomas lit up a room. You could be mad at him and in less than two minutes he could have you laughing,” Humphrey said.

If one person hears her story and decides not to use drugs, Humphrey said, that is one life and one family not hurting.

Dennis Radloff of The Healing Corner encouraged people to talk with each other to reduce the harm of drug addiction.

“The lives lost are not junkies, they are sons, daughters, children, grandparents. They are loved and valued,” he said.

After lighting candles, Radloff lit a floating lantern and sent it up to the heavens above. From afar it looked like a beacon of hope gliding past the courthouse into the Waukesha community.


Kleefisch wants to ban synthetic heroin
Associated Press
Aug. 31
, 2016

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin legislator says he plans to introduce a bill outlawing a new synthetic drug.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, an Oconomowoc Republican, said Wednesday that he plans to introduce a measure banning the sale and possession of U-47700, a synthetic opiod.

The drug is nearly eight times more potent than morphine and has been linked to at least 50 deaths nationwide. Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling says U-47700 has killed two people in his county.

Kleefisch says the chemicals in the drug mirror heroin but are different enough that it's stayed off Wisconsin's controlled substances list.

The next legislative session begins in January. Before he can introduce his bill Kleefisch will have to survive a re-election challenge from Marshall Democrat Scott Michalak in November.

The fight to stop heroin
By ALEX BELD - Daily News
Aug. 24
, 2016

Stop Heroin Now is hosting the Stop Heroin Rally on Saturday to spread education and awareness on addiction.

Since 2008 there have been more than 100 overdose deaths in Washington County related to the use of heroin and other opiates.

“We call it a rally simply because we want people to come together,” Stop Heroin Now President Jessica Geschke said.

Jessie Geschke of Affiliated Clinical Services hugs Douglas Darby of Green Bay after Darby spoke about his addiction to heroin at last year’s Stop Heroin Rally.
Daily News

The rally features a dunk tank, brats, kids’ games and face painting for children while parents and other family members can find the resources they need to get support for treatment or legal needs.

Attendees can educate themselves through available resources and speakers at the event. State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Affiliated Clinical Services co-owner and psychologist Jim Giese will both speak.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about my message,” Giese said. The current perception of addiction is that it is simple, but it is actually a multifaceted and complex issue, he added.

To raise funds to help addicts and families with these complex issue there is a 50/50 raffle. The proceeds help pay for treatment.

Geschke said some people have limited resources when returning from prison and can’t afford to get the help they need. “We’ll send someone to Nova for 28 days,” she offered as an example.

In this July 2015 photo, Wendy Borner of Beaver Dam holds a sign near Main Street at the Stop Heroin rally in West Bend.
Daily News

According to Stop Heroin Now, 90 percent of individuals in need of addiction support do not receive it.

The Washington County Heroin Task Force will also be on-hand to provide a 35-page opiate and heroin awareness toolkit, which can also be downloaded online at

Washington County Heroin Task Force Chair Ronna Corliss said those not affected by addiction are welcome to attend and get their own toolkits. “There’s nothing wrong with additional education and resources,” she added.

Attendees have the opportunity to speak with an alcohol and other drug abuse and a mental health therapist from Affiliated Clinical Services. They can also learn how to work with the Washington County Heroin Task Force.

“The community does want to play a part in making this a healthy place to live,” Corliss said.

The Stop Heroin Rally, in its fourth year with Stop Heroin Now, starts at 9 a.m. at the West Bend Pick ‘n Save on 1629 S Main St.

More information can be found on the rally at


Keeping communities safe from heroin
By Rep. Joel Kleefisch
Aug. 18
, 2016

We all grow up learning, “Don’t Do Drugs.” However, as we become adults and even as many of us go on to have children, we realize how complex the issue of drug use really is. Some states have legalized marijuana in some form, some students take meth-related prescription drugs for very real learning disabilities, and many adults at some point in their lives will be on prescription painkillers, with numerous of these painkillers being opiates.

A common trend nowadays is for adolescents to go from the medicine cabinet to street heroin. That is, adolescents are starting off on prescription drugs, either due to their own injuries or surgeries, or due to pills that friends have given them, or from taking them from a family member’s medicine bottle. When those prescription drugs become either unavailable or too expensive, they either gradually or all at once make the switch to heroin.

The dangers of heroin are very real, and are unfortunately becoming a harrowing epidemic in our communities. Heroin is highly addictive, withdrawal symptoms are severe, and sadly, heroin overdose deaths are increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, Attorney General Brad Schimel has stated that more people die in our state from drug overdoses than from car crashes.

Last week, I had the honor of hosting a Coalition to Combat Heroin. The coalition is made up of members of both state and local government, police chiefs, the health care industry, and also members of organizations doing great things in the community. Our goal was to get a grassroots understanding of the transition from the medical cabinet to street heroin. As our Coalition to Combat Heroin continues to meet, it is our objective to come up with solutions and goals in addressing this disturbing pandemic. We in the Legislature have made progress on this issue. For the past four years, we have worked to pass nearly 20 different bills related to this topic. One of those pieces of legislation is a bill, now law, that encourages communities to set up drug disposal programs so that unwanted prescription drugs can be disposed of safely, without falling into the wrong hands or risking misuse or abuse when they are no longer needed.

We will not rest until we have turned the tide on this harrowing epidemic. For more information on this issue, feel free to visit the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s website at

For those looking for information on treatment and recovery, feel free to visit the Wisconsin Department of Health’s website at

(State Rep. Joel Kleefisch represents the 38th Assembly District, covering the Town of Oconomowoc and parts of Dodge and Jefferson counties. He can be reached by calling toll-free 1-888-534-0038 or via email at

Coalition led by Kleefisch holds passionate discussion in Oconomowoc
By Jake Meister- Freeman Staff
Aug. 10
, 2016

OCONOMOWOC — A coalition of experts came to the Oconomowoc Community Center Tuesday for a more than hour-long meeting that resulted in a passionate discussion regarding the area’s heroin issues.

State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Town of Oconomowoc, headed a group comprised of a medical professional, religious leaders, law enforcement personnel, lawmakers, educators, and community leaders, who shared their experiences in dealing with addiction and provided advice on how communities can minimize the impact of heroin and opioid abuse.

State Rep. Joel Kleefisch asks a question during a meeting on the heroin problem in Wisconsin held Tuesday at the Oconomowoc Community Center.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Like most district attorneys across the state, Waukesha County DA Susan Opper presides over an office flooded with criminals who have been charged and in many cases incarcerated for heroin-related infractions. Opper said she has seen a rise in the number of individuals who progress from marijuana and alcohol use to heroin abuse. Almost all of the heroin addicts, she cautioned, had abused a different type of drug in the past, and had not jumped right to heroin.

She added that addicts who turned to heroin as kids usually did so for two reasons: A sports injury that left them addicted to prescription pills or a desire to use opioids for recreational use.

Opper said the majority of heroin cases that come through her office involve individuals who travel to Milwaukee County to purchase the drugs.

Oconomowoc Police Chief David Beguhn, center, talks about his experiences with the rise of heroin in the city. At left is Oconomowoc Lake Police Chief Don Wiemer and at right is Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson, who were also on the panel.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson also said that heroin users within the county typically follow the modus operandi of driving to Milwaukee County for a deal because the drug is cheaper there. He said that, when purchasing heroin in Waukesha County, users are essentially charged with an extra type of finder’s fee for bringing the drug from Milwaukee.

Severson said the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department has found that supply and demand for prescription opioids, which often serve as the gateway drug to heroin, is down. Unfortunately, the lowered demand for opioids is directly correlated to an increased distribution of heroin.

“(Heroin users) can get it all day,” he explained.

While a decrease in opioid abuse leading to an increase in heroin use might seem like a wash, Severson said there is a silver lining in it all because it mitigates the number of new addicts, which he believes should be a priority.

“It’s kind of like coming home when the basement is flooding and you go and grab a mop,” he explained. “You need to turn the water off.”

State Rep. John Nygren discusses the problem of heroin in Wisconsin during a panel on Tuesday at the Oconomowoc Community Center.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

When asked what her thoughts were on Severson’s perspective, Opper said she was in agreement. She added that rehabilitation is hard, and it is better to stop the heroin abuse before it starts.

A number of other individuals provided their insights into how the heroin epidemic should be handled in their fields of work.

Dr. Timothy Westlake of ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital said the medical community has to take ownership over the prescription drug issue, and that sector needs to change its prescription drug culture.

Oconomowoc Area School District Superintendent Roger Rindo said that schools need to provide information to parents and students relating to opioid and heroin at a very young age, beginning in elementary school. He said any kid could become addicted to opioids, heroin, or both.


The hidden signs of drug addiction
Grand opening of the Wake Up Call site in Hartland
By Karen Pilarski - Freeman Staff
Aug. 9
, 2016

HARTLAND — A bedroom can represent a person’s personality and be a sanctuary during the nighttime. However, it can also be a room filled with secrecy — and the hidden signs of drug addictions.

A Wake Up Call site is a life-size exhibit of a teen’s bedroom with “red flags” that can signify drug and alcohol use. Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel were on hand for the grand opening of the Wake Up Call permanent site in Hartland on Monday.


190 pairs of shoes representing the 190 people who died from heroin overdoses in in Waukesha County during the years 2012-15 were part of a display during the presentation.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Johnson’s message was the need to “lay out reality” about the cause of the heroin epidemic, which is Americans’ “insatiable demand” for drugs, he said. Johnson himself has been touched by the heroin and opiate epidemic; he noted that his nephew died from an overdose recently. “Heroin leads to broken families and broken lives,” Johnson said.

Schimel said he used to tell parents to hug their kids when they arrived home. The purpose was to smell for alcohol and marijuana.

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, left, and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel talk about the heroin problem during a press conference on Monday in Hartland.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Schimel pointed out this is not easy with heroin; the same signs that a young person is using are actions that are very similar to those of a normal teenager. Examples include acting moody, sleeping frequently and keeping the bedroom door closed. Therefore, these campaigns were created in hopes of discovering drug abuse earlier and making the appropriate interventions.

Outside the Hartland Fire Department was a Deadly Decisions Exhibit showing shoes on bleachers with toe tags to represent the 190 lives lost to heroin and opiate abuse since 2012. Julie Berg spoke about not wanting to part with her son Tyler’s shoes. Her son died of a drug overdose in 2012. Berg said the shoes on display show how drug abuse can happen to people who are rich, poor, young and old.

“Addicts need help and need to be loved,” Berg said.


Julie Berg holds a pair of shoes owned by her son, Tyler, who died from a heroin overdose.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

A bedroom and hidden dangers

Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Zelda Okia described going to scenes of lethal drug overdoses. Some of the victims were young adult males who were just starting to grow mustaches or females with flawless skin. Okia mentioned the deceased’s bedrooms containing such items as cute teddy bears and baby doll clothing.

Inside the building behind the Fire Department was a replica of a teenager’s bedroom. Tyler Lybert led a tour of the room which seemed normal on the outside, with stuffed animals, books, a cute bedspread and a desk. But the room actually has 50 red flags or signs to watch out for. On the floor were pill capsules and cotton from pill bottles.

“Our hope is there would be earlier recognition if someone is having a problem,” Tyler Lybert said.

Lybert was the inspiration behind Your Choice Prevention Education. His parents Sandi and Rick, sister Ashleigh and Tyler founded the organization. Tyler Lybert is a recovering addict and has been clean for over seven years.

Sadly, many of his friends were not as lucky as he was. In Lybert’s own experience, the sooner a parent intervenes, the better chance of survival.

For more information visit


Monthly injection can help some overcome opioid addiction
Aug. 5, 2016

Dear Doctor K: My son is addicted to painkillers. He has been in and out of treatment programs, but nothing has worked. I recently heard about a monthly injection that can help people overcome addiction. Can you tell me more about this?

Dear Reader: The problem of addiction to opioid prescription painkillers (and illegal narcotics) is growing worse. I’m sorry it has affected your son. You are correct: There is a relatively new treatment, called Vivitrol, which has helped some people.

The opioid painkillers include drugs such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin. With continued use, a person can develop a physical dependence on these drugs. That means a person experiences withdrawal symptoms if he stops taking the drug. These drugs can also cause a “high.” Both of these effects contribute to addiction.

I spoke to my colleague Wynne Armand about treatment options for opioid addiction. She is a primary care physician at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Detoxification, or “detox” programs, can help a person get through the initial, intense withdrawal symptoms when coming off a drug. However, detox alone is often not enough. Many people will relapse and use again without additional treatment. The additional treatment may include counseling and long-term medications.

There are three FDAapproved, long-term medications for treating opioid addiction: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. The first two are “agonist” drugs: They produce some of the same “high” as opioids and can be addicting. They also can produce dangerous symptoms if a person takes too much. However, they are less likely to do these things than the opioids.

In contrast, naltrexone is an “antagonist.” It binds to opioid receptors but does not activate them. As a result, it blocks the “high” from other opioid drugs. Naltrexone is available as a daily pill; its effect in blocking a high from opioid drugs lasts only a day. Also, obviously, it only works if it is taken, and people often forget to take a pill every single day.

In contrast, Vivitrol is a long-acting form of naltrexone. It is given as a monthly injection, and its effects last a month. Many doctor’s offices and clinics have started to offer Vivitrol injections.

If someone taking Vivitrol relapses and starts to use opioid drugs again, they will not experience the same high. However, there is a danger with Vivitrol: The person seeking the high may try to overcome the blocking effects of Vivitrol. This can lead to a severe overdose and death.

Also, the risk of overdose or death is high in those who stop Vivitrol and reuse opioid drugs, because after the opioid drugs have been blocked for a while, they become more potent when the blocker is removed.

No studies have compared the three long-term treatments with one another. Vivitrol may be more appropriate for people who have had no success with the agonist treatments (methadone and buprenorphine), have a milder addiction, have difficulty taking a daily medicine and are highly motivated to quit. Ask your son’s doctor for his or her advice.

Dr. Anthony Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115. For more information, visit Dr. Anthony Komaroff’s column runs daily in The Freeman.

Delafield drug disposal program to launch Monday
By Karen Pilarski - Enterprise Staff
August 4
, 2016

DELAFIELD — Delafield Police Chief Erik Kehl has a personal connection to the new drug disposal program launching on Monday. He remembered an associate with a drug problem when he first became a police officer; the associate’s family asked Kehl for help in disposing of the drugs.

“If I would have driven down the street to get rid of it and was caught, that would have been the end of my career,” Kehl said.

Kehl wasn’t sure how to handle the request. He ended up having to make a tough decision and taking a risk, but said it worked out well for him.

Beginning Monday, other Delafield Police Department officers won’t have to take similar risks. They will be able to take possession of illegal controlled substances and drug paraphernalia from anyone wishing to voluntarily dispose of those items, anonymously and without fear of prosecution.

The new program was an opportunity to help people, their families and friends by doing the first step: getting rid of the illegal drugs. The second step is providing a resource guide with local treatment providers to aid in recovery efforts. The guide was created with input from the Waukesha County Addiction Resource Council.

Kehl said the wheels for the program were set in motion after a concerned resident approached him. The resident was adamant that Delafield develop a program similar to one in Massachusetts, under which anyone can turn in drugs and have their drug addiction treatment potentially paid for. Unfortunately Delafield doesn’t have the money and resources to pay for drug addiction treatment. But Kehl wanted to do something since drug abuse is an epidemic in the county and beyond.

The program provides an outlet for the safe removal of harmful and dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia from the community. Items received will be documented and destroyed. In exchange, a list of local treatment provider options will be given to anyone interested in seeking treatment.

The best time to turn in illegal drugs is during the daytime when a sworn officer can collect them. Kehl said no questions will be asked; officers will not request any identifying information such as names, nor will they look up license plates.

This program does not apply to drugs and paraphernalia found during investigations. Kehl stressed this is not an attempt to legalize any type of controlled substances within Delafield.

A tool for families

Kehl said the feedback about developing this program has been favorable, especially for family and friends of drug addicts.

“I hope this would give them an outlet to safely get rid of drugs,” he said.

Police officers find drugs and drug paraphernalia on the streets and Kehl pondered if family members of users were trying to discard them.

“With this program family members will have a way of getting rid of drugs so it doesn’t get into the hands of other people,” Kehl said.

For more information visit


Grant funding would target opioid abuse
July 22
, 2016

Changes are coming for the Washington County Treatment Alternatives and Diversion program, altering the focus and varying how staff will use it to intervene for cases.

Human Services Administrator Eric Diamond recommended the changes during Thursday’s Human Services Committee meeting, informing and asking for permission from members to apply for a Department of Justice grant for 2017.

Proceeds from the funding will be allocated to target those with opioid addiction, especially heroin, and will be administered on a pretrial basis with Elevate Inc., which will oversee day-to-day operations. The initiative’s focus was a treatment initiative for those charged with operating while intoxicated on a post-conviction basis.

“What you have before you is a decision item to change course,” Diamond said. “What we are trying to do is make sure that the $100,000 that we get from the Department of Justice to support people that got into trouble because of substance abuse, are routed to treatment instead of jail. The philosophy is the same, but the design is different.”

According to the committee report, the county has received funding from the Justice Department for 10 years to administer the program. However, the department announced a change to the grant, indicating it will be offered on a competitive basis and the county must become a formal OWI court by next July to continue receiving funding.

“While we are committed to that goal, we are not going to be able to meet that timeline,” Diamond said. “It was unrealistic for where we are in the process, both as a team and as a community.”

Diamond said there are few initiatives in the area to treat opioid addiction and this path would address that.

“Folks with opioid-use disorders have a lot of barriers in this community,” Diamond said. “There isn’t enough medication-based treatment and there isn’t enough programming specifically tied to them, particularly those individuals on Medicaid.”

The program comes at the expense of another that some believe has been successful for treating recidivism with OWI cases.

“You know that is the drawback,” Diamond said. “That is the problem. We are not going to have a specific diversion program for OWI, at least not funded through TAD.”

Mary Simon, the director of Elevate, said there are 40 participants in the diversion program for OWI offenses, and the plan is to serve them but not enroll additional clients.

“We are looking into grants and other funding opportunities to continue serving those clients,” Simon said. “We want to see if we can have both.”

Diamond said some already exist that cater to OWI offenses, including one administered by the Sheriff’s Office that Elevate also manages.

The change to the model is supported by a number of entities, including county judges, the district attorney’s office and Elevate.

Drug or alcohol addiction has a strong biological basis
July 21, 2016

Dear Dr. K: My brother has struggled with addiction for years. I’ve told my husband that addiction is a disease, but he claims my brother is weak and lacks willpower. Is he right?

Dear reader: There is a lot of stigma and shame associated with addiction. But the truth is, people with substance-use disorders aren’t simply weak or immoral. It surely is true that people who try out illegal addictive drugs for recreational purposes are breaking the law. In my opinion, they also are doing something profoundly stupid. But they’re often teens, who tend to do a lot of stupid, impulsive things. Moreover, many people who become addicted to legal drugs were started on those drugs by their doctors.

The most important point is that addiction has a biological basis. Addiction impairs the brain in many important ways. I spoke to my colleague Dr. Michael Bierer, an internist at Harvard- affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, about this topic. We discussed a recent review article in The New England Journal of Medicine about the “brain science” of addiction and its management.

Here are some of the highlights:

An addicted person’s impaired ability to stop using drugs or alcohol has to do with deficits in the function of the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for self-monitoring, delaying reward, and integrating messages from the intellect (reason) and libido (pleasure center).

The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed in adolescents and is particularly vulnerable during this time. The earlier the brain is exposed to a drug, the greater the potential for damage. Adolescence is a time when caution and intervention may prove most valuable, but it’s also the time when it’s hardest to influence a person’s behavior.

Once addiction sets in, which may be very early in experimenting with an addictive substance, the emotional response when a person is deprived of the drug is usually extreme negative emotion, a reaction that is “hard-wired” in the brain.

In a particular setting, the strong association of learned environmental cues (for instance, seeing the corner where a person’s dealer can be found, or entering the doctor’s office for reevaluation of chronic pain) intensifies the craving for the substance.

What’s more, the brain releases a flood of intensely intoxicating brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, during drug use. This is called the “reward pathway.” This makes the brain relatively insensitive to “normal” sources of pleasure, like a conversation with a good friend or a beautiful sunset. And it makes the brain focus all of its attention on obtaining the addicting substance.

This brain science is helping to shape treatment strategies. Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine can stabilize cravings. This gives the reasoning part of the brain a chance to get back in shape and kick in. Once cravings are under control, a person may be able to develop alternative sources of joy and reward in order to avoid the cues that set off cravings.

Dr. Anthony Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115. For more information, visit Dr. Anthony Komaroff’s column runs daily in The Freeman.

Sensenbrenner’s bill aimed at fighting opioid abuse

July 13, 2016

On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives approved the conference report for a comprehensive legislative package — the main piece of sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.

It aims to reduce opioid abuse, an increasingly common issue in Washington County.

The legislation, H.R. 5046 or the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, is one of 18 bills passed Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Today’s House approval of the conference report is a testimony to the seriousness of legislators to work together, compromise and find real solutions,” Sensenbrenner said Friday.

Many members of the law enforcement community say the opioid abuse epidemic is wide-spread and uses significant resources.

Lt. Nick Booth of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department said he thinks the county has a problem with opioids and it uses substantial resources for the county. According to the Sheriff’s Department website, the Drug Unit in Washington County began making arrests for the distribution of heroin in 2007, which have increased each year since. There has also been an increase in the number of reported overdoses and deaths in the county.

According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, the increase in use is likely linked to the increase in abuse of oxycodone and similar pharmaceuticals in the area.

“I’m sure that more resources, wherever they come from, will be put to good use,” Sheriff Dale Schmidt said. The effectiveness of the funds will be determined by any restrictions, which may or may not be placed on the funds, he said.

A release from Sensenbrenner’s office stated the act “creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice, which would, among other things, provide vital training and resources for first responders and law enforcement, aid in criminal investigations for the unlawful distribution of opioids, expand drug courts and promote residential substance abuse.”

The act will direct existing funds rather than increase spending authorizations. It will also provide funding for rehabilitation.

Battling addiction troubles at Paradise
Miss Wisconsins will appear at Paradise Golf to raise funds and awareness
June 29, 2016

Miss Wisconsin 2015 and Miss Wisconsin 2016 will be at Paradise Golf on Saturday to raise awareness and funds for charity combating addiction. Rosalie Smith, Miss Wisconsin 2015, started COLIN’s Fund to help others after her brother, Colin Moores, died of an alcohol overdose April 16, 2013. She set up a gofundme page for COLIN’s Fund on Nov. 1 with a goal of $200,000.

Smith said that COLIN’s Fund has raised $10,000 and sent four people to rehab so far and the fund continues to grow. “It’s slowly but surely working,” she said.

She was inspired by her brother who became sober through the Xtreme Intervention Project started by Selepri Amachree. When he got sober he decided he wanted to help others; after he passed, Smith took up the mantle.


Rosalie Smith, Miss Wisconsin 2015, stands next to her brother Colin Moores, who died from an alcohol overdose on April 16 2013 at the age of 27 (photo courtesy Rosalie Smith).
Submitted photo

Smith speaks publicly on the topic and will be at the event hosted by Paradise Golf from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Miss Wisconsin 2016, Courtney Pelot, will attend from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.

The event will offer the usual Paradise Golf and Recreation activities of mini golf, driving range and batting cages, as well as a raffle.

Milwaukee Brewers tickets, four rounds of golf at West Bend Lakes, New Balance golf shoes, Bridgestone balls and a baseball cap, and a Tour Edge golf bag are some of the items available as raffle prizes.

Manager of Paradise Golf Jim Morrison said the event at 601 E. Paradise Drive in West Bend came together quickly. “It kind of came to me from a friend,” he said.

That friend is Alex Hoffmann, manager of YoCool Frozen Yogurt and an advocate for fighting addiction. He lost his son, Shay Hoffmann, to a heroin overdose July 1, 2013, at the age of 21.

YoCool is a nonprofit that has donated to more than 200 charities, but addiction is Alex Hoffmann’s main focus.

He speaks in public about the topic, fights for legislation to help addicts and hands out information to help educate and inform families. He said every week families approach him that have been affected by addiction.

Alex Hoffmann said that Smith is a “great young lady” and enjoys working with her on events. If you’re having addiction issues in your family, come to the event, he said.

The event aims to raise awareness on addiction issues and disperse information to families in the area.

Behavioral Health Manager for the county, Jackie Moglowsky, said, “The one we’ve seen the most is heroin.” Families often approach the human services department, she said.

To help heroin addicts, Moglowsky said they have increasingly looked at medication- assisted treatment. “It’s where we’ve seen people have the most success,” she said.

Families wanting to help someone facing addiction can educate themselves so they can learn to assist rather than enable. Help can be found at

Overdose homicide charges countywide top 2015 total
More in last five months than all of last year
By Matt Masterson - Enterprise Staff
May 26, 2016

WAUKESHA — A Milwaukee man facing decades in prison for his alleged role in the overdose death of a local mother has become the eighth person in Waukesha County this year charged under the state’s Len Bias homicide law — topping last year’s total of five such charges.

Derek J. Engberg, 25, was charged Friday with first-degree reckless homicide, as a party to a crime, in the death of 49-year-old Julie Bernal, who overdosed on heroin that had allegedly been provided to her by Engberg late last year.

He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

According to the criminal complaint, Waukesha Police were called to a Bluemound Road home on Dec. 30.

Engberg said he and Bernal had each snorted a line of heroin that Bernal had brought to his apartment earlier that evening. But according to the complaint, investigators learned Engberg had actually bought two grams of heroin earlier that day from a dealer in Milwaukee, and he and Bernal had injected themselves with the drugs before returning to Engberg’s apartment.

He allegedly told police he had fallen asleep in the apartment and awoke to hear Bernal snoring before falling back asleep. He then awoke again to find Bernal foaming from the mouth and unresponsive, which is when he called 911.

The complaint states there was “a pile” of heroin on the table in his apartment, and that Bernal may have used between .2 and .3 grams.

Engberg is due in court for a hearing June 24.

A continuing crisis

Wisconsin’s Len Bias law allows prosecutors to file reckless homicide charges against any suspect who manufactures, delivers or distributes a controlled substance that directly contributes to a victim’s death.

The law is named after Bias, an All-American basketball player at Maryland who died of a drug overdose two days after he was selected by the Boston Celtics as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft.

Engberg’s charges mark the fourth count of first-degree reckless homicide charged in Waukesha County just this month and the fifth such case filed within the last several weeks.

Those cases include:

April 26 — David R. Gier, 26, who was charged after he allegedly left his friend, 26-year-old Gaige A. Judkins, unconscious in the back of a vehicle parked at a Wales Pick ’n Save last July. Judkins was pronounced dead on scene.

May 9 — Mitchell A. Dlapa, 29, who was charged with being a party to a crime in the death of 22year-old Clarissa Krauss, who was found unconscious in a Brookfield parking lot in Nov. 2014. She was pronounced dead four days later.

May 16 — Edward L. Ludwig, 33, and Todd L. Krull, 28, who were each charged with first-degree reckless homicide stemming from the death of 28year-old Nicholas Gilbart, who had been out of jail for just days before overdosing last May.

According to Waukesha County Criminal & Traffic Division staff, this year’s total of eight first-degree reckless homicide cases has already topped 2015’s total of five.

Of those, only one case has yet been closed — that of 23-year-old Allyson Edwards, who pleaded no contest to reduced charges of narcotics possession and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

She was sentenced last week to a year-and-a-half in prison to be served consecutive to a stayed sentence of three years.

Ludwig appeared in court Friday and was held on $10,000 cash bond.

Increased deaths prompt Sensenbrenner’s Opioid Abuse Reduction Act

According to data from the State Council on Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse, more than 800 overdose deaths occurred in Wisconsin last year — twice the number of such deaths in 2004.

Drug overdose deaths statewide have increased 137 percent from 2010, with opioid related deaths increasing by 200 percent, according to U.S. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, whose Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act was approved this month by the U.S House of Representatives.

“It signals the seriousness of our national struggle with addiction, the need for immediate action, and the commitment of lawmakers to pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement. “I’m optimistic about the future of this bill and the good it will affect throughout the country.”

The bill creates an opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice to provide training and resources for first responders and law enforcement, aid in criminal investigations for the unlawful distribution of opioids, and expand drug courts.

As part of the ongoing heroin epidemic, drugs entering the U.S. today are significantly higher in purity and lower in price than it was in the past, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

Johnson cited data from from Wisconsin Attorney General and former Waukesha district attorney Brad Schimel, who has said heroin sold on the street has increased from five percent in purity to now between 20 and 80 percent.

Johnson held a hearing earlier this week to discuss how the U.S. has allocated its funds to fight the war on drugs.

“Over the course of the committee’s extensive work on this issue,” he said in a statement, “it also has become clear that America’s insatiable demand for drugs is the root cause of our insecure border.”


Failed drug tests challenge businesses
Area employers say it’s harder to hire ‘clean’ workers
By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff
May 24, 2016

OZAUKEE COUNTY — With the jobless rate in Ozaukee County among the lowest in Wisconsin, area employers say it’s difficult to find qualified employees who can pass a drug test.

The problem is not unique to the area. With changing attitudes toward marijuana and a widespread opiate epidemic, it’s an issue across the state and – for that matter – the nation.

“It’s currently a pretty tight labor market,” said Kathleen Cady Schilling, executive director of Ozaukee Economic Development. “It was a little easier four years ago. If someone failed a drug test, it was no big deal – there are plenty more out there. Now, it’s really becoming an issue.”

It’s also something, understandably, not all employers like to talk about.

“I think every employer wants to say their employees are top-notch,” Schilling said. “But we all have to fill positions – and sometimes the people who come aren’t the best.”

One employer did talk. Eric Isbister, CEO of GenMet Corp., said he knows finding quality employees who can pass a drug test is a concern. He added, however, he has had few issues because prospective employees who can’t pass know not to bother applying.

“We quite frankly don’t see it much in our data because we stress with people before they come in that we drug test,” said Isbister, whose metal fabrication business at 10245 N. Enterprise Drive in Mequon has job openings for engineers, machine operators and welders.

“If a company didn’t stress up-front, I think you’d have a lot of people (failing),” he said. “It’s a sad thing.”

Isbister added that GenMet invests a lot of resources in training its employees. He said he keeps an eye out for applicants who appear to change jobs often.

“The biggest reason for not moving forward is what we call a ‘hopper’ – a person who changes jobs so frequently that it looks like he’ll never be happy,” he said.

Carol Schneider, CEO of SEEK Careers/Staffing Inc., said the numbers of prospective employees failing pre-employment drug screens are significant.

“In the month of April, we did 191 tests and 20 did not pass,” she told the West Bend Daily News.

Schneider said most applicants failing tests are using marijuana or prescription painkillers.

“I know it’s an issue,” said Pam King, executive director of the Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce. She said she has heard managers of several area businesses with a regional or national footprint say they’ve had difficulty finding employees locally who can pass a drug test.

“Those employers who are looking to hire have challenges related to drug testing and our lack of transportation,” she said.

Public transportation is available from Milwaukee to several locations in southern Ozaukee County, but the bus stops are just off Interstate 43. Many potential employees have difficulty getting from there to the jobsite, King said.

“When you look at the size of the pool to draw from, that’s a huge challenge,” she said. “There isn’t a (big enough) pool here in the county and you have to draw from other places.”

In nearby Washington County, 85 percent of businesses have had issues filling entry-level positions because of applicants failing to pass drug testing, according to a report put together by the West Bend School District.

The information was gathered through a survey distributed by the school district to members of the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce. It represented employers with a total workforce of about 5,500 employees, the West Bend Daily News reported.

The issue cuts across the nation. The New York Times recently ran a story that said the hurdle employers face is due to an increased reliance on drug-testing, as well as a changing culture, particularly in states that have legalized marijuana.

A roofing contractor in Colorado Springs, Colo., said, “to find a roofer or painter that can pass a drug test is unheard of,” the Times reported.

The same contractor said, “As soon as I say ‘criminal background check,’ ‘drug test,’ they’re out the door.”

While testing may be stronger and at least some people may think marijuana is not a big deal, OED’s Schilling said it remains a big deal.

“You just can’t have that in your blood system if you’re going to be working heavy machinery,” she said.

Alex Beld of the West Bend Daily News contributed to this story.


Giving Waukesha County H.O.P.E
Heroin/opiate prevention and education legislation discussed
By Karen Pilarski - Freeman Staff
May 18, 2016

WAUKESHA — In the crowded auditorium at Waukesha Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, people listened intently to a presentation on heroin/opiate prevention and education (H.O.P.E.) legislation and what it means for Waukesha County.

County Supervisor Larry Nelson said eight years ago when the heroin epidemic started there was a general feeling of denial.

“People said ‘This is Waukesha County, this is a problem in other parts of the state’, but it is a problem everywhere,” Nelson said.

 John Kettler of Waukesha County Health & Human Services talks about strategies for dealing with the effects of opiate addiction, from treatment to widening the availability of Narcan, during a presentation on the impact of H.O.P.E legislation held Tuesday at Waukesha Memorial Hospital.
 Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Three speakers discuss county’s anti-heroin measures

Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper discussed recent acts and bills which have been passed in the anti-heroin crusade. Some of the acts include requiring proper identification when picking up prescriptions to prevent fraud, as well as providing first responders and law enforcement with Narcan, which can possibly reverse a heroin overdose. Another bill is protecting those who seek help from the police or medical professionals in order to save the life of a person who overdosed.

Human Services Supervisor John Kettler spoke about what the county has been doing to address the opiate epidemic. He said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow declared this as a top priority and has been involved in different groups to discuss it. Law enforcement has received additional training and is working with other agencies. Health and Human Services is enhancing programs to address the epidemic. Kettler discussed the pillar approach such as providing education, harm reduction, law enforcement, workplace steps and treatment.

Kettler said some of the prevention activities included the “Hidden in Plain Sight” and “Stairway to Heroin” education series.

Harm reduction includes educating former inmates about overdoses after they are released and safer needle exchanges and naloxone training.

Law enforcement measures include drop boxes for prescription drugs, additional training and the use of nasal Narcan. For workplace steps, the county has incorporated additional public health education programs and partnerships with the Waukesha County Business Alliance.

Kettler said the treatment approach involves promoting 2-1-1 as a contact for referrals and he encourages providers to update their information. Also involved are promotional events for insurance enrollment and a partnership with Thriving Waukesha to help decrease treatment barriers. ProHealth Care Manager for Behavioral Health Services O. Kirk Yauchler presented on how the private sector is working on the heroin epidemic. He said a study estimated that up to 30 percent of the opioids prescribed for pain are misused and that about 10 percent of pain patients are addicted to them.

“It is very profound,” he said.

Yauchler touched on the act that requires practitioners to review a patient’s record when initially prescribing a monitored prescription drug. The information in the record tells a doctor when a drug was prescribed, how many times it was refilled and when, and who prescribed the medicine. The additional information helps physicians to see if there are red flags. Additional training has been implemented to encourage responsible prescribing.

Strong turnout

Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson said the event gave people a good idea of what the legislation looks like and reminded the county that everyone has a stake in solving the drug issue.

Nelson felt the great turnout for the presentation proved that people want to be a part of the heroin solution. “We have a lot of people from all walks of life trying to help deal with this epidemic; the sad thing is the number of overdoses and usage,” Nelson said.

House passes Sensenbrenner’s anti-opioid abuse bill
May 13, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 (COARA), legislation introduced by Wisconsin U.S. Rep Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.

The bill creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice, which would, among other things, provide vital training and resources for first responders and law enforcement, aid in criminal investigations for the unlawful distribution of opioids, and expand drug courts.

Additionally, the comprehensive grant program created by H.R. 5046 is fully offset, meaning it successfully directs funds to address the opioid epidemic by taking advantage of existing funding. The result is no net increase in spending authorizations and no additional burden on the American Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act is another important step forward in our fight against heroin and opioid addiction,” said Sensenbrenner. “It signals the seriousness of our national struggle with addiction, the need for immediate action, and the commitment of lawmakers to pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation.”

Addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and other prescription pain medicines has erupted in the United States. Between 435,000 and 1.5 million people in the U.S. currently use heroin, and an alarming number of them are younger than 25 years old.

Between 2002 and 2013, national heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 annually by 2013. Beyond health care costs, other significant economic burdens are associated with opioid abuse, such as costs related to criminal justice and lost workplace productivity. In total, opioid abuse imposes an estimated $55 billion in societal costs annually.

In Wisconsin, more than 800 overdose deaths occurred in 2015 — double the number of deaths from overdose in 2004.

Local doc combats heroin epidemic
Dr. Timothy Westlake taking his ideas to halls of power
By Ryan Billingham - Enterprise Staff
April 28, 2016

OCONOMOWOC — Emergency room doctors know intimately the tragic consequences of opioid addiction and overdoses.

In Wisconsin, state crime lab cases involving heroin increased 419 percent from 2008 to 2014, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Dr. Timothy Westlake, vice chair of the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board and an emergency room doctor at ProHealth Care’s Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, has been forced to bear witness to the damage inflicted on families and communities, including the one he serves.

Though his personal experiences as an ER doctor are wrought with emotion, Westlake is part of an effort to take a more pragmatic and practical approach to what he sees as a complex problem with several contributing factors — including the responsibility doctors have for the current situation and the “unintended consequences” of what he feels are bad regulatory practices.

Westlake, who lives in Delafield, recently took part in a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs held April 15 at Waukesha County Technical College.

At the hearing Westlake provided testimony to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and member Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

“In my practice as an emergency physician in a small suburban hospital it is not uncommon for me to see one or more opioid overdoses per week, and of the 20 or so patients I see per day, usually three to four are on chronic opioid medications,” he said to the committee.

He called opioid addiction and overdoses “the public health crisis of our time.”

Policy solution ideas

Westlake became involved in policymaking about five years ago when he served on the board of oversight for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a warehouse of information on the prescribing of drugs.

From there he was tapped to help formulate an opioid strategy after getting to know Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, with whom he helped establish the Wisconsin State Coalition for Prescription Drug Abuse Reduction along with Attorney General — and former Waukesha County District Attorney — Brad Schimel.

Westlake said while doctors must be more vigilant in their prescribing practices, there are two crucial elements at the policy level he believes would affect positive change.

The first, he said, is patient survey results being factored into Medicare incentive payments to hospitals.

Westlake said caregivers must now consider patient survey results and cater to them to ensure they meet Medicare reimbursement requirements.

This, Westlake said, causes an undue focus on a patient’s pain experience and often increases the subjective nature of it, leading to overprescribing of pain medications.

He said he supports recent legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate — called the Promoting Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) Act — by Sen. Ron Johnson and others to remove the pain management questions on the survey, and untether the results from Medicare reimbursements.

“Right now,” Westlake said, “It’s like having a tiny government regulator on your shoulder each time you make a decision.”

Westlake said in the 1990s a focus on pain as “the fifth vital sign” led to the overprescribing of opioids. He said the standards are out of date and have had too many dangerous consequences.

“As a doctor you want to alleviate suffering, but you don’t want to cause more suffering through the way you prescribe,” Westlake said.

The second key factor is reducing the “leftover medications.” He said there are approximately 9 billion individual Vicodin (a drug containing acetaminophen and hydrocodone, an opioid) pills prescribed in America each year. He said it is estimated one-third to two-thirds of these pills go unused, which leaves billions of pills in homes “just waiting to be misused.”

Currently, federal regulations bar doctors from prescribing a refill for a Schedule II narcotic, Westlake said. Instead a physical prescription must be taken to a pharmacy and cannot be phoned in or faxed in.

Westlake said this leads to doctors prescribing too many pills, rather than too few pills.

“By prescribing a larger amount in this way, the patient and the doctor aren’t likely to be inconvenienced by having to get a physical prescription refill,” he said in his Senate committee testimony. “But, this almost always ensures there will be leftover opiate pills, in many cases in significant numbers.”

A tweak to the federal regulations could fix the problem and allow doctors to prescribe a smaller, time-limited supply of pain medications, he said.

Westlake said it is important to anticipate unintended consequences and build sound policy at the state and federal levels before it is made law.

“Once something is law, it is very difficult to change,” he said.


Heroin Task Force offers a drug prevention guide for families
News Graphic Staff
April 21, 2016

OZAUKEE COUNTY — A drug prevention guide for families is available for download on the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force website. More than 6.5 million people 12 and older are reported to have abused drugs last month alone and every day, 4,047 children and young adults start experimenting with prescription drugs.

The 28-page Prevention Awareness Toolkit provides local stories and experiences, the names of commonly abused prescription medications, health consequences of prescription medications, what to do if a family member is suspected of using drugs, how to recognize a relapse and much more.

A parents’ guide is also available families to review. The download also provides a coupon for a free home drug testing kit.

To download the guide, go to

State ponders drug monitoring
Proposal presented to Ozaukee Heroin Task Force
By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent
April 19, 2016

OZAUKEE COUNTY — Addicts are clever in the lengths they will go to obtain drugs. As secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services, as well as the former mayor of Superior, Dave Ross has certainly heard his share of stories from around the state.

“There was an instance where someone with an opiate addiction was going to rummage sales and asking if they could try on a pair of jeans,” he said as the presenter at the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force meeting April 11 . “What they were actually doing was cleaning out the bathroom of prescription drugs.”

He noted that real estate agents now also advise home sellers to pack up their medications prior to open houses and showings as those also present an opportunity for addicts to steal drugs.

Taking away those opportunities to fuel an addiction is also the purpose behind Wisconsin’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which was legislated as a program to improve patient care and reduce the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs in Wisconsin.

“Since July 2013, we’ve received about a million submissions a month and just passed 35 million submissions from dispensers of Schedule 2 through 5 drugs throughout the state,” he said.

By law, Wisconsin dispensers of monitored prescription drugs are required to collect and submit information to the PDMP about each dispensing of a monitored prescription drug. The PDMP stores the information in a secure database and makes it available to health care professionals and others, as authorized by law. All dispensers licensed in Wisconsin – including online pharmacists – are required to provide this information. Thirty percent of PDMP users are physicians. Forty-nine states currently have PDMP programs in place, and more than two dozen currently share information with each other. Ross noted that this data sharing is likely to increase over time, as it can prove helpful in identifying prescription abuse for addicts living near state lines. “Prior to sharing this data through PDMPs, there really was no way to identify if someone was ‘doctor shopping’ over a state boundary,” said Ross. “Doctor shopping was really quite easy. That window is closing and will continue to close even further.”

At the meeting, Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol asked Ross if there was a plan to flag unusual prescription patterns in Wisconsin’s PDMP.

“That is possible right now,” said Ross, who gave an example of an addict who was able to obtain about

500 methadone doses a month through doctor shopping. “We are able to identify up to four-plus doctors, which indicates that there is a prescription problem.”

Ross noted that there are some tweaks and improvements being implemented in the PDMP, including a requirement that law enforcement personnel report information under certain conditions and shortening the requirement for dispensers to provide information from seven days to 24 hours.

Ross noted that the use of prescription drugs in Wisconsin, as well as throughout the country, is significant.

“We’re prescribed 80 percent of the (world’s) prescriptions for pain narcotics in the United States, but we only have 4.25 percent of the world’s population,” he noted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, individual pharmacies and dispensing practitioners throughout the state dispensed enough doses of monitored prescription drugs to medicate the entire population of Wisconsin for a month.

Heroin’s horrors: Johnson, Baldwin hold hearing at WCTC about opioid epidemic  
By Karen Pilarski - Freeman Staff
April 16, 2016

PEWAUKEE — Heroin addiction is a no-holds-barred addiction that can strike anyone. Wisconsin U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin held a field hearing about the heroin epidemic on Friday at Waukesha County Technical College. Two panels of witnesses testified, ranging from several government officials to a recovering addict and his sister and a mother who lost her son to the drug.

Wisconsin U.S. Senators Ron Johnson, left, and Tammy Baldwin preside over a public hearing about the problem of heroin held Friday at Waukesha County Technical College.
 Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Johnson’s message was the need to “lay out reality” about the cause of the heroin epidemic, which is Americans’ “insatiable demand” for drugs, he said. Johnson himself has been touched by the heroin and opioid epidemic; he noted that his nephew died from an overdose recently. “Heroin leads to broken families and broken lives,” he said.

Available and affordable

According to Johnson, the United States’ borders are not secure and heroin is readily available. One factor, he said, is the United States intercepts less than 10 percent of illegal drugs coming across the southwest border and somewhere between 11-18 percent coming through our maritime borders. In order to address this aspect of the problem, he said, we need to secure our borders.

Compounding the problem is another factor — heroin is quite affordable.

“In Wisconsin, one hit of heroin costs anywhere from $10 to $12 in Milwaukee,” said Johnson.

The easy access to and low cost of the drug have led to terrible consequences, he said.

“In Milwaukee, 109 heroin-related deaths in 2015,” said Johnson.

No one immune

Baldwin said it doesn’t matter what your social standing, political party or background is when it comes to heroin and opioid abuse. It also doesn’t fit neatly into one jurisdiction or area. She pointed out a drug supplier isn’t necessarily a drug cartel, but could be a medicine cabinet containing unused pills. A supplier could be a well-meaning medical professional who over-prescribed opioid painkillers.

The sad fact is in 2014, 28,000 people died from prescription or illegal opioid use, Baldwin said.

“There is a stigma attached to (addiction), making it difficult for people to come forward,” she said.

Dr. Timothy Westlake, an emergency medicine physician at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, talks about the number of heroin overdose cases he has treated during a public hearing at Waukesha County Technical College on Friday.
 Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

Schimel: ‘We need all hands on deck’

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said that not only does addiction wreck lives — it also devastates the economy. Employers more and more need to address addiction, he said.

Schimel also discussed the need for better procedures for people who are released from jail or a treatment facility. “This is when it is most dangerous,” he said. After being released back into society, drug addicts’ tolerance is lowered, yet they sometimes try to use at the same level they were at before being incarcerated, he said.

When he was district attorney in Waukesha County, Schimel said, he witnessed many parents burying their children. He admitted he still gets teary-eyed talking about it.

To combat the epidemic, Schimel said, “We need all hands on deck, we can’t do it alone.”

Addicts and families

Tyler Lybert and his sister Ashleigh Nowakowski testified about the struggles of families and addicts. Lybert is a recovering addict, having been clean for seven years. His addiction manifested in 6th grade when he was introduced to alcohol and drugs by older people. “I was a chubby and hyper kid,” he said. Lybert thought alcohol was his “golden ticket” to popularity. The drinking led to pot in 7th grade and by 16 years old he was taking pills and eventually heroin. The addiction took hold and soon all he cared about was getting high. “I worked all day but looked for drugs all night,” Lybert said.

Ashleigh Nowakowski wipes away tears after testifying about the impact heroin addiction has had on her family during a U.S. Senate public hearing on heroin held Friday at Waukesha County Technical College. Nowakowski’s brother, Tyler Lybert, left, also testified about his experiences as an addict and in recovery.
 Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

He said he became less like himself and more like a “monster.” He had several brushes with the law and was incarcerated a few times. Every morning he was terrified to wake up, afraid of what had transpired the night before while he was drugged.

Eventually, he said, he grew discouraged after a few treatment attempts and gave up on ever being fully clean.

“I hated life, I wanted to die,” he said. He possessed a knife and at one point was contemplating suicide.

Eventually, Lybert was kicked out of his home and was given an ultimatum. “My mom called and said I could keep doing what I was doing but they no longer had a son,” he said.

Lybert’s other option was to come home and try another form of treatment. Though family counseling, he discovered he did want to live.

Through tears, Nowakowski described the hellish journey the family went through. She choked up while talking about planning her wedding and wondering if people would ask why a groomsman was missing from the wedding party. At one point her mother even planned Lybert’s funeral. Through family therapy, however, they fixed the dynamics and slowly the wounds started to heal.

Still, Nowakowsi said, “We have survivor’s guilt. There are so many families who didn’t get to experience what it is like to have someone recover.”

A mother’s story

Lauri Badura testified about her son Archie Badura, who died of an overdose in 2014. Her gripping words painted a picture of a grieving mother who is trying to save others.

Lauri Badura holds up a photo of her son, Archie, who died of an overdose in 2014 during a public hearing on Friday at Waukesha County Technical College.
 Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

She attended a funeral over the weekend of a close friend of Archie Badura. The friend, who also died of an overdose, had been a pallbearer at Archie’s funeral, she said.

Badura now gets referrals from hospitals, psychiatrists and funeral homes to help other parents. Her telephone rings and she hears stories similar to her own.

Badura said like diabetes, drug addiction should receive lifelong treatment. It is her mission to not let her son’s death be in vain, she said.


‘We’ve got to stop what is happening’ 
Heroin use focus of ‘Wake-Up Call’ exhibit
By Dave Fidlin - Special to the Enterprise
April 14, 2016

HARTLAND —The spike in heroin use, and its ravaging effects on the suburban youth population, has been chronicled extensively across southeastern Wisconsin in recent years.

Sandi Lybert is hoping to take that critical message to the next level with an interactive event that runs through April 23.

Lybert, who runs an organization known as Your Choice with other family members, knows firsthand how dangerous heroin and other drugs are, and how they are popping up in places least expected — including teenagers’ bedrooms.

Lybert speaks from experience. Her son, Tyler Lybert, is a recovering heroin addict. He has spoken openly of his addiction and what lengths he went to feed his constant craving for the next high.

In the years he was using heroin, Tyler used unorthodox methods to conceal his stash of drugs, and Lybert adamantly points out it occurred without her or her husband knowing it was taking place.

But there were odd clues, here or there. Spoons, for example, were disappearing at a rapid clip from the family’s utensil drawer. When they mysteriously reappeared, they were frequently bent. As part of the interactive event, which has been dubbed “Wake-Up Call,” Lybert wants to take visitors straight into a makeshift bedroom. In fact, every last detail closely mimics Tyler’s bedroom when he was using heroin.

Several Lake Country-based organizations are partnering with the Lybert family’s Your Choice to make the “Wake-Up Call” exhibit possible. The list includes the Kettle Moraine Parent Resource Network, Oconomowoc Parent Education Network and Waukesha County Drug Free Communities.

Many of the most granular details within the makeshift bedroom are puzzle pieces that point to a heroin user. A looped belt on the floor is used as a tourniquet. The scattering of straws are used to snort the drug. The presence of crumpled-up tin foil points to burning the drug.

“You probably won’t be able to pick up on what is all in (the makeshift bedroom),” Lybert said. “That’s our goal with ‘Wake-Up Call.’ We want to create and raise awareness.”

Speaking to the reaction garnered during an open house kickoff event last week, Lybert said a number of influential adults, including teachers and police officers, were unaware of some of the clues.

If you go

Who: Your Choice organization, Kettle Moraine Parent Resource Network, Oconomowoc Parent Education Network, Waukesha County Drug Free Communities

What: “Wake-Up Call” exhibit, free

When: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays, April 14 and April 21; 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays, April 15 and April 22; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23; private tours available for groups of eight or more

Where: Your Choice office, 138 North Ave., Hartland

For info: Call 262-367-9901

Johnson, Baldwin to hold hearing at WCTC on heroin epidemic
Freeman Staff
April 13, 2016

PEWAUKEE — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, along with committee member U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., will hold a field hearing on Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Waukesha County Technical College, 800 Main St.

The hearing is titled “Border Security and America’s Heroin Epidemic: The Impact of the Trafficking and Abuse of Heroin and Prescription Opioids in Wisconsin.”

According to a press release, Johnson is looking forward to hearing from law enforcement, local lawmakers, family members and treatment experts on how Congress can continue to address the opioid epidemic.

Participants include:

James F. Bohn, director of Wisconsin HIDTA, Office of National Drug Control Policy;

Dr. Timothy Westlake, vice chairman of the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board and chairman of the Controlled Substance Committee;

Tyler Lybert, a recovering heroin addict; and his sister Ashleigh Nowakowski of Your Choice-Live, a drug and alcohol awareness program for young people;

Lauri Badura, mother of Archie Badura, who died in 2014 from an overdose;

R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security;

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel;

Wisconsin state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton;

Wisconsin state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette.

Stairway to Heroin series continues
Event to feature replica of teenager’s bedroom
By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff
March 31, 2016

OCONOMOWOC — The Oconomowoc Parent Education Network’s Stairway to Heroin series is set to continue this April taking parents through a life-size replica of a teenager’s room led by a former drug addict or a parent who had a student abuser who will point out to them possible “red flags” that signal drug or alcohol use.

“Wake-Up Call” is located at 138 North Ave., Hartland with tours running sporadically throughout the month. The exhibit is open to the public from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 14, April 15, April 21 and April 22. Then again from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 14 and April 21. Finally the last day of the exhibit is from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 23. Each person attending the exhibit will leave with a folder of valuable resources for drug and alcohol prevention.

The bedroom will identify several spots where teens may hide drugs, household items that can be used as drug paraphernalia and the ways teens try to cover up drug and alcohol use.

“Our goal is to educate parents and other adults who are influential in the lives of youth so they know what seemingly innocent items can actually be an indication of substance abuse,” said Sandi Lybert, founder of Your Choice.

OPEN Coordinator Katie Westerman wants to encourage parents, grandparents, educators and community members to visit the display and learn what some common signs of substance abuse are.

“With teen drug and alcohol use, it’s so important to address it right away before a child’s use escalates into an addiction or leads to other risky behavior,” she said.

The exhibit is a collaborative effort between many organizations dedicated to preventing substance abuse. The Kettle Moraine Parent Resource Network is one of the partners again.

“It will take a large community effort to combat the growing abuse of prescription drugs and heroin by our youth. The first step begins at home because none of our families are exempt,” said Renee Manion, co-chair of KM PRN. “This collaboration shows the commitment in Waukesha County to create awareness and conversations around this issue in order to stop this epidemic in our communities.”

Private tours of the room for groups of eight or more can be scheduled throughout the month of April by calling the Your Choice office at 262-3679901. The exhibit is open to adults 21 and over only.

Example red flags

Alcohol use: Water bottles, grape soda, breath mints and baking extracts can be signs.

Marijuana and tobacco use: Visine, an empty toilet paper role stuffed with a dryer sheet, pipes made of tin foil, lighters, incense, cologne or air freshener can be signs.

Prescription drug use: Rolled-up dollar bills, CD cases with scratches, pens with the ink removed, Ziploc bags, pill bottles and credit cards or licenses lying around can be signs.

Heroin use: Bent paper clips, small cotton balls, looped belts, cellophane wrappers, needles, alcohol wipes


If you go

What: Wake Up Call: A life-size exhibit of a teenager’s bedroom and guided tour

When: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 14, 15, 21 and 22; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 14 and 22; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 23

Where: Louis Kaiser Law Office, 138 North Ave., Hartland

Fighting heroin overdoses
Schimel discusses making treatment more affordable and attainable
By Karen Pilarski - Freeman Staff
March 26, 2016

MADISON — A grant was recently announced which will eventually provide staff at K-12 schools the ability to access Narcan, which is used as an antidote for heroin overdoses.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said Thursday there need to be modifications to the law that permits teachers to administer Narcan. Currently it would be limited to nurses at the schools.

Most commonly, it is administered as a nasal spray by law enforcement or intravenously by EMT paramedics or doctors.

“We should make it more available where there is potential for an overdose,” Schimel said.

Although Schimel doesn’t think students will overdose while at school, he said there are people who live on campus or around the schools who use drugs.

Benefiting budgets

On Wednesday, Schimel announced an agreement between Amphastar Pharmaceuticals and Wisconsin public entities. The agreement states that a $6 rebate will be given per every Narcan syringe a public entity buys through Feb. 2017.

Schimel said the agreement benefits fire departments and ambulance services who utilize the injectable form of Narcan; however, law enforcement personnel who are trained as EMTs can possibly qualify for the rebate.

“We are working to try to find an agreement for the nasally administered Narcan to cover law enforcement,” Schimel told The Freeman on Thursday.

He pointed out there are so many administrations of Narcan in Wisconsin, it is starting to affect budgets of fire departments and ambulance services. “A decade ago no one would have predicted we would be in this situation,” Schimel said.

Schimel said in 2012, there were 5,000 Narcan administrations in the state, and the numbers have been climbing ever since.

In terms of budgeting, the cost of Narcan is not cheap. Schimel said the injections cost $33 a dose and some people need more than one dose. The nasal administered drug costs about $38 per dose.

“No one is suggesting not to pay for it — it saves lives,” Schimel said.

He said it has started to become a big budget issue as public entities are using it more frequently.

The current agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals is until Feb. 1, 2017 but Schimel expects in a year they will have do something such as extending the agreement or making other arrangements.

“There will not be a resolution to the opiate problem by then,” he said.

Schimel hopes to look into whether a prescription for Narcan is necessary. Narcan is not harmful to individuals and no one can get high from it.

A Wisconsin immunity law was recently passed that said if someone brings a person out of an overdose, that someone would be immune from criminal or civil liability.

Changing the status quo on medicine dispensing

Schimel said the medical communities are working hard to address prescribing issues to reduce prescription scripts for narcotic pain medicine. The medical community is also changing the conversation with patients to provide a better understanding of what these drugs are.

The Wisconsin Medical Examining Board is working to develop new rules and guidelines for prescribing narcotic pain medicine. Schimel said he is very pleased with how Wisconsin has come together to combat the drug issue.

Breaking the chain of addiction

Schimel wants to remind people that 4 out of 5 heroin users started out with a prescription narcotic.

“About 70 percent of those who start, first get the drugs by getting them from a family member or a friend improperly,” he said.

He urges people to only use narcotic pain medicine as prescribed. Another tip is to store the medicine securely and get rid of excess medicine safely.

“This will help knock out a huge part of the issue. The painkillers are the gateway drug,” Schimel said.

He added this will help get rid of the demand for heroin in the state.

He has a message to people who are addicted to drugs — there is hope. Schimel said people need to stop thinking drug addiction is something to be ashamed of; it is a disease.

While people do make the choice to use opiates, the usage is not as simple as just trying to get high. Many people face difficulty ceasing pain medicine use after surgery or a medical procedure. It hits all communities and every walk of life. Schimel said we each have a role to play in taking on the epidemic of abusing prescription opiates.

Eagle police trained in Narcan use

The village of Eagle completed Narcan administration training on Monday with its police department. Eagle Police Department Captain Steve Lesniewski said the training took three hours to complete. The training had a PowerPoint presentation and multiple stations set up for practice assessments. There were extra hospital staff members on scene to help educate officers about what to look for in an overdose situation.

The police department is waiting for the Narcan kits to arrive. Lesniewski, who teaches in the police academy at Waukesha County Technical College, remembered officers being trained on using automated external defibrillators. “Narcan is like AED, it is an extra tool to use,” he said.

Lesniewski said Narcan is easy to use and works fast within minutes. He added every minute counts.

“We can’t save everyone, but at least this gives the person a chance,” he said.


Schimel: Drug company sets up heroin overdose antidote rebates
Associated Press
March 24, 2016

MADISON — A pharmaceutical company has agreed to provide rebates to public entities in Wisconsin that purchase the heroin overdose antidote Narcan.

Attorney General Brad Schimel announced the deal on Wednesday. The agreement calls for Amphastar Pharmaceuticals to provide a $6 rebate for every Narcan syringe public entities purchase from the company through Feb. 1, 2017. State, county and local government agencies as well as law enforcement and other government entities that distribute Narcan will be eligible for the rebate. “Heroin and prescription narcotic painkillers are contributing to more deaths in Wisconsin each year than car crashes,” said Schimel in a news release. “The Wisconsin Department of Justice is doing, and will continue to do, everything it can to make access to (Narcan) as easy and cheap as possible.” Schimel said in a news release that Amphastar has reached similar agreements with other states, including Ohio and New York.

Patrick Ryan, president of the Professional Ambulance Association of Wisconsin, said in the release that the deal should help build emergency responders’ Narcan supplies. The WDOJ is exploring rebates with other manufacturers of Narcan, according to the release.

Walker signs anti-heroin bills in Oconomowoc
Laws are latest measures in opioid addiction fight
By Ryan Billingham - Freeman Staff
March 18, 2016

OCONOMOWOC — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed two bills into law Thursday at ProHealth Care’s Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital as part of a heroin addiction prevention tour.

The two bills, Assembly Bill 365 and Assembly Bill 660, were among eight the governor signed at health facilities around the state.

Gov. Scott Walker holds a newly-signed bill to help combat opioid addiction at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital on Thursday
 Eric Oliver/Freeman Staff

Citing grim statistics concerning a rapidly worsening opioid addiction crisis, Walker said new legislation he signed during the Heroin Opioid Prevention and Education tour will increase communication between law enforcement, the medical community and substance abuse counselors, as well as establish guidelines for prescribing opioid pain medication.

“We need to address this everywhere it rises up in our state,” Walker said. “Community by community, county by county, region by region — and hopefully inspire a few other states to take notice of what we’re doing as well.”

State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, whose daughter has struggled with opioid addiction, has been at the forefront of the HOPE agenda.

Assembly Bill 365 requires law enforcement agents to report to their agency the name and birth date of any individual suspected of prescription drug violation, theft, overdose, or death.

Assembly Bill 660 allows the Medical Examining Board, the Podiatry Affiliated Credentialing Board, the Board of Nursing, the Dentistry Examining Board, and the Optometry Examining Board to issue guidelines regarding best practices in prescribing controlled substances for persons credentialed by the board who are authorized to prescribe them.

Nygren authored both bills and attended the tour stops. He spoke about his personal experience and encouraged increased awareness of the problem.

”Prescription drug abuse and addiction knows no boundaries; everyone in our country knows someone who is affected, regardless of their background,” he said. “I’m proud that Wisconsin is leading the way in fighting this devastating problem.”

State Rep. John Nygren speaks at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital about the bill to help combat opioid addiction that he co-authored. 
 Eric Oliver/Freeman Staff

Oconomowoc resident Lauri Badura lost her son, Archie, to an overdose in May 2014. She said the new legislation is “a huge step.”

Badura has become an outspoken champion of the anti-heroin/opioid movement. She said it is important to combat the stigma of addiction.

“I believe addiction is a brain disorder and a mental illness,” Badura said. ”And I believe as a state we need to look at treating addiction as a long-term illness similar to diabetes.”

Steve Kulick, chief medical officer at ProHealth Care, introduced Nygren and Walker. He said addiction is becoming so prevalent that most people now know someone affected by what he called the “opioid epidemic.”

He acknowledged the work of the Waukesha County Heroin Task Force, a local coalition comprised of representatives from government, law enforcement, education, health care, community organizations, and business groups, and expressed hope the new legislation will be an important piece of the solution to the opioid problem.


Ron Johnson: Nephew died from heroin overdose
Senator calls for public education about the dangers of opiates
By Karen Pilarski - Freeman Staff
March 15, 2016

WAUKESHA — The war on drugs hit home for Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson; his nephew died of a heroin overdose within the past two months. He briefly discussed the personal tragedy during a teleconference on Monday. “It began with a sports-related injury, an opiate addiction transferring into heroin which resulted in his death,” he said. Johnson declined to elaborate on specifics due to his family’s privacy. His message was no one is immune to drug addiction; it affects everyone.

Johnson said the drug problem is not only a community problem but effects national security. He said the root of the issue is an unsecure border and how easy it is for Americans to buy and access drugs. Johnson said they held 14 hearings on border security, only to conclude a close link between drug trafficking and the southern border not being secure.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said the opiate epidemic in Wisconsin is his number one priority as attorney general. He is thrilled at the U.S. Senate’s recent passing of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The bill would create more federal grants to fight opioid abuse, expand treatment programs and provide training to first-responders on how to administer heroin overdose antidotes such as Narcan.

Schimel commended the unanimity in the legislature on the topic of the opiate problem, treatment, law enforcement, prevention, education and all the crucial parts in combating it. Schimel said Wisconsin is eligible for grant opportunities, the bill would create more federal grants to fight opioid abuse and increase treatment programs.

Schimel said drugs are spiking the number of different crimes in Wisconsin and changing the main cause of death. “Going back to 2014 data for Wisconsin, drug overdose deaths were neck and neck with falls,” he said. He anticipates the 2015 data will show drug overdoses as the new leading cause of death in Wisconsin.

Johnson said it was vitally important for the press to continue covering drug related tragedies in the community and world. “The first part of the solution is public education,” said Johnson. He discussed the passing of former first lady Nancy Reagan and her “Just say no” anti-drug campaign decades ago. Johnson said her campaign proved successful at lowering drug use in America. He wants to convey the message to young people that drugs are not glamorous by highlighting the broken lives and families due to drug abuse.

“We have only begun to grapple with this incredibly complex problem. This bill is an important bipartisan step,” Johnson said.


‘It’s never too late’ to battle addiction
Speakers at Starting Point breakfast bring different backgrounds to same crisis
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
March 7, 2016

THIENSVILLE — Given the effects that drugs and alcohol addiction can have on a society, it can’t just be swept under the rug forever, according to Isabella Scaffidi of Homestead High School.

She was one of several guest speakers at Starting Point of Ozaukee’s breakfast benefit Friday at The Watermark at Shully’s. Dedicated to making communities stronger by providing substance abuse prevention and intervention resources, Starting Point brought people from all over Ozaukee County together to discuss why it is important to help those who battle addiction. Each speaker addressed the issue from their own experiences.

 Miss Wisconsin, Rosalie Smith, left, and Homestead High School student Isabella Scaffidi were two of the speakers Friday at the Starting Point of Ozaukee breakfast, whose theme was “Empower Our Youth.”
Photos by Melanie Boyung

Rosalie Smith: Miss Wisconsin 2015, Smith spoke at the breakfast about Colin’s Crusade, the story of her brother that led to her Miss Wisconsin platform helping those who suffer addiction to fight back. Smith’s older brother battled addiction alone, without anyone ever suspecting that he had a problem with alcohol, until his family came to help him move and found a closet filled with empty bottles he had forgotten to hide.

“Many people do reach out for help, and they still relapse … you wonder is it even worth it. I believe with all my heart that it is always worth it,” Smith said.

Smith said Colin was a very high-functioning alcoholic, and had always appeared very happy. Colin got help when his addiction was no longer a secret, joined the Teen Challenge program and was clean for 18 months. Smith said he died shortly after he relapsed, but she does not see a failure in it. When she looks back on her brother, she sees someone who won, because he fought his addiction.

“You can receive help (against addiction), and it’s never too late,” she said.

State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette: In the past two years alone, Nygren has been involved with 17 Legislature bills connected to drug use and abuse, all of which passed. One of the bills grants immunity to people who call 911 during an overdose, to avoid situations where people leave those in trouble without help because they are afraid of being arrested themselves.

Nygren said it happened to his own daughter, who was left by her friends when she overdosed and was found by her mother.

“That was my stopping point,” Nygren said.

Nygren’s daughter survived, and when she was incarcerated on drug charges afterward, he told her there were a lot of people like her, young people, people from good families and homes, and for whom he needed to do something. Nygren began his work on drug-related matters. “Honestly, as legislators, we bring our own experience,” he said.

Another of Nygren’s bills established the system under which pharmacies have to report when and to whom they dispense certain classifications of drugs. He said it was designed to prevent people from “doctor-shopping” to get multiple prescriptions. He said only an estimated 14 percent of doctors have been using the database. He said the system will be improved and made more efficient in the near future.

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol: Gerol told the people collected at Starting Point's breakfast that he was the one who prosecuted drug-related crimes in the county. He had met the addicts, their parents, their dealers; he currently has three Len Bias cases pending in Ozaukee County. They are cases involving those who who deliver drugs that lead to an overdose death. He also shared statistics that show more than 80 percent of felonies prosecuted in Ozaukee County over the last several years were somehow related to drugs.

“An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,” Gerol said.

Gerol also spoke to the parents in the audience. He told them they should never let up on making sure their children are safe. They should communicate with their children's friends’ parents, check their children’s phones and rooms if they’re worried or suspect something is wrong and let their children know about it. He said a parent should use vigilance against drugs to provide their kids an out to the peer pressures surrounding substance use, quoting Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify,” and applied it to his own children as well, two 13-year-old girls.

“I'm trying to give my kids the gift of being able to say, ‘No, my dad is crazy’” he said.

Isabella Scaffidi, Starting Point Champion at HHS: Scaffidi talked about a friend of hers who used drugs. She did not go into too many details, because she said it wasn’t the story of addiction she believed was so important, as the story of recovery.

She said her friend’s life entered a pattern “abuse, isolation and inevitable destruction.” Even so, once the friend got help, she was able to put her life back together. When Scaffidi saw her again, after months of separation during the treatment, all they felt was joy.

“No one should ever feel like they deserve to be abused, no one should ever feel they don’t deserve to be loved,” she said.

The breakfast also included a silent auction to raise money for Starting Point, which runs prevention and intervention resources like Champions, a program in which area high schoolers commit to living substance-free and mentor younger students, to which Scaffidi belongs.

Melanie Boyung can be reached at

The fight against prescription drug abuse
Schimel describes Dose of Reality campaign at school symposium event
By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman
Feb. 15, 2016

WAUKESHA — Former Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel returned to his old stomping grounds Friday as he discussed a new statewide campaign concerning the dangers of misused prescription drugs at a school symposium.

Schimel, who in November 2014 was elected Wisconsin’s attorney general, spoke about the growing danger surrounding prescription drugs in today’s youth culture during the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools’ annual leadership conference at the Country Springs Hotel.

Last fall, Schimel’s office helped spearhead a campaign, A Dose of Reality, aimed at spreading the word about the dangers of prescription painkiller abuse. The campaign includes a comprehensive website,, and a series of TV spots.

“This is a problem that is affecting every community in our state,” said Schimel, who was one of about a half-dozen panelists at the council’s daylong conf erence. “This is not a pleasant conversation to have because it’s very frightening.”

The AG shed light on so-called Pharm Parties — a growing activity within the high school-aged population. Youths raid their parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinets and place the contents into a bowl. Party attendees take the drugs, unaware of their specific contents.

“There’s this thinking that (prescription drugs) are less harmful than marijuana or cocaine, but it’s not true,” Schimel said. “There are a higher number of deaths from prescription drugs, especially painkillers.”

Schimel called on attendees to spread the word about the rising misuse of prescription drugs in schools.

The Dose of Reality program, he said, also provides safe, secure drop-off sites for unwanted prescription medications.

“Take them, and get rid of them now if you no longer need them,” Schimel said. “Don’t wait another day. If you need them, lock them up.”

Increased misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers and other medications is a concern in and of itself, Schimel said, but there’s another reason to be proactive about the issue. Recent statistics have revealed four in every five users of heroin started their addictive path by abusing prescription medications.

Heroin’s rising use has been well chronicled in recent years, and various officials — from sworn law enforcement officers to hospital staffers — have noted its availability has spread to affluent, suburban areas, including Waukesha County.

Schimel attempted to dispel the myth the abuse of prescription drugs and heroin is relegated to so-called bad kids. He readily recounted incidents involving high-achieving students who did not live to graduate from high school because of drugs.

“We need to put that aside,” Schimel said of the student stereotyping. “I’ve yet to meet a parent who thinks their kid was bad when they got involved in this. A lot of these kids are athletes.”

Drawing from his own professional background, Schimel said he believed efforts to reverse the drug abuse trend extends beyond a strictly law-andorder approach.

“We will not arrest our way out of this problem,” he said. “The only way this is going to work is if we have preventative efforts. We can’t treat prescriptions like a loaded handgun and just leave them lying around in the house.”

A main line problem
Looking at the numbers behind heroin use in 2015
Dec. 31, 2015

As 2015 turns into a new year, problems persist with the dangers of heroin use in the county.

“We’ve been able to do a lot in 2015 about raising the awareness that there is a heroin problem in Washington County, but I don’t think heroin will be going away anytime soon,” said Mary Simon, executive director for Elevate Community Resource Center in Jackson. “Making people aware that there is a problem is the first step to getting them to do something about it,” Simon said.

The Washington County Task Force had a particularly busy year, Simon said.

“The task force worked with the West Bend School District as part of an educational program and through the support of the United Way, were able to publish the Opiate and Heroin Awareness Toolkit, a prevention guideline for families,” she said.

Heroin has also kept the West Bend Police Department busy in 2015, according to to Capt. Tim Dehring.

“We had three homicides related to heroin overdoses this year,” Dehring said. “A heroin overdose death can be charged as a homicide if we find the person or people that supplied the heroin or who had a connection with obtaining it for the person who died.

“We are being very aggressive in going after those involved in these deaths, like the dealers,” Dehring said. “If that’s what it’s going to take to get heroin off the streets, then so be it.”

When asked how many heroin overdoses there were so far in 2015 that did not end in death, Dehring paused.

“Countless,” he said.

“We aren’t seeing as many deaths from overdoses because Narcan can be administered to counteract the heroin,” he added.

Narcan can be obtained for free and Dehring said he’s heard of cases where dealers were giving it out with the heroin they were selling.

“We are hearing that addicts are carrying their own Narcan,” Dehring said.

Entering the final day of 2015, the West Bend Police Department has conducted 277 drug investigations. That number does not include investigating other crimes that often are the direct result of heroin use, such as thefts and burglaries, Dehring said.

And if the numbers of the past point to a trend for the future, those numbers will continue to rise.

“In 2012, there were 170 drug investigations. In 2013, we did 214 and in 2014, we hit a spike at 288. As the year ends, we are likely going to be close to that number,” Dehring said.

Both Simon and Dehring agreed that educating children, even as young as middle school age, about the dangers of addictions may help curb all those statistics.

“No one ever wakes up one morning and decides to become a heroin addict,” Dehring said. “It usually starts with something else and escalates.”

According to information in the Opiate and Heroin Awareness Toolkit, 8.5 percent of 10th grade students in Washington County reported abusing prescription drugs in a survey conducted in 2014. Dehring echoed Simon in saying that heroin will continue to be an issue in 2016, “not only in our community, but in the state and the nation."

Drug Prevention Guide available
Coupon for free home-testing kit provided
News Graphic Staff
Dec. 17, 2015

OZAUKEE COUNTY — A drug prevention guide for families is available for download on the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force website. More than 6.5 million people 12 and older are reported to have abused drugs last month alone and every day, 4,047 children and young adults start experimenting with prescription drugs.

The 28-page Prevention Awareness Toolkit provides local stories and experiences, the names of commonly abused prescription medications, health consequences of prescription medications, what to do if a family member is suspected of using drugs, how to recognize a relapse and much more. A parents’ guide is also available for families to review. The download also provides a coupon for a free home drug testing kit.

To download the guide, go to

Musicians Against Heroin returns
Band promoting sober musicians to perform at Cultural Center Sunday
By Colleen Jurkiewicz - News Graphic Correspondent
Dec. 15, 2015

CEDARBURG — After a successful debut concert series last fall, the M.A.H. Redemption Band will once again take the stage, this time for a holiday concert at the Cedarburg Cultural Center Sunday.

M.A.H. stands for Musicians Against Heroin, and the group is composed of founder Jim Bohn, Tim Dotson, Tammy Leonard, Kevin Gierach and Mark Melchiori and features the singing of Noelle Braun.

“Every band member has had either a family member or friend touched by this,” Bohn said. “They’ve got an emotional stake in this.”

This will be the band’s fourth concert since last year, when Bohn founded the group to draw attention to the number of clean and sober professional musicians in Ozaukee County, even as the area battles what many have called a heroin and opiate abuse epidemic.

“Let’s face it; everybody wants to be a rock star,” said Bohn. “I think if (people) see that there are really significantly talented people who have put a lot into their craft who can do this and have a great time without the influence of anything except their own personal passion, I think that does mean something to the community. We’re having a blast and we’re focused and we’re enjoying it, but nobody up here is under the influence of anything except our own talent.”

The holiday concert runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the setlist will feature a strong showing of favorites like “Ave Maria” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” as well as Bohn’s original arrangements of some classic Christmas carols like “What Child is This.”

Admission is free but donations are accepted and all proceeds will go to support safe and sober living in Ozaukee County; Bohn sits on the board of Starting Point, which is leading the charge to establish the county’s first sober housing unit.

The M.A.H. Redemption Band has big plans for 2016 as well; Bohn said he is already putting together a “Nashville Circle” featuring local songwriters in the spring as well as a byinvitation M.A.H jam in the summer.

“I think overall it’s just a nice way to remind the community of a very serious matter,” he said. “These events are fun and non-threatening; we spend maybe just a few minutes on the issue. It all goes back to my simple tagline, which is music can be part of the solution.”

For more information on the holiday concert, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Attorney general backs sober housing

By Colleen Jurkiewicz - News Graphic Correspondent
Nov. 24, 2015

CEDARBURG — The prospect of establishing sober housing in Ozaukee County took center stage at a breakfast held Friday at the Cedarburg Cultural Center.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol were two of the speakers on the agenda for the Breakfast to Support Sober Housing, hosted by Starting Point, which is spearheading the effort to establish the county’s first sober living facility in Saukville.

Starting Point executive director Shea Halula thanked the Ozaukee County Board, which in June unanimously approved a five-year, zero-percent interest loan of $150,000 in support of the project.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol discuss plans for Healing House, a proposed sober-living facility in Saukville during a Nov. 20 breakfast meeting in Cedarburg. 
 Submitted photo

He called it an important “first step” in the process. Starting Point has used the money to purchase a four-bedroom home in Saukville that they hope to open in January.

In his remarks, Schimel praised the initiative, emphasizing the need for sober housing in Wisconsin communities as part of a “multifaceted approach” to combat what he called Wisconsin’s “opiate epidemic.”

“From 2000 to 2013, opiate overdose deaths increased by 495 percent in Wisconsin,” he said. “We’ve watched this devastation grow; they (the statistics) are still climbing. As a matter of fact, drug overdose deaths now exceed motor vehicle traffic deaths by quite a bit now.”

A sober living facility would be “absolutely critical” to the rehabilitation of Ozaukee County drug abusers, he said.

“We can’t have people confined somewhere in treatment or in jail, and then leave them no place to go, because what we should expect to happen is that they will fall right back into the struggles that they faced, that we thought we did something to help them with,” he said. “We have got to work with people all the way through the course of the process.”

He said that his eight years as the Waukesha County district attorney taught him that “locking up abusers doesn’t lead to long-term sobriety.”

“You can’t arrest your way out of a public health crisis,” he said. Though law enforcement, prevention and treatment are all essential elements of the battle against widespread opiate abuse, “treatment is absolutely critical,” he said.

“When you’re talking about the treatment resources, that’s the smallest part of the funnel, and it’s all jammed up right now. We’re doing our best but it’s going to be very difficult for us to get caught up,” he said. “And it’s not even just about money – we just don’t even have enough professionals who are trained to help people with addiction in this state.

“We’ve got a long way to go before we can do that. We’ve got to address the wide part of the funnel: we have got to stop shoving more through the narrow part. We’ve got to prevent new people from coming into this, and it’s going to take all of us working together to get this done.”

In his address, Gerol took a passionate stance in support of the proposed sober living facility, noting that there have been 11 opiate deaths in Ozaukee County so far this year. Locking up drug addicts, charging them and then releasing them back on the streets into the same environment that precipitated their addiction, he said, has proven to be an ineffective way of addressing the issue.

“It’s like the classic siren song out of the Greek myth. Something that’s simply irresistible,” he said of the temptations that drug addicts contend with when they are reintegrated into their old social circles. “And addicts simply can’t pass that by, and it’s a lure that draws them into addiction, to death, to destruction...

“We really can’t complain about catching the same old fish when we just throw them back into the same pot,” he said. “And that’s what we’re doing so often in Ozaukee County ... I get no satisfaction from seeing somebody go to jail or prison. It’s a loss. It’s necessary but it’s a loss.

“By my count we have 216 sober living homes in Wisconsin. We have none in Ozaukee County. ... Shea will tell you that he’s already getting pushback about it from members of the community because they don’t want it in their backyard, and there are going to be very tense, very meaningful hearings before various Saukville boards before this thing gets a chance to get off the ground. And that’s a shame. That is an incredible shame. It’s also silly because the users, the addicts, are here already. Why wouldn’t you simply allow them to live together when they’ve all made a commitment to sobriety?"

Plans for house off to ‘a great start’

Upon approval of their $150,000 loan to Starting Point in June, the Ozaukee County Board noted that “recidivism rates are exceptionally high among once incarcerated substance abusers, estimated at 60 to 80 percent after release.”

Starting Point is hoping to expand upon Fond du Lac’s Freedom House model, which has maintained a 94 percent occupancy rate since its inception in 2008.

The initial house on Dekora Street in Saukville, to be known as Healing Point House, is approximately 1,500 square feet, four bedrooms and would be open to men residents only.

“However, that’s kind of just a Band-Aid on the problem. One house is not going to do it,” Halula said at the breakfast.

Healing Point House would offer four beds and a housing manager or senior resident who would enforce house policies. Residents would have to sign a contract, follow rules, work or attend school, contribute to the home through chores, maintain absolute sobriety, curfews and be subject to random drug testing.

In an email to the News Graphic, Halula expressed enthusiasm at the turnout for Friday’s program and optimism about Healing Point House’s future.

“I was delighted by the number of passionate supporters who attended the informative breakfast on sober housing. This is a great start as we kick-off to raise funds to support this vital piece for our community members in need,” he wrote. “As we move forward with our first place in working with the village of Saukville, I am excited from the number of people coming forward and helping. However, we need more help in spreading the word on what (a) sober house is and (is) not as well as donors to help us help those in need.”

Heroin abuse hits close to home

8th-grader recently tests positive
Nov. 4, 2015

The results of a drug test shocked even seasoned counselors at Elevate, a community resource center in Jackson — a Washington County eighth-grader recently tested positive for heroin use.

“We even asked the lab if that test result was correct, because we just couldn’t believe it,” Mary Simon, Elevate Executive Director said Tuesday afternoon.

“We were all shocked,” Ronna Corliss, county prevention coordinator for Elevate said. “I just wanted to cry. That is just so sad.”

Hermila Castaneda of Kewaskum looks at drug paraphernalia Tuesday at the Washington County Sheriff’s table during the opiate awareness resource fair at the Silver Linings Arts Center in West Bend. 
 John Ehlke/Daily News

Simon said the discovery of the youngster using heroin came about because of a new type of drug test in which fingernail clippings are submitted for testing for alcohol and/or drugs.

“The test is much less invasive than having a urine test,” Simon said.

The eighth-grader was referred to a program introduced in March called Youth Intervention, and taking the test for alcohol and/or drugs was required.

“Kids tend to not necessarily be honest about using alcohol or drugs,” Corliss said of why the test is mandatory for program participation.

Young people are referred to the program for a variety of reasons, not just alcohol or drugs, but also for issues like truancy and minor law violations, Simon said.

“With our Youth Intervention Program, it’s our hope to catch these kids before they’ve made too many bad decisions or their addictions have taken root,” Simon said.

Drug paraphernalia is on display during the opiate awareness resource fair at the Silver Linings Arts Center Tuesday night in West Bend. 
 John Ehlke/Daily News

Ron Naab, a Washington County supervisor and member of the Washington County Heroin Task Force, who attended the opiate awareness resource fair and presentation Tuesday night at the Silver Lining Arts Center at the West Bend high schools, said he was pleased to see how many people turned out for the event.

“It makes me feel good to see people taking the time to become informed about this terrible issue,” said Naab, who has a family member battling addiction.

And it is an issue in Washington County, Naab said.

“People seem to think that things like heroin aren’t happening here, but it is here and we have the resources available in the county to be of help for the person addicted and their family,” said Corliss, who was manning a table at the Resource Fair.

Heroin and opiate addictions are of such concern that at the Resource Fair, Corliss was handing out copies of a new publication sponsored by Elevate, United Way of Washington County and the Washington County Heroin Task Force titled “Opiate & Heroin Awareness Toolkit — A Prevention Guide for Families.”

Jessie Geschke of Affiliated Clinical Services looks over paperwork near displays of artwork during the opiate awareness resource fair at the Silver Linings Arts Center Tuesday night in West Bend.  
 John Ehlke/Daily News

“It’s important that people start to realize the connection between abusing prescription medications and heroin,” Corliss said.

The 34-page booklet, along with local stories of people whose lives have been impacted by such abuse, includes many facts and statistics.

“The average age of a heroin addict is 36.2 years old,” Corliss said. “The booklet also gives a list, along with photos, of what parents should look for if they suspect heroin or opiate abuse.”

“Many heroin addictions start with abusing pain medications,” Corliss said.

The last several pages detail treatment options and resources available in Washington County, Corliss said.

Sandy Danvers, who attended the Resource Fair and was glancing through a copy of the booklet, said although she did not have children of her own, she was concerned with her nieces and nephews when it comes to having to navigate through their teen years.

“I am so worried about drugs in our community,” Danvers said. “I”m glad to see there are others who are concerned, too. I’m also relieved to see there are support groups and other community resources for families.”

For more information about opiate and heroin addictions or for a copy of the booklet, contact Elevate at 262-677-2216.

Reach reporter Linda McAlpine at

Parents key in drug fight

‘Playgrounds to Pills’ stresses importance of parents in prevention
By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff
Oct. 1, 2015

The “In My Shoes” art exhibit is a traveling exhibit sponsored by Rosecrance featuring shoes decorated by children to help parents understand teenagers’ thoughts on pressures they encounter to use in their daily lives.  
Eric Oliver/Enterprise Staff

OCONOMOWOC — The fourth installment of the Stairway to Heroin series, “Playgrounds to Pills,” featured a variety of speakers all emphasizing the importance of parents taking an active role in a child’s life.

Tuesday’s presentation at the Oconomowoc Arts Center featured a resource fair followed by a eight speakers each talking about a different aspect related to opiate use and abuse.

Brian Fidlin, a nationally known psychologist, had the longest presentation of the night. He spoke about the brain and how it works under stress. He urged parents and children in attendance to do their best to look at the level of stress in their lives and assess what they can do to lower it.

Excessive and sustained amounts of stress often lead to struggles alcohol and narcotics. The drugs take away the stress of the moment, but they do nothing to actually alleviate it, he said.

“Most of our kids are pushing themselves so incredibly hard that they’re burnt out,” Fidlin said. “You need to think about how much stress you want your kid functioning at.”

Brian Fidlin speaking in front of his presentation on seratonin and stress Tuesday as part of his presentation for “Playground to Pills,” the fourth installment in the Stairway to Heroin series.  
Eric Oliver/Enterprise Staff

Fidlin stressed the importance of a parent being there for their child.

“I’m going to make sure they have me,” Fidlin said. “I’m going to be around for them.”

At the end of his presentation, Fidlin talked about the importance of people coming together to share what they’re struggling with because they’d find they aren’t alone.

“I challenge any of you to start putting out there the reality of who you really are,” Fidlin said. “Because what you’re going to find is you’re not alone.”

Schimel delivers Dose of Reality

State Attorney General and former Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel was on hand to give the opening remarks of the night and to talk about his recently launched Dose of Reality campaign.

“This campaign may be one of the most important things I do as attorney general because if we do this right we save lives,” Schimel said.

People gathered in the lobby of the Oconomowoc Arts Center at the resource fair that was held before the presentation.  
Eric Oliver/Enterprise Staff

The campaign features television and radio spots, social media activity and advertising to inform residents about the improper use of prescription painkillers, highlight the dangers of inadequate storage and disposal, address issues specific to medical providers, parents, students and young adults, and encourage positive actions.

Schimel frequently mentioned the campaign is one of numerous steps his office is taking to combat the growing drug problem in Lake Country.

The notion that only the bad kids do drugs is something Schimel said needs to be addressed “I have met hundreds of parents now who have buried their children due to opiate overdose and not any of them thought their child was a bad kid,” Schimel said. “We can’t hide behind the myth that this just happens in the urban city. This is happening in every community.”

The Dose of Reality campaign is so important because prescription painkiller abuse shows a direct connection to abusing opiates, Schimel said. If communities shut down prescription pill abuse they start to shut down heroin.

Other takeaways

Kettle Moraine counselor Alissa Darin quoted a statistic that said 80 percent of students don’t use alcohol because they care about their parents’ perceptions of them. She said parents have to make themselves as involved in their child’s life as possible and know who children hang out with to prevent use by association.

“Adolescents that have a close relationship with their parents are less likely to use drugs or alcohol,” Darin said.

Tom Wright, chief medical officer for Rosecrance Health Network, told the story of how his foster son ended up in his protection, listed numerous statistics on opiate use and various ways to treat addiction.

Lisa Dawes and Scott Bakkum briefly touched on the Oconomowoc Area School District’s random drug testing policy, saying the policy was brought forward by the students, and that it was the students that suggested the testing start in seventh grade.


Stopping an overdose in its tracks
Anti-overdose drug to be available without prescriptions at Wisconsin CVS pharmacies
By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff
Sept. 29, 2015

OZAUKEE COUNTY — An anti-overdose drug that reverses the effect of narcotics will soon be available in Ozaukee County without a prescription.

CVS Pharmacy announced last week that it will be expanding over-the-counter availability of naloxone, also called Narcan. According to a press release from CVS, Wisconsin is one of 12 states in which the drug will be made available this month.

CVS has already been able to order and supply the drug with a prescription; the new, over-the-counter supply will allow narcotics users or family members to have the medication on-hand without a prescription. According to information from CVS, expanding naloxone availability is just one part of a larger initiative.

“Over 44,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses every year in the United States and most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medications and illegal drugs such as heroin. Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by providing access to this medication in our pharmacies without a prescription in more states, we can help save lives,” Tom Davis, vice president of pharmacy professional practices at CVS said in the press release. “While all 7,800 CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide can continue to order and dispense naloxone when a prescription is presented, we support expanding naloxone availability without a prescription and are reviewing opportunities to do so in other states.”

Locally, the CVS in Cedarburg did not have naloxone in stock Monday, but can order and receive it if needed. Mike DeAngelis, public relations director of CVS, said that it is not typical for a CVS pharmacy to keep naloxone in stock. If it is needed, the pharmacy can order it for a patient and generally have the medication within one business day to dispense at the pharmacy counter.

Deputies in the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office have been trained to administer Narcan in cases of overdose, and they carry the drug during their duties, according to Sheriff Jim Johnson. He said that sheriff’s deputies

have not needed to administer it yet, but their training was run by Aurora Medical Center personnel, and a medical doctor runs the program.

“I believe that the safest way to deliver Narcan is by trained personnel under the direction of a medical professional,” Johnson said.

Officers of local police departments throughout Ozaukee County have been training in the use of Narcan as well, and the overdose antidote is carried by police personnel. EMTs in Cedarburg and several other communities in the county have administered the drug.

One concern about such availability of naloxone is knowledge. While police officers and deputies go through training before carrying or using naloxone, being able to obtain it without prescription could allow people to have it – and use it – without any preparation.

“The main thing is, is there going to be any education with this?” said Shea Halula, director of Starting Point of Ozaukee. Halula added that if there is not education involved, it would be an unfortunate missed opportunity.

While over-the-counter availability of naloxone will mean that people will be able to access and use it without training or medical expertise, the goal of CVS’s program is to increase resources for potential drug overdoses. Information from CVS said naloxone is a safe and effective means of reversing overdose effects; Johnson said that county deputies are trained to administer small doses nasally, to avoid dramatic reversal symptoms.

Kirsten Johnson, director of health services for Ozaukee County, cited the importance of naloxone in limiting overdose deaths in the community.

“I think accessibility to naloxone is an important harm-reduction strategy,” she said. The other states where CVS is expanding access to naloxone are Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. The drug has already been available at CVS pharmacies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts without a prescription.

According to news accounts, Walgreens has made the drug available at its stores in Cincinnati.

Melanie Boyung can be reached at

Stairway to Heroin events complimented by county-wide campaign

By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff
Sept. 24, 2015

OCONOMOWOC — The Oconomowoc Parents Education Network’s fourth installment in the Stairway to Heroin series will emphasize the influence parents have on a child’s decision to not use drugs.

“Playgrounds to Pills: Prevention Begins with Parents” will be from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Oconomowoc Arts Center, 641 E. Forest St., with a resource fair in the OAC lobby from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“Since healthy habits are formed at a young age, it is never too early to lay the foundation for a drug-free lifestyle,” OPEN Coordinator Katie Westerman said.

Westerman said the program will feature:

Techniques to teach resiliency and refusal skills at an early age,

Childhood brain development and its impact on decision-making skills,

Parenting strategies that make a difference: monitoring, having difficult conversations and setting boundaries, and

A review of the Oconomowoc Area School District random drug testing policy.

‘Dose of Reality’

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced a new public information and awareness campaign last week aimed at preventing abuse of prescription painkillers.

The “Dose of Reality” campaign will feature television and radio spots, social media activity and advertising to inform residents about the improper use of prescription painkillers, highlight the dangers of inadequate storage and disposal, address issues specific to medical providers, parents, students and young adults, and encourage positive actions.

“The epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse is taking an enormous toll on our children, our families and our community,” Schimel said in a video on the campaign’s website. “None of us as parents would leave a loaded handgun on the kitchen counter, and yet very few of us think twice about leaving prescription painkillers sitting in our medicine cabinets unsecured, and those prescription painkillers are killing a lot more people than handguns.”

The campaign launch comes a month ahead of the Department of Justice’s Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 17.

While medical experts and law enforcement officials have drawn a connection between painkiller abuse and heroin use, Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades said 45 percent of the state’s 843 drug overdose deaths in 2013 were caused by opioid painkillers.

Schimel’s office stressed the campaign is “not designed to vilify prescription painkillers nor those who prescribe them, but to raise awareness that when used or stored improperly, they can be dangerous or even deadly. Prescription painkillers can be beneficial when properly prescribed by a licensed medical or dental professional, properly used as directed, stored securely and disposed of properly.”

The Wisconsin Medical Society was quick to praise the effort. The organization’s president, Dr. Jerry Halverson, said: “Too often in circumstances like these, it’s easy to think it’s someone else’s problem.”

“This epidemic affects people in every demographic throughout our state — all ages, all incomes, all races and all geographies — and no one can afford to sit on the sidelines if we are to bring this crisis under control,” Halverson said.

Also contributing: Arthur Thomas, Enterprise Staff

Solutions there for opiate crisis
Diversion program, sober housing have worked
By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent
Sept. 24, 2015

CEDARBURG— Doug Darby didn’t need to rely on many statistics to get his point across at the Solutions and Hope Presentation, but he did share one with an impact: Last year, 7,000 doses of the anti-overdose drug Narcan were administered in Wisconsin.

“If you do the math, that’s about 20 people a day,” said Darby, co-founder of the recovery advocacy group Rise Together. “If we were losing 20 people a day on Wisconsin highways, we’d all be in Madison demanding something be done. These seats should be full tonight – that’s how bad the heroin problem is right here, right now.”

The series of speakers at the Solutions and Hope Presentation, coordinated by Starting Point and the Ozaukee Heroin Task Force, all brought different perspectives to our county’s heroin problem.

“Every once in a while you’ll see an article in the News Graphic about a young person dying of a heroin overdose,” said moderator and State Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon “But the heroin problem here is much more serious than that. It’s a complex problem that does not lend itself to easy solutions.”

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch spoke about efforts to put a real face on heroin addiction, including a nod to Eva Holland, whose family photo – of herself, her two young children and her heroin-addicted husband in his casket – made the rounds of Facebook a few weeks ago.

“This is something that is very real that affects families,” she said.

Kleefisch noted that the Wisconsin Legislature has approved $1.5 million in funding for TAD (Treatment Alternatives and Diversion) programming to combat this problem.

State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, also reported on the HOPE (Heroin, Opiate Prevention and Education) Agenda. This series of bills, spearheaded by State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, the father of a heroin-addicted daughter, includes a variety of efforts, including among them a bill that now requires identification for those picking up certain narcotic and opiate drugs; training for EMTs and other first responders for Narcan administration; and the TAD funding.

“I want to stress the level of commitment you have on this issue,” she said. Kerry Y o u n g , coordinator for Starting Point, also spoke about the real need for TAD efforts and the establishment of sober housing facilities in Ozaukee County. “Diversion means that if certain conditions are met, individuals are not formally charged for their crime,” he explained. “It is about the individual demonstrating accountability for his or her actions.” Young noted that 34 individuals have been offered diversion alternatives in Ozaukee County. Twenty-eight people have accepted the option, and 22 people are still in the program.

He also stressed the need for sober housing in Ozaukee County, and credited the Ozaukee County Board for jump starting the process by allocating seed money to help search for a possible property.

“It’s so critical in the county and recovery in general,” he said. “Something happens at 90 days of recovery – the relapse rate does drop. We have TAD programming and AODA services, but we are missing a piece. We need sober living facilities.”

Carol Schneider, founder and CEO of SEEK, addressed the employment opportunities that do remain available for those who have been in jail or are in recovery. She also noted that this was an issue of importance to her as the grandmother of an addict who ultimately committed suicide.

“In Wisconsin, it is illegal to discriminate against people who have been in jail,” she said. “We’re here to help and we want people to know it is OK. There isn’t a single employer out there that won’t say yes if we can provide them with a trainable fit.”

Darby brought the perspective of a former drug addict, now sober since 2010. Darby is a second-generation addict, who lost his own father at the age 15.

“And I guarantee you that when I was 15, I never said, ‘I want to grow up and be a junkie,’” he said. “I’m still a person in long-term recovery; I bring a face and voice to recovery. I’ve spoken in front of 150 high schools – that’s 70,000 kids – and I share my story with the hopes that kids will come up and share theirs. And they do. Sometimes, they can really identify.”

Darby also stressed that it was possible to do something to combat the heroin problem.

“People think, ‘What can I do?’” he said. “Look at me. I’m just some junkie up here talking.”

What can you do as a parent?

The final speaker at the Solutions and Hope Presentation was Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol, who spoke on what parents can do to keep their kids safe.

“Kids know drugs are bad, but that wrongfulness doesn’t stop them,” he said. “They’re surrounded by drugs. You don’t know what they will say and what they will do to try and fit in.”

Combine that with the unpredictable nature of heroin, and parents have real reason to be worried.

“People can use it for a while with no ill effects and then suddenly overdose,” he said, noting that getting a heroin high can cost as little as $10 to $20. “Or they can overdose or become addicted the first time.”

Gerol says that in addition to being proactive – checking a child’s room for drug paraphernalia, watching social media, getting to know and engaging with their friends – parents need to be “that parent.”

“Give your kids the gift of being able to say no,” he encouraged. “Be that parent so that your son or daughter can say, ‘Oh, you don’t know my mom or dad. I can’t touch that stuff.”

Or let a little of that “crazy” shine.

“Be that parent who shows up unannounced at a party with a giant bag of Doritos and says, ‘I just thought you guys might be hungry,’” said Gerol. “Your child needs to know that you will go to those extremes to keep him or her safe.”

-Laurie Arendt

Citizens group addresses drug use in community
Resource Fair to be held at 5:30 p.m.
By Alex Zank - Daily News
Sept. 22, 2015

CEDARBURG —  The Concerned Citizens of West Bend met for its second meeting Monday evening to tackle a hefty topic: drug use in the community.

Officials with the West Bend Police Department presented on drug issues in the community, and Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen gave an overview on what his office does for the county.

They spoke to a crowd of about 20 at City Hall, 1115 S. Main St. Police officials spent much of their presentation discussing heroin with the question- filled audience.

Officer Justin Klopp, who is involved in the county’s Multi-jurisdictional Drug Enforcement Group, said they typically come across white, gray or black and tarry forms of the drug.

“Typical amounts we see are very, very small,” he said. “Anywhere from about a tenth of a gram to upwards to ... three grams.”

Two grams of heroin is about the size of a marble, the presenters said.

Klopp said most people start using heroin because they were already abusing painkillers or other narcotics, including Oxycontin or Vicodin. Some start using these medications through a prescription or trying a friend’s supply. Then they move to heroin.

Warning signs of a heroin user include a lack of interest in favored activities, withdrawal from friends and family, lack of hygiene and missing property.

“If you’re a heroin addict, you’re probably not holding down a really good job. You need money, you’ve gotta get your next fix. So you start to steal,” Klopp said.

Bensen started his presentation by explaining what the District Attorney’s office does.

“We handle all of the criminal matters that are referred up to our office from the city of West Bend and the other police agencies that are in Washington County,” he said, adding that in 2014 the office received about 3,600 referrals.

Only about 40-50 cases actually go to trial, he said, while the majority of the cases are settled with a plea bargain. Though Bensen pointed out he does not directly represent the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, he could say the success rates for probation varies by the case.

“There are certain cases where the success rates are much higher,” he said. “Heroin cases unfortunately are the ones that the success rates are not good.”

Randy Koehler, who is responsible for forming the group, asked why the District Attorney’s office ends up dropping some charges in a case.

Bensen used a theoretical example of someone who has four counts of theft.

“The reason we do it really ... is two-fold,” he said. “One is expedience. The simple fact is we don’t have the ability to try every case of hundreds of cases.”

The other is what he called a practical matter. If someone has four serious counts against them, if the office can get someone to plead to two counts, that still gives plenty of jail or prison time to appropriately match the crime.

An audience member asked why the county does not have a drug court, claiming these courts are typically successful.

Bensen said this was something they were looking into, but there are many players involved in setting something up. He added that circuit court judges already have a lot on their plate even without establishing a drug court.

“While I do think that drug courts have their place, it’s not something you can just snap your fingers and it’s done,” he said.

Koehler started Concerned Citizens as a Facebook group earlier this year as a response to what he saw as a worrisome prevalence of crime in neighborhoods.

He reported on Monday the group has more than 800 members.

The next public meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27. This is a Tuesday, which breaks from the Monday evening meetings the group had regularly been holding.

Reach reporter Alex Zank at

Knowledge is power in fight against heroin
OASD sets next ‘Stairway’ event for Sept. 29
By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff
Sept. 10, 2015

OCONOMOWOC — Oconomowoc Area School District Superintendent Roger Rindo said in January he was sick and tired of burying kids because of drug abuse.

The Oconomowoc Area School District is doing a number of things to combat a growing drug problem. The district implemented a random drug testing policy that started this year. The policy tests students from seventh to twelfth grade who participate in extracurriculars, sports or park in district parking lots, and the district is hoping it can be another tool to help kids say no.

The Oconomowoc Parents Education Network is hosting another installment in its Stairway to Heroin series. The fourth installment, “Playgrounds to Pills...Prevention Begins with Parents,” is slated for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 29, with a resource fair and art exhibit featuring installations showing the drug abuse problem through the perspective of a child before the program starts at 6:30 p.m.

Statistics on drug related deaths

Figures provided by the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office show an increase in drug-related deaths nearly every year from 2008 until 2012, with 2011 and 2012 representing the highest totals. There were 47 drug-related deaths in 2011 and 59 in 2012.

There were 10 drug-related deaths in 2015 so far. Deputy Medical Examiner Kristine Klenz said that number is expected to grow as the office receives final toxicology reports. The medical examiner’s office will not define a death as drug-related until the death certificate is signed.

Of the 305 drug-related deaths from 2008 to 2014 in Waukesha County, heroin was responsible for 69 of them. The age range of the deaths varied on a yearly basis. From 2008 to 2013, the youngest person who died because of drug use was 13 while the oldest was 87. The average age hovers in the lower 40s. In that span, 145 men have died, and 108 women (2014-15 gender numbers were not provided).

For heroin specifically, the highest number of deaths attributed to the drug was 21 in 2012, with 11 following in 2013 and 13 in 2014 and three so far this year.

Data from the Medical Examiner’s office does not take into account emergency room visits.

School official perspective

The drug problem is of special interest to Oconomowoc High School Principal Joseph Moylan. He graduated with a degree in counseling then went to the Adler School of Professional Psychology where he was a therapist who worked with crack and heroin addicts in downtown Chicago. After that he went to Denver where he worked in the same capacity with mentally ill people who used drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with their illness.

“I’ve been around these issues for all my life,” Moylan said. “I don’t know if it’s personal until you work with a family and a kid for a very long time and you see them die. That’ll light anybody up.”

Moylan said the drug issue plaguing Lake Country and OHS is unique to neither.

“Every high school in the country has drug issues,” he said. “It’s part of the work that we do.”

The problem isn’t just the high school’s problem, it’s the community’s, the parents’ and the kids’, he said. The only way it’ll get better is if a everyone comes together, he added.

“Through our Stairway to Heroin educational series, we have made an impact by addressing the problem, bringing awareness to the problem and promoting prevention efforts,” Oconomowoc Parent Education Network and Stairway program coordinator Katie Westerman said.

Westerman mirrored Moylan’s comments, saying the success of the Stairway program is contingent on a community coming together.

Ultimately, Westerman said the goal of the Stairway series is to reduce substance use among adolescents by providing education and spreading awareness.

The latest program exemplifies what OPEN is about, Westerman said, the power of the parents.

“Prevention begins with parents,” Westerman said. “Prevention efforts supported by parents, schools, law enforcement, health care facilities and community members will make a difference in reducing drug use among our youth.”

The next steps

Moylan and Westerman both said the problem will never end.

Speaking from past experience, Moylan took issue with the increasingly lax attitude surrounding marijuana and the growing movement to legalize it. He said misguided beliefs in the society over marijuana and the place it has are coming from people who aren’t looking at it from the addiction arena.

“The notion that marijuana with its THC levels today isn’t addictive or that it isn’t a gateway drug is ridiculous,” Moylan said. “I think Colorado and Washington are learning some lessons that way, that are really ugly. As long as we have people who say ‘No, this isn’t that bad’ and ‘We should legalize it,’ I think we’re going to battle.”

County seeks warrant to search car possibly involved in drug overdose death

WAUKESHA — Investigators have searched a car in the Town of Ottawa which they believe could provide evidence linking a male subject to an overdose death.

According to an affidavit for a search warrant filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court on Tuesday, deputies responded to a residence in the Town of Ottawa at 9:01 a.m. Saturday regarding a pulseless, non-breathing female. Upon arrival they found a dead woman, with evidence of heroin and opiate use consistent with an overdose.

A male subject at the residence allegedly said he had spent the night at the home — his father’s — with the female subject. The father said his son has a “severe” addiction to heroin and he thought the son had been using the drug recently, according to the affidavit.

The subject allegedly said he injected the woman with an anti-overdose medication, but did not admit the female subject was using heroin or opiates. The male subject also said he and the female had met a man in the City of Pewaukee named “T” because the female subject owed him money, then went to the residence and watched movies. When he awoke the female subject was not breathing, according to the affidavit Surveillance footage from the Walgreens store at 1021 Summit Ave. in Oconomowoc allegedly shows both subjects exiting a blue sedan and entering the store. The male subject’s father had planted a mini-camera in a blue Honda Accord to keep tabs on his son. The father stated the camera was off that night and his son had “wiped the computer” and indicated he believed his son operated the car on Friday night, according to the affidavit.

Detectives searched the car — a Honda — and seized the camera, a GPS system and bottles of pills which police believe may constitute evidence of reckless homicide, according to the warrant.

— Enterprise Staff

Three charged with maintaining drug trafficking place
Residents of Lyman Street house in court

WAUKESHA — Three Oconomowoc residents were charged Wednesday after investigators with the Waukesha County Metro Drug Unit executed a search warrant on Lyman Street residence in July 2014.

Shari L. Glomski, 31, was charged in Waukesha County Court with one count each of possession of narcotic drugs, maintaining a drug trafficking place and possession of drug paraphernalia, as were Michael S. Kleinhans, 50, and his wife Stori N. Kleinhans, 39.

Each faces more than seven years in prison if convicted on all counts.

According to the criminal complaint, members of the metro drug unit entered a residence on the 400 block of South Lyman Street on July 11, 2014 and found drug packaging materials including tin foil, playing cards to help prepare heroin and numerous capsules of Dormin — a common cutting agent for heroin.

Glomski, who lived in the residence with her boyfriend, admitted to investigators that heroin found in a bedroom at the residence belonged to her and her boyfriend, the complaint states.

Investigators also spoke with Stori Kleinhans, who lives at the same address, who said she uses heroin every day and considers herself to be an addict, according to the complaint. She also said her husband receives heroin from Glomski’s boyfriend.

Inside the Kleinhans’ bedroom, investigators found a spoon with residue on it, tin foil and debris, along with a chuck of a substance which tested positive for heroin.

Glomski’s boyfriend is not yet facing any charges related to this incident, according to court records.

All three defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances in court on Oct. 12.

— Matt Masterson, Enterprise Staff


EDITORIAL : It’s not going away
Heroin, opiate deaths continue in county

Enterprise Editorial Board
Sept. 10, 2015

It’s not going away.

Opiate and heroin deaths are mounting. The dead are piling up outside our doors. It will not go away without continued effort in our communities.

This week we feature a spate of stories about opiate addiction. From the continuing efforts and testaments of parents and friends who have lost loved ones to addiction, to the often hidden danger of drug use at the workplace, we spotlight what is an unrelenting source of heartache and tragedy here in Lake Country, and across the nation.

The Stairway to Heroin series continues at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Oconomowoc Arts Center with a fourth installment titled “Playgrounds to Pills...Prevention Begins With Parents.”

The installment will focus on parents’ roles in setting a foundation for a drugfree lifestyle for their children.

It includes: Teaching resiliency and refusal skills at an early age Childhood brain development and its impact on decision-making skills Parenting strategies that make a difference including monitoring, having difficult conversations and setting boundaries A review of the Oconomowoc Area School District’s random drug testing policy The Stairway to Heroin series is a great place to begin to understand the various aspects of combatting the opiate problem. It is free and open to all ages. We encourage everyone to attend the presentation.

Just a few days ago a female died in the Town of Ottawa. Her death is being investigated as an overdose. In an affidavit connected to a search warrant police wrote that her “appendages were covered” in needle marks.

It’s a horrible image, a young woman ravaged by addiction, her future erased.

With increased potency through the addition of synthetic opiates like Fentanyl, heroin use is increasingly risky, and authorities are prosecuting more and more people through the Len Bias law, which holds those who provided a drug to an overdose victim responsible for that person’s death.

It’s part of the solution, but not the complete answer.

As we’re sure you’ll learn if you attend the Stairway to Heroin event, it starts at home with your young children.

We see our children as innocent and beautiful, and they are. But we cannot ignore reality. Drug use has to be nipped at the earliest of buds.

The conversation really does begin at home.

Wisconsin lawmaker readies quartet of anti-heroin measures

Associated Press
Sept. 9, 2015

MADISON — A Republican lawmaker whose daughter has struggled with a heroin addiction announced Tuesday he plans to introduce another round of legislation focusing on opiate prescriptions that can lead to heroin abuse.

Rep. John Nygren of Marinette spearheaded seven bills designed to curtail heroin abuse and help addicts recover last session. He told reporters during a news conference Tuesday he has four more bills ready to go. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Dr. Tim Westlake, vice chairman of the state Medical Examining Board and a member of the state’s controlled substance board, and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel all stood with Nygren in a show of support.

Nygren said the new bills are designed to attack the root of the problem — addictions to opiate prescriptions that pave the path to heroin.

“As we said last session, there were no silver bullets contained in those seven pieces of legislation,” Nygren said. “We knew that we had more that needed to be done.”

The new legislation would require anyone who dispenses opiates to enter the prescriptions in a statewide tracking database within 24 hours rather than the seven days currently allowed under state law. Doctors would be required to check the database before prescribing opiates. Nygren said those moves could help identify addicts and doctors who are overprescribing.

Police who discover an opiate prescription at the scene of an overdose would have to enter the prescription in the database and notify the prescribing physician of the incident.

The package also would create registries for pain and methadone clinics. Nygren said little is known about how such clinics operate.

Nygren’s daughter, Cassie, has battled a heroin addiction for several years. She was sentenced to a year and a half in prison in 2009. She pleaded guilty this past March to felony narcotic possession and was sentenced to drug court.

Nygren has often cited her story in his push to advance anti-heroin legislation. His bills last session included measures that funded additional treatment facilities; established immediate punishments for parole and probation violators and immunity for anyone who reports an overdose; and allowed first-responders with training to administer Narcan, a drug that counteracts heroin overdoses. Gov. Scott Walker signed the proposals into law last spring after all seven bills passed the Assembly and Senate unanimously.

Panel describes drug use in the workplace
Schimel, Opper, others urge employers to be vigilant, proactive
By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff
Sept. 4, 2015

BROOKFIELD - Imagine an employee who is using the workers’ compensation he is receiving because of a workplace injury to get prescription painkillers, which he is then selling to co-workers. This was a situation that attorney Charles Palmer advised a client on and is similar to scenarios playing out in the area as the abuse of prescription drugs and use of heroin increases.

“By the time you have an addict, it’s too late,” Palmer, a partner with Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in Waukesha said. “You need to catch this early.”

Catching an employee who is illegally using a substance can be difficult, and how the company can then respond is complex. A panel of experts shared their insights and advice during a Waukesha County Business Alliance AMP! meeting Thursday in Brookfield.

Brian McKaig, vice president of marketing and communications for United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, left, asks questions regarding the effects of drug use in the workplace of an expert panel: Charles Palmer, partner with Michael Best & Friedrich, second from left; Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper, second from right; and Michael Borkowski, doctor of occupational medicine for Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin, right.  
Katherine Michalets/Freeman Staff

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel first addressed the audience by explaining the extent of heroin use and opiate abuse in Wisconsin and the area.

“It’s the worst public crisis I’ve seen,” he said. “It’s a full-blown health crisis. It’s also an economic crisis for our state, as well as the nation.”

There are about 163,000 intravenous drug users in Wisconsin, Schimel said, explaining that the state’s resources are overwhelmed with the problem.

“This addiction is more powerful than anything we’ve seen,” he said.

Among those dealing with opiate and heroin problems, Schimel said, are intelligent people who had perfect grade-point averages.

He said he knows a man who owns three restaurants and interviews about 300 people every year for staff positions because so many people are fired for drug use or because they don’t show up to work because of their addictions.

Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper said addressing the problem is comparable to a marathon and not a sprint. A heroin addiction can cost a person about $100 to $150 per day, and painkillers cost even more.

“You are going to be stealing from your employers, I can assure you. You are going to be stealing from your family,” she said.

Palmer said firing an employee for using drugs can be difficult. He recommends wording employee policies to say that the illegal use of a substance versus use of an illegal substance may result in termination of employment. This wording would ensure that if people are abusing their prescription, they may face termination.

He advises company representatives to seek legal advice should they suspect an employee of illegally using a substance, because there are other laws that may apply and must be evaluated, such as the American Disability Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

“You can fire people but it depends on the timing and the details under which it occurs,” Palmer said.

Michael Borkowski, a doctor of occupational medicine for Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, recommended that employers work closely with an occupational wellness doctor to help select the correct drug tests to perform and a medical review officer to analyze the drug tests.

If an employee is arrested on suspicion of drug use or dealing, Palmer said, employers cannot fire that person for that reason because they are innocent until proven guilty. He encourages employers to do their own research to determine whether the suspected employee was dealing onsite. But, he said, it’s important for a company not to try and act like a police officer because of other potential unintended legal consequences.

When discussing suspicious activity with employees, Borkowski advised using a caring tone. Although the employee may seem to be high on drugs, she may in fact be diabetic and suffering from low-blood sugar levels, he said.

Job performance and workplace behaviors may be signs indicating possible workplace drug problems. Here are some signs to watch for.

Job performance

-Inconsistent work quality

-Poor concentration and lack of focus

-Lowered productivity or erratic work patterns

-Increased absenteeism or on the job “presenteeism”

-Unexplained disappearances from the job site

-Carelessness, mistakes or errors in judgment

-Needless risk taking

-Disregard for safety for self and others; on the job and off the job accidents

-Extended lunch periods and early departures


Workplace behavior

-Frequent financial problems

-Avoidance of friends and colleagues

-Blaming others for own problems and shortcomings

-Complaints about problems at home

-Deterioration in personal appearance or personal hygiene

-Complaints, excuses and time off for vaguely defined illnesses or family problems

-Source: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.


Heroin, opiate deaths appear to be declining in county
Seven so far this year
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff
July 10, 2015

WAUKESHA — A new study found there are almost 300,000 more heroin users nationwide now than a decade ago, but the number of opiate-related deaths in Waukesha County appears to be trending downward through the first half of 2015.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this week, nearly three in every 1,000 Americans said they had used heroin in the past year. That’s up from under two per 1,000 about a decade ago — a 62 percent increase which translates to hundreds of thousands more people — government researchers said.

While total usage is rising across the country, the number of overdose deaths appears to be slowing down, at least locally.

Through the first half of 2015, Waukesha County has seen seven drug-related deaths, according to data provided to The Freeman by the county Medical Examiner’s Office.

Of those, two cases involved heroin and four were related to other opiate medications. The other death was attributed to a “non-opiate medication combined with alcohol.”

While those are the official totals, the medical examiner’s office also has several cases awaiting completion of toxicology testing, but staff would not speculate on how many of those may be drug related.

With six months down in 2015, it appears the county’s total number of drug-related deaths is declining. Thirty- four people died in Waukesha County in 2014 either by accident, suicide or other undetermined manner relating to drugs — including 10 tied to heroin and 20 to opiates.

The county medical examiner also recorded 35 such deaths in 2013.

“We don’t seem to be — here in our community right now, anecdotally — seeing a big spike, but the abuse of heroin has dramatically increased from where it was 10 years ago,” Waukesha Fire Department Interim Chief Steven Howard said. “But we are not currently, and knock on some wood, seeing a dramatic spike.” The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner reported as many as 16 likely heroin-related deaths in one week earlier in July, but officials with the Waukesha office said no such trend had been seen locally.

So far this year, Howard said, his department has deployed naloxone — better known as Narcan, an opioid- inhibitor used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose — 29 times, a total that appears in line with recent history.

Through all of 2014, Howard’s department administered the drug 58 times. But Howard said not all of those were necessarily tied directly to a heroin overdose, as Narcan can also be used on people who accidentally over-medicated themselves.

The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department also completed training to use nasal Narcan early this year. But department spokeswoman Jennifer Wallschlaeger said the drug has only been administered once during 2015 — in June, on a 22-year-old man in the Town of Lisbon — as deputies often arrive at a scene after medical and fire personnel, who can provide the life-saving drug first.

CDC director: More people ‘primed for heroin use’

The CDC’s findings mirror trends seen in earlier reports, which noted marked increases in heroin use in white people living outside major cities, said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University epidemiologist who researches drug abuse issues.

But the new report offers some additional details about heroin users, government scientists said.

While heroin use more than doubled among the white population, it appears to have leveled off in other racial and ethnic groups, the report found.

But it grew among different income levels, in different parts of the country. And the rate of heroin use doubled in women — a more dramatic rise from what was seen in men.

For years, officials have worried about misuse of prescription opioid painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin. Experts say recent restrictions on prescribing such painkillers may be reducing illicit supplies of them at a time when the heroin supply has been increasing.

Heroin has become a popular alternative. It is essentially the same chemical as that in the prescription painkillers, but it costs roughly five times less on the street, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.

“An increasing number of people are primed for heroin use because they were addicted to an opioid painkiller,” Frieden said.

The new report found those who abused opioid painkillers were 40 times more likely to abuse heroin.

The heroin death rate quadrupled over a decade, reaching nearly 8,300 in 2013, with most of the fatal overdoses involving other drugs at the same time — most often cocaine. Deaths involving opioid painkillers have been leveling off, but continue to be more common than heroin-related deaths, government statistics show.

Contributing: The Associated Press


County loan to help jump start Sober Housing
$150,000, 0 percent loan to be given to Starting Point
By Denise Seyfer - News Graphic Staff
June 9, 2015

PORT WASHINGTON — The Ozaukee County Board last week unanimously approved a county loan of up to $150,000 to Starting Point of Ozaukee to help establish the county’s first sober house.

“The commitment of Ozaukee County can be seen by the County Board of Supervisors’ overwhelming support to provide a safe haven for those wanting to be clean of alcohol and drugs,” said Ozaukee County Sheriff James Johnson. “Their support is a big step in making a difference for these citizens on their road to recovery.”

Sober housing provides low-level, first-time drug and alcohol offenders a supportive place to live and gain employment or education, while undergoing further treatment.

Ozaukee County Human Services Director Michael Lappen said he supports the local development of sober-living houses as a tool to reduce relapse into substance use and recidivism into the criminal justice system.

The five-year loan will have 0 percent interest and come from the Department of Human Services’ undesignated fund balance.

As a major initiative spurred through the work of the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force, the establishment of the county’s first sober house addresses the “gap” in services and has countless community benefits, according to the approved resolution that includes: savings in future incarceration and court costs as recidivism rates are reduced, safer roads as fewer individuals are expected to drive under the influence, significant reductions in property crime, freeing up of taxpayer dollars, and ultimately, creating a better county.

The Heroin Task Force was created nearly a year and a half ago and consists of county and community leaders and citizens as well as local law enforcement, all working to stop the addiction cycle through education, prevention programs and policy changes.

“(While) we do not have an exact property in mind, we do have many strong possibilities and have received support from community members, realtors in looking for places,” said Starting Point Executive Director Shea Halula.

He said the “ideal place would be a side-by-side duplex with two separate living quarters,” and should be close to job opportunities, grocery stores and transportation. Transportation for residents, however, could also be provided through the house manager and Treatment and Diversion Program grant funds, Halula said.

Starting Point is looking for an approximate five-bedroom home to house six-to-eight residents and a live-in, on-site manager.

Residents will be referred to the sober house by a variety of sources such as TAD Program coordinator Kerry Young, county District Attorney Adam Gerol, county judges and the Sheriff’s Office as well as through family and self-referrals, the business plan said.

Once individuals are accepted into the house, they are required to participate in the TAD program regardless of the referral. This action allows for additional support through case management that consists of a variety of support and educational groups, drug testing, transportation to job placements, treatment and positive social support since absolute sobriety is expected, according to the sober housing business plan.

Weekly house meetings will occur, enhancing resident accountability and requiring robust week-to-week occupancy agreements that have absolute rules of participation to generate higher success rates, Lappen said.

By using Young’s services through the TAD program and an on-site manager, residents will have strong support with these two positions to stay clean, get and keep a job, and transition back to the community to become a productive citizen, Lappen added.

“What we need is the community to understand the importance of this place as these individuals currently do not have a place to stay,” Halula said. “What we need are businesses to step forward and provide a second chance to these individuals by offering jobs, donations to the house and be accepting in the community.”

Denise Seyfer can be reached at .

‘We have to care about people in order for them to change’
Recovering addict speaks about health care’s role in stopping addiction

By Matt Masterson - Enterprise Staff 

May 7, 2015

WAUKESHA — Waukesha County’s ongoing heroin and opioid crisis is often seen as strictly a law enforcement concern, but one recovering addict spoke with dozens of local doctors and health care workers about what they can do to help curb addiction.

Tyler Lybert, 28, a Hartland resident six years sober after more than a decade battling his addiction to alcohol, heroin and other drugs, appeared with his family Tuesday morning at Waukesha Memorial Hospital to discuss what role the medical field plays in opioid addiction.

The Lybert family — Tyler, parents Sandi and Rick, and sister, Ashleigh — created Your Choice, a drug and alcohol awareness program, to share how addiction can tear a family apart, and how sobriety brought it back together.

While doctors are limited in what they can reveal about a patient’s medical history, Tyler Lybert suggested speaking with families of those who could be abusing drugs to get more insight into what is happening in their lives.

“Even if they are just in for pain management or something and you feel there is something going on,” he said, “being able to talk to their family or parents or somebody around them to see what else is going on outside their environment can be extremely helpful.”

Sandi Lybert said her son received medication often, but because she was not allowed to consult with his doctors, she never knew what he was getting or how often he would use it.

“Never once as a family were we involved,” she said. “So I would say ‘What happened, Tyler?’ and of course he didn’t say a word, so we went home and nothing changed.”

Data from the 2014 Wisconsin Epidemiological Profile on Alcohol and Other Drug Use, released earlier this year, shows that between January and June of 2013, there were 841 prescriptions per 1,000 population in Waukesha County.

The profile shows Waukesha County had 1,098 drug-related hospitalizations in 2012 — the second-highest total among Wisconsin’s 72 counties and more than 7 percent of the 15,454 total hospitalizations statewide that year.

Tyler Lybert described addicts as not only the most manipulative people, but also some of the most believable. He said he could lie his way through any situation with doctors to trick them into believing he wasn’t going to abuse any medicine they prescribed to him.

But the difference came from doctors who didn’t see him as just another patient.

“I think as physicians and treatment providers, you have this normality that sort of happens where they are no longer people,” Tyler Lybert said. “The one thing I learned from going through all the physicians and all that, is the ones who cared and treated me like a person and not just another number made a much bigger impact.

“I understand this is your job and it can be monotonous at times, but we have to care about people in order for them to change.”

Mixed feelings on Narcan

Naloxone, better known as Narcan, an opioid- antagonist used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, has undoubtedly saved lives in Waukesha County and beyond, but its overall impact is still unclear.

Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper and Metro Drug Unit Commander Frank McElderry, who also spoke during Tuesday’s presentation, showed the relationship between increased Narcan use and the number of heroin deaths remains uncertain.

“When you start coming back down on the overdose deaths, is that because of better awareness and training or was that because more Narcan, or naloxone, is available?” McElderry asked. “We are trying to figure this out.”

Opper said she has mixed feelings on Narcan. While it has saved lives, she said she has also seen several homicide cases where a friend on scene was too busy trying to administer Narcan, rather than calling 911 for help.

“I think it gives them a false sense of security that, ‘Oh, I can use heroin all I want because I have this magic elixir in my pocket in the form of Narcan and if something happens to me I’ll just inject the Narcan and I’ll be fine,’” she said.

“I appreciate that it is saving lives, I truly do, but I am also concerned about that false sense of security that it is offering to the addicts.”

Opper was appointed as district attorney in February, taking over for state Attorney General Brad Schimel. Last year, Schimel told The Freeman he did not buy into the “invincibility argument,” as he called it, that Narcan gives addicts any added sense of security.

“Experience has taught me that whether the antidote is available or not, (heroin addicts) will use,” he told The Freeman last May. “They are not making rational decisions and they do not believe they are going to overdose.”




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