OZAUKEE COUNTY — Outreach and education are continuing in
the county’s ongoing assault against illegal drug use and
the nature of addiction. Over the past eight months,
community leaders and citizens have pressed on, meeting as
the Ozaukee Heroin Task Force committees. The group, which
is comprised of Starting Point of Ozaukee, local and county
law enforcement, the Ozaukee County Public Health Department
and other community leaders and concerned citizens, met as a
whole on Tuesday, providing updates on committee discussions
and outlining upcoming efforts.
The treatment committee, comprised of the Ozaukee County Counseling Center staff and other community leaders promoted hiring a new addiction specialist to work on maintaining drug sobriety through outpatient treatment services.
Cedarburg Police Chief Thomas Frank spoke for the law enforcement committee, which initiated greater usage of the Tip 411 service – an anonymous, interactive tip line accessed through an app or a text message to the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office using text keyword OZSO and send your message to 847411.
Law enforcement has put effort into having a more active presence on social media. Frank said officers would like to have license plate readers – equipment that can be mounted on the outside of police squads to document thousands of plates within an eight-hour shift to be used for data collection and tracking of individuals who might be engaged in illegal behavior.
According to Starting Point of Ozaukee Executive Director Shea Halula, heroin overdoses are reported to be most prevalent among those ages 18 to 26 years old. So the task force is urging parents to engage their children – a group who is sometimes seen as perpetuating a problem through defense mechanisms of denial or inadequate education on warning signals, information from the task force said.
Other efforts are also heightening the anti-drug efforts, including September as national recovery month and Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 19 through Oct. 26 in schools across the country. This year’s theme is “Your voice can make the right choice.” Homestead High School in Mequon will be the site of the next heroin panel on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.
A common theme noted by local sheriffs, police officers and counselors is that those who latch onto heroin start drinking and using marijuana in their early teens.
“These are typically kids that take risks, eventually start using pills, LSD, Ecstasy and eventually start using opiate-based prescription medications,” Galbraith said. “Sooner or later they try heroin and once they do, they are hooked. At this point it becomes a downward spiral and is just a matter of time before they hit bottom.”
In information provided at the meeting, Jim Bohn, the coordinator of this year’s task force events, said the goal is to raise awareness of the increasing and dangerous use of heroin in Ozaukee County through a more upbeat and positive outreach program.
This issue touches many high school age students, he said, and he is hoping to rally the community around heroin and drug addiction, which will continue to get worse without community intervention at many levels.
A goal of the task force is to aid in informed decision-making, especially as county and municipal entities determine budgets so that they allocate adequate resources needed to battle this problem, not only from the law enforcement perspective, but also from an educational and treatment perspective.
Denise Seyfer can be reached at email@example.com.
Debbie Murphy talks about her
daughter’s success in recovering from heroin addiction.
MUSKEGO - Megan Murphy is a pretty, talkative 23-year-old from Muskego with long permed hair and a sobriety tattoo.
She counts those she knows who died from heroin or opiate overdoses. She comes up with 22 names. She met many in various rehab stints.
“Emily, Jay, David, Nick ...,” says Megan, whose arm is stamped with a long tattoo reading, “I will never falter. I will stand my ground. There is danger in starting a fire. You never know how many bridges you will burn.”
“Emily, she was absolutely beautiful. So good-looking. Her mom works with my best friend. She overdosed. Her mom found her in her room. Nick, he was sober two years then all of a sudden a friend said he overdosed. This girl Nicole, she had three little boys.”
Megan has been sober for a year.
“This is a success story,” says Debbie Murphy, of her daughter.
|“The addiction is so much more powerful than the fear of death. People are wrecked.” - District Attorney Brad Schimel|
It’s that success story that Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel is hoping to replicate with a drug court that’s existed for about 2 1/2 years. The heroin addicts the county sees fit Megan’s profile. They are not the “back-alley addicts” that people used to imagine when they thought of heroin, he says.
Locking people up the traditional way wasn’t working because it was a “period of forced sobriety” that lowered people’s tolerance and they would sometimes die of overdoses once released as a result, he said. If they complete the program, they can avoid the ruinous nature of a felony. There are drug screens and support groups, regular visits before the judge. “We get into everything in their lives,” Schimel says.
“By the time people get here, they have exploded. It’s destroyed everything,” he says. “The addiction is so much more powerful than the fear of death. People are wrecked.”
The drug court doesn’t take people who are drug dealers or have violent records. The dealers who cause overdoses, though, are a completely different story. The DA has led the state in the number of reckless homicide prosecutions of heroin dealers under the Len Bias law. He says the number is more than 26; before heroin, the tactic was extremely rare. Now a prosecutor in Schimel’s office does only that.
He would like to see other measures implemented, such as making it mandatory for doctors to check a new prescription monitoring database that will alert them to a patient who is doctor shopping. Now, they have seven days to put prescriptions in the database, and he’d like a requirement that they go in sooner. The rest is educational.
“We need parents and physicians to be our partners in this,” said Schimel. “We will only win this if we reduce the supply.”
Winning this would mean fewer Megans with stories to tell about the horrors of heroin. And the supply refers to pills, not just heroin.
To the depths of addiction
Megan agreed to tell her story to also help educate the community about how heroin addiction works. In less than a decade, heroin and opioid pill use have skyrocketed in Waukesha County, alarming addiction experts and law enforcement officials.
Debbie Murphy pauses while
talking about her experiences with her daughter, Megan,
Within human stories, other experts also say, lies a community lesson: Take pills seriously.
“Opioids should go in a lockbox,” Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, says. Overflow pills should be turned in to law enforcement for disposal.
Megan attributes her initial draw toward pills to low self-esteem. In high school, she weighed 205 pounds and was teased, desperate to fit in, an artistically inclined student.
“She was self-medicating,” says her mother.
Megan concurs. “I was trying to fill that insecurity but then I would become empty again.”
Marijuana made her hungry, and she wanted to lose weight. Guys on the football team wouldn’t “glance at me” but did drugs. Pills made her insecurities vanish and seem insignificant. At first.
A friend told her pills were a hangover cure. Her father had a slipped disc and a legitimate prescription for Vicodin. At first, he didn’t notice some were missing. She hung out at a George Webb’s and a guy there gave her more. She met a Waukesha girl who was in a beauty school circle.
Megan Murphy talks about her experiences with addiction and
“She said, ‘I can get Percocet, Oxy.’ The whole circle was full of pill addicts.”
This is how law enforcement officials say pill and heroin use works. It’s organized around user networks who are loosely connected, almost like a social network.
Megan went to beauty school but dropped out. She worked at a local BP and figured out who the addicts were. At the worst of it, she was couch surfing, dating another addict, driving to Chicago malls to steal power tools and mixers for money (she was caught once and ended up with a charge), and driving to Milwaukee drug houses to get heroin. She wasn’t worried about being shot because the dealers would protect their customers.
“You feel protected,” she said. “They make you feel like family.”
How much pill use was in high school?
“A lot. I was snorting OxyContin on my desk after school one day. The teacher went to make copies. When she came back, she said, ‘You’re in a good mood.’”
A boyfriend got her to switch to heroin. One day, she told him she was “pill sick” because she was withdrawing from not having pills, and he suggested they drive to Milwaukee to get heroin instead.
“I didn’t care because it got me unsick,” she said.
Megan Murphy talks about
her battle with addiction and the people she knew who lost
Sometimes, they drove to Chicago because the heroin was cheaper, buying from dealers who would use five throwaway phones to stay ahead of law enforcement. At one drug house in Milwaukee, the dealer let them use in his bathroom. The house was raided, but police let them go with a stern lecture because they were after the dealers (after putting a gun to her head).
She went to Rogers’ treatment program multiple times.
Her senior year at Muskego High School, Megan graduated - barely. Her GPA had plummeted to 1.8. During the ceremony, she was “high as a kite,” her mother said.
Debbie Murphy discovered her daughter’s heroin addiction when she noticed jewelry was missing - including her husband’s wedding ring. Charge cards had unexplained expenses. She confronted Megan and called police.
“I wanted them to come to our house and scare her. I wasn’t going to lose my kid,” she says.
A toll on the family
Heroin addiction takes a toll on parents; Debbie gained 40 pounds. She almost lost her job because of time spent away from work. She ended up caring for her daughter’s baby in her 50s.
“It stresses the whole family,” she says. She and her husband (who works in IT) have four other children, including triplets.
What she didn’t realize was her daughter had a vial of heroin, which police found, and Megan ended up convicted of a felony. This was a few years before the drug court started.
“She started out with pills, recreational use, from her dad’s cabinet. Then she started robbing people. It broke my heart,” Debbie says.
However, the months that Megan spent in jail helped her break the addiction.
“She’s a different person. I have my daughter back,” Debbie Murphy said.
This was a mother with more knowledge than most. Debbie works in a pain management clinic.
“We had blinders on,” she admits. “Now there’s more awareness. I have my eyes open now.”
Megan explained the drug trade in detail. People go to Florida because crooked doctors will give prescriptions to anyone. The pharmaceutical companies made it harder to snort the pills, so people use a complex process that involves freezing and microwaving them.
She finally quit because “it takes everything. You have no money. No place to live. No family. They all hate you,” she said. “You don’t have friends - you just think you do.”
People were dying around her. The epiphany came when she was hanging out with a local heroin addict who lived in his parents’ garage.
“There were people all over. And I thought, ‘This is how life is going to be. I don’t want a life like that.’ I didn’t want people to say, ‘Oh, her? That was Megan. She had two kids. She was a nice person. She was addicted to heroin, and she died.’”
Waukesha County Drug Treatment Court
111 - Applications reviewed by staffing
15 - People currently on waiting list
75 - Total enrollment since start of program
12 - Successful graduations (34% of all discharges)
23 - Unsuccessfully discharged from program (20 for noncompliance, 1 reoffended, 1 voluntary, 1 death)
40 - Current caseload
* Sex: 50 men, 25 women
18-25: 46 (61%)
26-32: 23 (31%)
33-40: 4 (5%)
41-50: 2 (3%)
Caucasian: 69 (92%)
Hispanic: 2 (3%)
Other (biracial): 4 (5%)
(All figures from March 2012 inception through June 2014)
- Source: District Attorney Brad Schimel
The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration encourages people to safely dispose of old or unused prescription medications. Needles, sharps or inhalers will not be accepted.
The National Take Back Initiative in our area is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at the following locations around the county:
Delafield: Walgreens, 2901 Golf Road
Elm Grove: Walgreens, 15350 W. Bluemound Road
Pewaukee: Pewaukee Police Department, 235 Hickory St., Pewaukee
Oconomowoc: Oconomowoc Police Department, St. Paul Street collection point, 174 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Mukwonago: Walgreens, 212 N. Rochester St.
New Berlin: Unused and expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can be dropped in the lobby of the Police Department, 16300 W. National Ave. from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Waukesha: Waukesha Police Station, 1901 Delafield St.
Source: U.S. DEA
PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1
How a controversial cartel and its colorful leader bring heroin here
PART 4 OF A SERIES
By Jessica McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 12, 2014
— If you wrote a novel about Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s
exploits, no one would believe it. They might believe
the gunfight that killed an archbishop at a Mexican
airport, but you’d probably lose them when he escaped
prison in a laundry cart. And they’d never believe the
beginning of his end started in Milwaukee.
Experts say the Mexican cartel Guzman co-leads controls 80 percent of Chicago’s drug market (including heroin) and brings 25 percent of all drugs into the U.S. As with any monopoly, this generated avid government attention. This isn’t just the story of a distant cartel, though; Waukesha gets almost all of its drugs from Milwaukee, and Milwaukee from Chicago, says Capt. Frank McElderry, who runs Waukesha County’s Metro Drug Unit. And those drugs — fueled by a much purer form of heroin than in the past — have led to a crisis here.
Whereas the poppy fields grown by Johnson & Johnson off Australia’s coast are used to make legal opioid pills, poppy fields in Mexico and Central America supply our area’s heroin and are targeted by the government’s “war on drugs.” The profit margin for both? Billions. The drugs are chemically similar and produce the same high.
Two Great Lakes partially penning in Wisconsin ensure it’s not going to be a major illegal drug hub for elsewhere but rather an “end-destination state,” says James Bohn, who runs the local DEA office. Heroin comes to Milwaukee from Mexico, sometimes brought directly from the border by illegal immigrants, but usually through Chicago, concurs Mark Manthy of the Wisconsin High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
“The border is porous,” says McElderry. “It comes over in truckloads.”
Chicago is a perfect drug distribution point for a Mexican cartel: A transportation center, it has the Midwest’s largest Mexican population, is near populous cities, and organized street gangs help deal. “This is their main hub,” Riley says. “They have a toxic business relationship with the street gangs here. In the last two years, heroin has become the drug of choice, hand-in-hand with an explosion in prescription drug use.”
The cartel that emerged from agricultural northwestern Mexico and cornered Chicago’s market starting in about 2006 — Sinaloa — is the world’s most powerful. Violence in Juarez? Them. Fast and Furious? The Los Angeles Times says 40 guns ended up with the cartel’s enforcer.
Guzman was declared a foreign kingpin and indicted in multiple federal courts — a “modern-day Pablo Escobar,” says Bohn. Others call him Zorro. After his prison escape, he went into hiding, but married a beauty queen and raked in billions. The Chicago Crime Commission labeled Guzman “public enemy number one.”
The last gangster called that? Al Capone.
“How the cartels work influences places like Wisconsin,” says Bohn.
Authorities got their big break when Guzman called Chicago twins Margarito and Pedro Flores to a Mexican mountaintop in 2005, just 10 years after OxyContin’s launch had spiked American pill demand (most heroin addicts start with opioid pills).
The twins’ immigrant father had cartel ties. The brothers, in their 20s, ran barbershops and restaurants as covers in Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village areas, says the book “El Narco.” They agreed to become Chicago’s wholesale point; the cartel would funnel them millions in cocaine and heroin.
The cartel’s logistics coordinator was son of Sinaloa’s co-leader. Vicente Zambada-Niebla is a “narco junior,” impetuous, flashy, with bodyguards and military weapons. Think Sonny Corleone. Pretty boy Vicente, one Chicago magazine said. The link between Mexico and Chicago, who made sure drugs got there and cash got back, Zambada was critical, court records show.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called heroin a growing, urgent public health crisis this spring, saying the government was stepping up enforcement at all levels of the “supply chain” from opioid pills to heroin. The DEA has opened more than 4,500 heroin investigations the last three years; heroin seized along the Southwest border is up 320 percent.
A Milwaukee drug investigation led authorities to the “head of the snake.” U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic indicted a group of Milwaukee cocaine dealers. Authorities followed them to the Flores twins, who were also indicted without fanfare for cocaine dealing, the same year as that mountaintop meeting.
“They fled to Mexico, where they became much bigger traffickers,” says Bohn.
Making a deal — with the feds
Three years later, the twins resurfaced — to a Milwaukee agent. They wanted to deal. “Suffice it to say, they made a business decision and a personal safety decision,” Riley says cryptically.
Bohn’s uncomfortable talking about them. The case was transferred to Chicago with aspects ongoing.
“It was a collaborative effort,” he said. “Lots of people deserve credit.”
Riley says the twins exemplify the government’s strategy: striking at the “heart” of the organization. He describes them as the “ideal choke point targets” who could lead downward to Milwaukee street dealers causing violence and upward to cartel leadership. It all stemmed from a street deal in Chicago tracked to Milwaukee and that back to the twins, who had suburban Illinois stash houses.
The twins turning Sammy the Bull was a big deal because they were in contact with Zambada, even Guzman himself. “Over the last five years regarding Sinaloa, we’ve sent shock waves through them. This is the new face of organized crime,” says Riley.
What happened next sounds more like an episode of “Homeland,” though, than “The Godfather.”
Authorities needed the brothers to stay undercover to build the case. If they don’t operate as usual, the cartel might suspect. It’s alleged this is what federal authorities did — sort of a Fast and Furious operation with drugs.
Bohn says the Milwaukee office would never do this, and Flores/Zambada stuff is “above (his) pay grade.”
Riley, the guy above Bohn’s pay grade, says, “We would never purposely let drugs go. Not on my watch. No — that didn’t happen.”
Did the twins continue dealing drugs without DEA’s permission or knowledge? “Criminals are criminals,” Riley says. “This is a dirty business, where people get killed every day.”
But he says he doesn’t think they were doing so.
Court records describe controlled deliveries. During one month in 2008, court documents say, authorities seized over $15 million and made a controlled delivery of $4 million from a Flores stash house to track it to Mexicali.
Zambada was observed counting drugs. Margarito Flores received 13 kilograms of heroin for $715,000. The DEA seized just 8 kilograms back, court records say. The heroin was 94 percent pure.
“How much can you get rid of in a month?” Guzman asked in one recorded conversation.
“Around 40,” Pedro Flores allegedly responded — 40 kilos of heroin.
In the trial of a twins’ Milwaukee- linked contact, the Chicago Reader said, a Milwaukee drug agent was “asked if the twins were important enough to the DEA that the agency would permit them to continue importing drugs to the U.S. during the initial phase of their cooperation, from April to November 2008.” According to the Reader, the agent replied, “They weren’t in our control. We couldn’t stop them.”
When the agent met the twins in Mexico, he said, according to the Reader: “(T)he conversations were a matter of the twins ... explaining essentially what their value could be to us and us explaining to them why it was important for them to turn themselves in.”
When asked if the twins kept sending drugs to the United States, the agent replied, “I suspected so,” the newspaper said.
“It has come out in the legal proceedings ... that the twins, in exchange for providing incriminating information and the wiretap recordings that were used to indict Zambada, were permitted to continue importing cocaine and heroin by the ton into Chicago and distributing the drugs throughout the country,” claimed Chicago magazine.
The feds busted Zambada in Mexico in 2009 as youths across Waukesha County were dying of a purer form of heroin his cartel introduced to the Midwest; the twins’ cooperation gave them a case. Zambada made noise — battling for classified documents, including those about Fast and Furious, the scandal in which agents allowed guns to reach criminals to trace them.
Zambada claimed cartel leaders, including Guzman, were working with the government through a cartel lawyer given immunity and claimed the government gave the cartel “carte blanche” to smuggle “tons of illicit drugs to Chicago” in exchange for information on rivals, court documents say.
“Factually infirm and legally unsupported,” slammed the government. But the government admitted the lawyer WAS an American informant and they’d tossed his indictment. Riley says Zambada’s charges were “obviously legal posturing. A judge in Chicago denied his motion.”
Presuming this is not a lie, why would the government want to cooperate with a cartel? Zambada argued it was overall drug strategy — “the end justifies the means” — to divide and conquer cartels. Bohn points out criminals often blame cops.
Then, Zambada was given a deal, announced a few months ago. He could get only 10 years in prison. He must cooperate and relinquish $1 billion, the plea shows.
Operation Lake Effect
Meanwhile, authorities here were back to disrupting lower-level dealers.
The latest target: An Oconomowoc-area network. A user screws up. Gets caught in a traffic stop or cops get a Crimestoppers tip. Now they will give up a dealer; the drug unit’s goal is to “interdict dealers,” McElderry says. Drug deals go down in Walmart, Walgreens, and Brookfield Square Mall parking lots.
It’s just people who know people who know people. The local “kingpin” is a Milwaukee man who moved to Oconomowoc. He’s jobless and homeless, McElderry says. At this level, “there’s no money in heroin.” One man on the supply chain got pills for cheap through BadgerCare and sold them for a profit.
The largest county heroin case was “Operation Lake Effect.” Court documents show two Pewaukee brothers got heroin from a Milwaukee man who got it from a guy who relocated to Chicago. They sometimes used a Greyhound bus. The network caused five overdose deaths.
DA Brad Schimel says Lake Effect was the “first big ring” here but usually dealers set up in Milwaukee, leaving Waukesha County full of “end users.” Milwaukee is “a lot more anonymous.”
Some Lake Effect defendants ended up with more prison time than Zambada might, but there’s a lot he knows, and Guzman might be coming to Chicago. A few months ago, after 14 years on the lam, U.S. agents arrested Guzman at a Mexican beach resort.
“It’s a very big arrest,” says Bohn. “The question is, what will take his place?” Riley says he can’t talk about Guzman because of the ongoing case but added generally that, “whenever you remove ... the CEO of a major corporation who’s been running it for 20 years, the organization begins to fragment, alliances switch, communication becomes undisciplined. There’s a lot of chaos that happens.”
Popular mythology holds that snakes regenerate. You can take Bill Gates out of Microsoft, Bohn muses, but Microsoft remains. As for the twins? Riley goes mum. Witness protection is a good bet.
Coming Saturday: One woman’s journey through drug court.
Fishing hats and CDs: How Big Pharma marketed a new drug
Analgesic qualities were focus, not possible addiction
PART 3 OF A SERIES
By Jessica McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 11, 2014
Physicians were plied with plush toys, fishing hats, and CDs with songs like “Get in the Swing with OxyContin.”
They were flown to Sun Belt resorts for national pain management and speaker conferences, the tab picked up by Purdue Pharma, the Connecticut company that had just introduced a powerful new opioid pill on the market named OxyContin.In the five years after the drug’s launch in 1995, Purdue held 40 conferences and paid for 5,000 physicians, pharmacists and nurses to go, according to a journal article by physician Art Van Zee. The message: Forget fears about prescribing opioids to a more general pain population. This isn’t heroin. This pill has a unique time release mechanism that means it’s not very addictive at all.
OxyContin sales grew from $48 million to $1.1 billion in those years.Pharmaceutical companies - not just Purdue - spend billions each year on promotion (OxyContin is far from the only opioid on the market - there’s also Vicodin, methadone, and fentanyl, for starters.) But Purdue took marketing to new levels.
The problem is, it wasn’t all true.“It was devious. It was ruthless. It was just a big lie,” says Peter Jackson, whose daughter, Emily, 18, died after ingesting OxyContin prescribed for an uncle who had passed away of cancer. He now runs a national advocacy group against prescription opioids.
“They were systematically lying to doctors for many years, coming up with bogus graphs and all kinds of things,” said Jackson. “The track record of sales for OxyContin follows directly from that; it just shot up.”
Working to understate addictive properties
By 2007, three of Purdue’s executives had pleaded guilty to misbranding the drug by understating its addictive properties. They were convicted of criminal misdemeanors and paid a massive fine. But the drug remained on the market.Purdue is a family-owned Connecticut company, founded by psychiatrist brothers. Sent questions, including one asking about addiction risk (studies are mixed, but many experts consider the drug highly addictive for some patients), the company responded in writing:
“For more than a decade, Purdue has been working with policymakers and health experts to address the risks associated with prescription opioids. We believe the pharmaceutical industry has the responsibility and unique ability to help evolve the analgesic market, which is why we’ve taken a leadership role in developing opioids with abuse-deterrent properties.”People have used opium in a cruder sense throughout history; morphine, invented to help wounded soldiers, was named after Morpheus, Greek god of dreams, according to History Today.
German scientists working for Bayer, known for aspirin, created heroin (the word “heroisch” means “heroic” in German) from morphine in 1874, trademarking and selling it as a cough suppressant, according to the White House Agency for National Drug Control Policy. Doctors worldwide soon prescribed heroin.According to History Today, heroin was Bayer’s first “commercial medicine.” By 1928, though, a regulatory era began as Congress banned heroin after murders in New York.
Illegal heroin spiked during the Vietnam War, as anyone who has seen the movie “American Gangster” knows.Purdue’s spokesman provided research showing OxyContin is just 2.7 percent of opioid pill prescriptions. But OxyContin’s launch sent statistics soaring, coming on the heels of a decade-old national pain movement that slowly liberalized doctors’ prescribing habits.
Official agencies and groups now embraced the pain movement’s concept of “balance.” In 2001, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and 21 other organizations issued an unprecedented statement urging “balance” in opioid regulation - finding a way to regulate abuse without stopping legitimate use for pain. Numerous states passed Intractable Pain Acts to shield doctors from punishment who used controlled substances to treat patients in pain. Professional societies worked against what was called “opiophobia.” Studies showed regulatory bodies used outdated terms and were too restrictive, and medical boards started rewriting policies.These actions gave Purdue’s marketing the legitimacy it needed to many doctors (although some researchers and associations were taking drug company grants).
Then, data started to come in, showing more abuse than expected. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over 60 percent of drug overdose deaths now involve pharmaceutical drugs, mostly opioids. Heroin deaths doubled in nine years, according to the CDC.
Recently seized heroin. It is
often packaged in small amounts for easier distribution at
cheap prices. People addicted to opioid painkillers
frequently turn to heroin because the drugs are chemically
Local statsMedical examiner’s statistics for the last 11 years of Waukesha County overdose deaths show most of the 385 who died had ingested opioid pills. According to the medical examiner:
* Drug overdose deaths rose from 15 in 2003 to a high of 59 in 2012. Last year, there were 37. About 17 percent were suicides. Almost all of the rest were accidents, with a few undetermined.* In almost 80 percent of drug overdose deaths since 2003, people had opioids in their bodies (heroin or prescription pills), often in combination with other prescription drugs or alcohol. In 21 percent, oxycodone was the opioid found (that’s the drug in OxyContin; however, Purdue Pharma points out that oxycodone, also developed by scientists long ago, is found in many prescription opioids).
* Heroin was found in 55 cases; the peak year was 2012, with 20 deaths. Morphine was found in 74 more cases. Sometimes, because heroin metabolizes so fast, medical examiners only detect morphine. However, sometimes people die from taking morphine. People also died after ingesting opioids like methadone and fentanyl.* More victims were male. The average age was 37, dropping from a high of 51 in 2004.
There’s a reason those poppies put Dorothy to sleep as she headed to Oz. According to the CDC, overdoses occur because the drugs depress people’s breathing.Purdue’s marketing efforts were critical, says Dr. Michael Miller, who runs the addiction recovery center at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc; now opioids were prescribed to a general pain population, a huge market - some 76 million Americans. Previously, opioids were restricted to surgical use and terminal cancer patients.
Opioids that aren’t heroin still are not controversial for “end-of-life” patients. But Andrew Kolodny, a leading opioid addiction expert, says that wasn’t a big enough market for a “blockbuster” drug - terminal patients won’t be on the drug long. Backs, knees - now those were fair game too. However, some doctors say the term “non-chronic cancer pain” is not easily defined; as anyone whose loved one has suffered from pain knows, it can be truly debilitating; and some cancer patients are in remission and aren’t “end-of-life” either.
The question becomes where and how to find balance - how much risk can and should society tolerate to stop the pain of millions? Should risk be stopped with regulation and limiting access, merely with education (put pills in a lockbox) or a mixture?The answer depends on which part of the elephant a person sees: If you’re a grieving parent whose child used heroin, you might fall one way; if you’re a doctor with suffering patients, another.
Jackson is frustrated that years after convictions and with public health costs of OxyContin well known (including its heroin link), more hasn’t changed (although in 2010, Purdue reconfigured the pills so they can’t easily be crushed and snorted. The company also stopped selling a higher dosage).There is evidence the reformulation pushed some pill addicts to use heroin instead. James Bohn, who runs the local DEA office, says people also turned to other forms of oxycodone.
“I was at their sentencing hearing in Virginia in 2007 and we thought, ‘Oh here’s a victory, finally, they’re convicted.’ We thought that would change things, but if you look at the statistics, their sales kept going up, they didn’t take a setback at all,” says Jackson.Many Americans want opioids for pain. Patients don’t just want their pain controlled, doctors say; they want it eliminated. Their expectations have changed.
“It’s a great drug,” insists UW-Madison pharmacology professor June Dahl of OxyContin. Dahl was one of a few researchers whose pain management advocacy helped relax doctors’ attitudes toward prescribing opioids. “It’s no different than morphine in any real sense,” she says.David Cleary, who now runs the UW’s Pain & Policy Group, which advocates international and national medical use of opioids for serious pain relief, provided a study showing only 3.6 percent of opioid users try heroin. However, research says 80 percent of heroin users start with opioids; Kolodny thinks there is an even bigger prescription pill crisis.
“OxyContin is continually overprescribed by doctors for people with many types of moderate pain who should never have been given this drug in the first place,” says Jackson. “This widened use can be directly traced to the marketing campaign of Purdue Pharma.”If Dahl could change one thing, it’s “Purdue’s marketing,” she says. She was one of their speakers; respected researchers she knew were hired by Purdue and were “doing the asking.” Now she feels “possibly used.”
Purdue had marketing down to a science. Drug companies identified physicians with many chronic pain patients and gave a lucrative bonus system to OxyContin sales representatives who reached them, Van Zee wrote, training sales reps to say the addiction risk was 1 percent (Kolodny says it’s about 25, but others say it ranges from below and above that and depends on the patient).
Parent questions FDA
Jackson believes enough attention isn’t given to the Food and Drug Administration, which had the power to stop the drug. The FDA’s small staff size for overseeing promotional materials compounded things, said Van Zee.The FDA’s response has been to weigh the risks and benefits. Last year, in response to a petition from Kolodny’s group, the FDA ordered changes to extended-release prescription opioids’ labeling to “more effectively communicate the serious risks of misuse, abuse, neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS), addiction, overdose, and death.” But the FDA stopped short of other requests, saying chronic pain is also a public health crisis in America with societal costs.
The law already requires that such prescriptions can’t be refilled; a new one is required. There are also “strict record-keeping and reporting” rules reflecting the “high potential for abuse,” says the FDA. In Wisconsin, there is a new database that allows doctors to track whether patients are “doctor shopping.”At a public hearing last year, the FDA heard from two groups: Those with lost loved ones who wanted the drugs restricted, and those concerned restrictions would block legitimate pain relief, including some prominent medical associations.
The marketing mattered. Ashley Wazana, a doctor writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reviewed 29 scholarly studies, which showed interactions between doctors and pharmaceutical companies started as early as medical school. Most physicians met with reps four times a month.Interactions with pharmaceutical reps made doctors quicker to prescribe drugs. Although professional societies developed guidelines, many doctors were not aware of them.
“We need to figure out how to put the genie back in the bottle,” Miller says.The question is how, and to what degree.
Coming Friday: The cartel connection.
UW-Madison researchers played role in increasing opioid use
Parent: Experts must fight use of opioids for non-cancer pain
PART 2 OF A SERIES
By Jessica McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 10, 2014
professor June Dahl agrees to meet midway between the University of
Wisconsin-Madison — where she’s worked since 1957 — and Waukesha
County, which is in the throes of a heroin and opioid pill crisis.
We discuss her life’s work changing how pain is treated. Then, it’s time to cut to the chase: Is it fair to link her efforts (and those of a handful of other national pain researchers) to the heroin crisis?
The analytical Dahl — who, at 84, is among the oldest active Wisconsin professors — reflects, then says candidly: “It appears that the promotion of better pain management has led to more liberalization of the prescribing of opioids, which has led to an increase in the availability of the drugs, which has led to some people abusing them, and then, when they can’t get pills, to heroin as criminals promoted it.”
And there it is. Just a few
researchers have done as much to promote pain management as Dahl and
other UW researchers. But in a complicated irony, the pain
researchers both caused pain and eliminated it.
Dahl and other researchers talk about “balance” — the point between regulation of legal opioids (like morphine, Vicodin, methadone, fentanyl and OxyContin) and medical access to them and where society should fall (no one argues heroin should be legal anymore, although it once was).
That pendulum has shifted several times throughout the last 100 years as society tussled with the allure of the poppy, which opioids (both heroin and pills) derive from, producing a similar high. Since 2000, that balance has moved dramatically to access as prescription opioids were prescribed increasingly to a general pain population in Waukesha and elsewhere. And that matters because heroin use also exploded in the past decade, and research shows that most heroin users start with prescription opioids, usually taking them from people with legal prescriptions.
Big Pharma helped relax doctors’ attitudes toward prescribing opioids with an unprecedented marketing campaign, but the UW and a few other researchers built the intellectual foundation first.
Before the late 1990s, people generally couldn’t get opioids from family doctors; they were for surgeries and terminal cancer care, says Dr. Michael Miller, addiction center director at Oconomowoc’s Rogers Memorial Hospital. He’s an intellectual who has served on many national and state boards. And to Miller, and other experts, it’s clear how this happened.
If you complained of knee, back or other chronic pain before the late 1990s, you left the doctor’s office with ibuprofen. For decades, doctors, especially those in primary care, feared opioids’ addictive nature. Now, prescriptions are easy to get, Miller says.
“There was a big push to market this to a much broader market — the chronic pain market,” says Miller.
And that was a very big market, he stresses — some 76 million Americans.
UW researchers had role
It was on the campus of Wisconsin’s flagship university that this effort grew.
How influential were the UW researchers in changing doctors’ prescribing patterns? “Very,” says Miller, emphatically. “The driving force.”
Was their influence national? He nods, then adds: “International.”
Miller believes David Joranson and Dahl were the most influential. He thinks they were “well-intentioned” but should “revisit” their theories.
Dr. Michael Miller
However, the UW researchers don’t
hide their role in changing how pain is treated across the nation;
they’re proud of it. After all, the relaxation in prescribing of
legal opioids has also alleviated the pain of millions and their
efforts to make treating pain a priority for society have become so
accepted that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker just declared September
Pain Awareness Month, saying pain costs $100 billion in lost
A UW site praises Dahl as “catalyst for the new pain standards in the USA.” A Joranson bio says he helped “develop consensus about the use of opioids in chronic pain.” The group considered pain relief “a human right,” says a glowing UW Alumni magazine feature.
Others see the darker side. As with yin or yang or the creation of any new technology, the increase in prescriptions was a double-edged sword; for all its potential, it’s widely recognized as fueling the rise in heroin use, a cheaper drug whose users almost always start with prescription opioids, which, after all, come from the same poppy plant.
“Their influence was enormous,” says Andrew Kolodny, a leading national opioid addiction expert, of the UW researchers. “They played a central role in ushering in this epidemic.”
In Greek mythology, stories capture the tragedy of unintended consequences. There’s Daedalus, brilliant inventor, whose benevolent attempt at genetic engineering caused negative consequences.
Dahl chafes at the well-intentioned label.
“It implies we were wrong,” she says.
Others strongly disagree.
Dahl says opioid and heroin deaths are a small percentage of the population, and the media largely ignore the broader crisis of undertreated pain (including in cancer patients). Prescription opioids killed over 16,000 Americans in overdoses one recent year, and heroin thousands fewer (alcohol kills some 88,000 a year).
But drug overdose deaths are now the leading form of U.S. injury death, and three of four involve opioid pain relievers, the government says. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called heroin an “urgent and growing public health crisis” this spring, saying heroin deaths are up 45 percent, and tying them to opioid pill abuse. Nationwide, opioid prescriptions rose tenfold in five years after OxyContin’s 1995 release (southern states have highest rates; we’re 31st).
Drug company funding
Peter Jackson, whose daughter Emily, 18, died after taking OxyContin, is incensed by the revelation in the media several years ago that the UW’s Pain & Policy Study Group — which Joranson founded — took several million dollars from drug companies — including Purdue Pharma, OxyContin’s maker — to help fund research arguing for less regulation in the past decade.
Joranson, now retired, who did not return requests for comment, founded the UW group in 1996, a year after Purdue introduced the powerful new pill that resulted 11 years later in criminal convictions against three executives for misrepresenting its addictive properties.
Dahl has never been part of the UW pain and policy group. She worked closely with it though and coauthored important research on the topic with Joranson. Dahl took drug company grants because there’s a “deficit” of money for pain research.
She won’t take them now but insists, “I was never told what to say.”
Joranson’s group, which hasn’t taken drug company money for four years and is run by a new leader, is doubling down on its mission.
They want global impact.
“Our advocacy for balance implies that the medical community must pay attention to deaths related to opioid use,” insists David Cleary, the group’s current director. “Patients and physicians alike need to have correct information about how to use these medicines properly. We believe strongly, however, that broad restrictions on access are not the most effective way to achieve that goal.”
He explains the group’s “role is to ensure access to controlled substances, where it is deemed medically appropriate. ... In many cases achieving balance has required the removal of regulatory restrictions that were barriers to opioids for pain relief.”
Cleary says the group’s budget was $9 million from 1999 through 2012, and $1.7 million of that came from unrestricted grants from pharmaceutical companies. The rest came largely from grants from foundations as well-known as the American Cancer Society and Princess Di Fund. One of the foundations, though, was the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, started by a Johnson & Johnson heir. A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary grows poppies for American prescription drugs in Tasmania.
Asked about that, Cleary says he is not aware of any links between that subsidiary and the foundation, which he calls the “largest philanthropy devoted to public health.” There is no direct taxpayer support of the UW Pain Group, he says.
Cleary, a cancer physician, has “seen up close the devastating consequences of uncontrolled pain during serious illness. When opioids are used as prescribed and appropriately monitored, they are indispensable to patients who need them.”
As to the heroin link, he adds: “It is clearly important for the whole community to contribute to ensure a balanced situation. This includes physicians, patients, pharmacists, regulators, politicians and pharmaceutical companies. A scale that has tilted too far in either direction is not balanced.”
The problem with the current balancing act is that people who weren’t prescribed take prescription opioids from people who were (and sometimes those people switch to the cheaper and even easier to obtain heroin), and the definition of “serious” is debated — today it might be someone’s knee or migraines, not just severe cancer pain.
Jackson wants the group to “take steps to end deaths and addiction and publicly support the growing tide against the use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.” Otherwise, he insists, “the university must close them down.
“Here we are years down the road, with all of the evidence of the fallout, and they are still holding onto their old mission,” he says, sounding fatigued.
“I want no diversion, and certainly not of this magnitude,” Dahl stresses. Diversion means pills used improperly. She says education is the answer because doctors “prescribe carelessly,” don’t reassess patients and give out too many pills (other experts agree).
Dahl was born in Hudson to a telephone operator mother and railroad father. She obtained a Ph.D. in chemistry, and followed her chemistry professor husband to Madison in the 1950s, eventually becoming a tenured pharmacology professor.
From cancer treatment to drug of abuse
The 1980s were pivotal in the pain management movement, which initially focused on terminal cancer patients, who sometimes couldn’t get opioids. A member of the state’s Controlled Substance Board, Dahl met Joranson, a staffer.
A turning point came when Congress rejected an attempt to legalize heroin to treat cancer patients in 1984. A journal article says up to 80,000 cancer patients were suffering and 26 countries, notably England, allowed medically administered heroin.
Dahl and Joranson opposed legalizing heroin (“a more controversial form of morphine,” she says) but agreed terminal cancer pain was undertreated. “When people get to the point of death from cancer, their pain is so severe that only opioids relieve it,” says Dahl.
Joranson was moved, recounted UW Alumni magazine, by travels overseas to “cancer hospitals where ... doctors walk past suffering patients, and those in the worst agony are placed in what’s called a ‘screaming room.’” Dahl saw patients in India with head and neck cancer, agony visible because of distorted heads. “There was no oral morphine in all of India,” she says.
New York doctor Russ Portenoy’s 1986 study on using opioids to treat noncancer patients was influential to Dahl and many others. Portenoy recently told national media he’s had a change of heart and was wrong about opioids’ addiction risk being extremely low.
Portenoy now focuses on serious pain patients and didn’t want to be quoted. “He’s sort of the guru of this,” Kolodny says.
His study of 38 patients was the “scientific launching pad,” wrote Barry Meier in the book “Painkiller.” In it, Portenoy concluded “opioid maintenance therapy” can be safe and humane.
Dahl called global and national experts to a Racine conference. The Wisconsin Cancer Pain Initiative was born; other states’ initiatives followed. The group distributed thousands of pamphlets on cancer pain.
Rogers Memorial Hospital
in Oconomowoc is the fourth largest
behavioral health center in the country. It
is where most Waukesha County addicts go for
Eventually, the movement
broadened. At an early 1990s meeting of state pain initiatives,
people asked: Why stop there? Shouldn’t other pain sufferers be
helped? More groups formed.
OxyContin was released in 1995, with a time release whose marketers claimed made it almost non-addictive; Kolodny thinks the addiction rate is around 25 percent. Joranson, who has a master’s degree in social work, started the pain group at UW the following year. Dahl, who coauthored research with Joranson, decided they “needed a stick.”
Dahl (with Robert Wood Johnson funding) began encouraging the Joint Commission, which accredits most American hospitals and doctors’ offices, to adopt new pain assessment standards.
Miller chaired a board that rejected them, concerned that patients’ expectations would become unrealistic. Two years later, they were in place anyway. If you’ve seen the smiley and frown faces, you’ve experienced them.
Dahl stressed they don’t mention opioids. Others think the standards were very important because they created a nationwide mandate that doctors prioritize pain treatment.
“Now screening for pain had to be done in every primary care setting,” says Kolodny. And once OxyContin came out, there was a new way to do it.
Meanwhile, Joranson’s group attacked regulations; the pain movement was systematically dismantling regulatory barriers to prescribing opioids. In one example, Joranson spurred the Federation of State Medical Boards to issue a policy that doctors could be sanctioned for undertreating pain, says Kolodny.
Medicare began linking funding to patient satisfaction surveys, giving incentive for doctors to prescribe painkillers.
If pain researchers’ work was kindling, though, Purdue’s billions were lighter fluid. “Guess who was speaking (at their conferences)?” Dahl asks. “Me.” She feels “possibly used.”
As she leaves, Dahl tosses out a D.H. Lawrence quote: “A little morphine in all the air. It would be wonderfully refreshing for everyone.”
Coming Thursday: A marketing campaign promises wonders of opioids
How a killer drug quickly became a community crisis
PART 1 OF A SERIES
By Jessica McBride - Special to The Freeman
Sept. 9, 2014
WAUKESHA — A lot’s been written
about “heroin in the suburbs.” Many reports are episodic: This
year’s deaths are increasing, authorities have busted a big ring or
another promising young person has died. It’s left pressing
questions: How did heroin become so prevalent here in Waukesha
County? And why? Drunken driving and domestic violence once
monopolized community concern not that long ago. We’re educated.
Affluent. We parent our children (well, most do). Heroin conjures up
images of 1970s skid rows, not Pewaukee or Muskego. The crisis here
happened fast — in less than a decade.
He studied Buddhism and Chinese and liked to
watch “Antiques Roadshow.” He made her artwork, and it’s good.
“There are 20 houses with addicts in the
four-mile radius around my house, at least,” she says. “Every heroin
addict I know started with pills. Every one of them.”
WAUKESHA — Dozens of officials from local law enforcement, high schools, health care and Waukesha County government came together Thursday with one purpose in mind: finding solutions to the county’s heroin and opiate crisis.
The meeting was the first in a series of discussions aimed at analyzing what role each agency and organization has in reducing the number of heroin- and opiate-related addictions and deaths in the county.
Attendees included County Executive Dan Vrakas, District Attorney Brad Schimel, Sheriff’s Department Inspector Eric Severson and Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Unit Commander Frank McElderry, as well as representatives from the Waukesha, Menomonee Falls and Muskego police departments, plus many others, who convened during the regularly-scheduled Health & Human Services Board meeting at the Human Services Center. According to a July report from the State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Wisconsin saw a 350 percent increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory by law enforcement between 2006 and 2011.
“We are not winning,” Schimel said. “We are making some progress, but the problem is moving faster than us. The only way we are going to win this is if prevention becomes ... number 1. They can’t pop that first pill.”
He said law enforcement cannot arrest its way out of this crisis because even if addicts are locked up for two years, many will come out of prison and immediately begin using again.
Waukesha Police Lt. Joe Hendricks said through July, the city has possibly already topped its record for most opiate-related deaths in a single year. Hendricks stressed, however, that the cause of death in many cases is still pending the Medical Examiner’s final review.
Dr. Steven Kulick, a member of the HHS board and a physician for Emergency Medical Associates, said part of the problem began when the Joint Commission — a medical accreditation body — labeled pain as the human body’s “sixth vital sign.”
“They pushed very, very hard on the provider community to not let anyone go untreated for pain,” he said. “I think that led us into a place where we set patient expectations that they would receive very potent pain medications that in many cases, I would say, are simply not indicated.”
Kulick added that an individual physician writing a prescription for an opiate such as Vicodin or Oxycodone might not be aware of how often these drugs are getting diverted away from their intended user.
Increased education was urged by attendees, not only for the pharmacists prescribing the drugs, but also for teens and children in high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools.
“Children are getting into first-line drugs through medicine cabinets,” Waukesha County Public Health Manager Nancy Healy-Haney said. “The (early) experimentation has dropped from the age of 12 to 10. So, yes, it is important to do education in the middle schools, but it might be helpful to start in the fifth grade.”
Severson said parents must understand the importance of locking up their prescription opiates. He said Waukesha County sees more deaths each year from heroin and opiate overdoses than it does from accidental shootings, but the message has still not gotten across to the parents.
Representatives identified possible solutions such as privately funding a drug lockbox distribution or implementing student surveys in local schools to see just how prevalent the problem is.
Schimel said too many parents have a sense that their children or their schools could never have a drug problem — that it is always somewhere else. He suggested a blind study within local schools to show parents how close the issue hits to home, as well as a handbook for parents to help keep their kids away from drugs, or provide resources for help if they are already addicted.
The group plans to meet again next month and invite more guests, including pharmacists and members of the private sector.
“It is certainly my desire that this is not our first and last meeting — if it is then we have wasted all of our time,” HHS Board Chair Joe Vitale said. “There will not be a magic pill to this, but I do believe that if we all put our heads together and work diligently at this problem, that in fact, we can get a better handle on it.”
On Monday, four days before Kyle Ryan’s 20th birthday, he was sentenced to three years in prison in Washington County Circuit Court for selling heroin.
Ryan of West Bend was charged with three counts of manufacturing or delivering heroin less than 3 grams, three counts of maintaining a drug trafficking place and possession of drug paraphernalia. During a plea hearing in June, he pleaded guilty to one count of manufacture or deliver heroin less than 3 grams. The remaining counts were dismissed, but read into the record during sentencing.
He appeared in custody before Circuit Judge James Pouros with attorney Jeffrey Jaeger. Ryan said he was guilty, ashamed and embarrassed before he was sentenced.
“I never thought at 19 or any age I would be involved with heroin,” he said.
He said he’s trying to become a productive member of society and this experience has been life-changing.
“Heroin leads to jail or a casket,” Ryan said.
Assistant District Attorney Mandy Schepper recommended Ryan serve three to four years in prison and five years of extended supervision while Jaeger recommended Ryan serve probation. If Ryan’s probation is revoked, he recommended prison time.
Schepper said Ryan sold heroin to an undercover agent April 30, May 7 and May 9.
Schepper said several items of drug paraphernalia, including a marijuana pipe, several tin foil squares, a digital scale, razor blades and a plastic straw with white residue on it, were found in the home he shares with his grandparents.
“There are three paths heroin users take,” Schepper said, adding a heroin user dies, becomes a thief or becomes a drug dealer — perpetuating the community’s heroin problem.
“We need to figure out what to do with Mr. Ryan,” Jaeger said. “I don’t believe this case rises to the level of immediate confinement in prison.”
He said Ryan started using oxycodone that was prescribed to him when he had his wisdom teeth pulled, then he started using heroin.
“Mr. Ryan followed path three as Ms. Schepper indicated. They were small deliveries,” Jaeger said.
Jaeger said Ryan told the presentence investigation writer going to jail saved his life and he will get treatment.
“This is a sad situation all around,” Pouros said. “The community is affected. The defendant was dealing drugs. He was potentially dealing death. Small deliveries kill. People taking small amounts die.”
Law enforcement responded to at least three heroin overdoses in two days in Washington County and three lives were saved because of Narcan.
Overdoses occurred in a gas station bathroom, a Walmart parking lot, and another while the man was driving.
Germantown Fire Chief Gary Weiss told the Germantown Village Board on Monday night that his department trained the officers of the Germantown Police Department how to administer Narcan three weeks ago and, on Saturday, that training saved a life.
Narcan is a drug that can reverse an overdose.
Officers responded to the Speedway Gas Station on Riversbend Lane shortly after 5:30 p.m. Saturday after a man locked himself in the bathroom. After gaining entry into the bathroom, it was evident the man was suffering from a heroin overdose. An officer gave the man Narcan, according to a Germantown Police Department news release.
Weiss, who had been on the scene, said the man regained consciousness and was transported to a local hospital. Weiss said Saturday’s incident was the first time a Germantown Police officer administered Narcan while on duty.
Another Germantown officer involved in the incident was stuck by a used hypodermic needle the man had. The officer was admitted to the hospital.
The news release notes it is a common occurrence for police officers and emergency medical personnel to encounter needles and other sharp objects at incidents involving controlled substances. The officer’s gloves failed to protect his hands when he was stuck.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Department dealt with a heroin overdose Friday night, according to a news release.
At about 7:30 p.m. Friday, a 36-year-old Richfield man drove into a ditch on Highway 167 near the Richfield Truck Stop. The deputy who arrived discovered the man unconscious and noticed fresh injection marks on his arm and a heroin kit in the vehicle.
The man stopped breathing so the deputy pulled him from the vehicle and started CPR. When Richfield Rescue arrived, Narcan was administered, which revived the man. He was taken to the hospital, where he was medically cleared but he was arrested for fourth-offense OWI and possession of drug paraphernalia and booked into the Washington County Jail.
West Bend Police arrested a 27-year-old Milwaukee man Friday night after he allegedly overdosed on heroin in the West Bend Walmart parking lot.
According to a news release, the man was found unresponsive by his car in the parking lot about 10 p.m.
A citizen flagged down a police officer who was in the area and the officer administered Narcan.
The man regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital.
After he was medically cleared, the man was jailed for possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and bail jumping.
Kevin Schaefer, John E. Arneson
and Patrick Reilly discuss SALS Sober House
WAUKESHA — We see the headlines every day: “Man charged with heroin possession,” “Addiction on the rise.” John E. Arneson and the rest of the staff at Sober Alternative Living Services are attempting to change the end of the story.
“I opened this place with rose-colored glasses,” said Arneson, who has been the SALS executive director since 2004, when a friend opened his eyes to the lack of transitional housing for recovering addicts in Waukesha. At first Arneson opened his arms and wallet to any addict who wanted to stay at one of his two properties, but after almost going broke, he realized he needed more structure.
|“Addiction is about isolation but recovery is about being open and honest.”|
“We’ll take anyone
who’s ready, willing and able to work on their sobriety — no
one’s forced to be here — but they have to be clean, and
they have to want to be here. It can’t be just mom and dad
wanting them here,” Arneson said. Residents can come and go
as they please, but they must submit to drug and alcohol
testing and absolutely must remain clean and sober, he said.
Fast forward to 2014, when SALS has grown to four men’s
homes — two in Waukesha and another pair in Milwaukee. A
women’s home is planned for Milwaukee in the near future.
Kevin Schaefer wears a “One Day
At a Time” bracelet.
Arneson and his
staff have helped more than 1,000 men get back on their
feet through giving them a place to stay for anywhere
from a few months to a few years, helping them find
employment and prevent relapses. That’s where
professional recovery coaches like Kevin Schaefer come
“It’s just like a coach on the sidelines of a basketball court. The team needs a plan of attack,” Schaefer said. “Addiction is about isolation but recovery is about being open and honest.”
That’s what Justin, who asked that his last name not be used, has learned in his time at SALS. Justin used opiates for four years until his parents found drug paraphernalia in his room and suggested a rehabilitation facility in Oshkosh. After treatment. he did well for a while, but then his cravings started increasing. He struggled finding employment. He felt defeated.
“Treatment is only as good as the 30 days it is,” Schaefer said. “The real world is tough.”
Justin sought out SALS after hearing about it through the rehabilitation facility in Oshkosh.
“It’s better than living with my friends because there are others here with that same mindset of trying to remain sober,” said Justin, who recently got a job after his coach, Schaefer, physically took him to job interviews and encouraged him through any rejections.
Sober coach Kevin Schaefer and
SALS Executive Director John E. Arneson at one of
Placement Director Patrick Reilly said in the old days, all SALS residents were alcoholics, but nowadays anyone younger than 30 that comes through the door is addicted to opiates.
“Heroin is easier to get than beer,” he said. “Here, we provide a safe environment, and it’s these guys that make it worth it.”
Schaefer said the hard work, tears, late-night phone calls and stress are all worthwhile when he sees a resident overcome his demons. And that’s the story people need to hear.
“Everyone’s talking about the epidemic, but the one thing we’re not talking about is hope,” Schaefer said. “There is hope.”
For more information, or to donate, visit www.salshouses.org.
Sheriff candidates put spotlight on heroin crisis leading up to August primary
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff
July 25, 2014
— With just over three weeks remaining until the Republican
primary to determine who will become the new Waukesha County
sheriff, the two candidates are both focusing on the heroin
crisis facing the area. Sheriff’s Department Inspector Eric
Severson and former Town of Lisbon Police Chief Tom Alioto
both want to cut the number of addicts and overdoses in the
county. Both men will outline their platforms at today’s
“One-on-One with Your Public Official” program, held from
7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at the Waukesha County Business
Alliance, 2717 N. Grandview Blvd., Suite 300.
“It is a serious epidemic and I want to deal with that in Waukesha County,” Alioto said. “I want to make that a focus of this election, a focus of what would be my administration. I want to focus every resource that we possibly have towards taking a dent out of this heroin epidemic.”
Alioto said that if elected, he would work toward partnering with medical professionals, including emergency room doctors and EMS workers, and training all Sheriff’s Department deputies in deploying Narcan to help counteract overdoses.
Severson said he would address his plan of attack during today’s forum. But according to his website, he plans on continuing participation with the Drug Enforcement Administration, HIDTA/US Marshals Fugitive and HIDTA heroin task forces. He also points to his 12 1/2 years of drug enforcement leadership, which he says he will use to “build stronger partnerships with other agencies and you, the stakeholders of Waukesha County.”
Recently, Alioto has released ads attacking the current manner of business in the Sheriff’s Department. He says that if he’s elected, officers who break the law will not be let off the hook by resigning, but will face prosecution if the crimes warrant it.
Alioto has specifically mentioned Sarah Massa, a former lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Department who resigned earlier this year after she was accused of stealing prescription drugs.
Severson said that while he is aware of the ads, he has not heard them himself and chose not to comment because of that.
“I am consciously tuning them out,” he said. “I don’t listen to the radio at work — I am working. I don’t pay attention to it.”
Alioto had previously been arrested and ticketed for shoplifting from a Waukesha Farm and Fleet in 1988.
‘It is more powerful than the fear of death’
Schimel says heroin addiction in county, state continues to grow
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff
July 23, 2014
WAUKESHA — While Narcan use has helped to save the lives of heroin overdose victims across Waukesha County, District Attorney Brad Schimel said the battle against the powerful opiate is still being lost.
In a presentation to the County Board at its meeting Tuesday night, Schimel and Rebecca Luczaj, the coordinator for the Criminal Justice Collaborating Council, offered a host of statistics showing how despite strong efforts, heroin and opiate addiction is still spreading on a county, state and national level.
“In the state of Wisconsin and across America, and in Waukesha County too, the No. 1 cause of accidental death is no longer traffic crashes,” Schimel said. “It is no longer anything to do with alcohol, it is now an opiate overdose. That is the new cause of accidental death and it has been for several years.”
|“We are not winning. We are moving forward, but we are driving a Model A and the problem just flew by us in a Ferrari.”|
Schimel said that in 2011, deaths from overdoses overtook those
from traffic accidents in the state. He added that the average
age of someone who begins intravenous drug use is now equal to a
high school senior.
“This addiction is different than anything we have ever dealt with before because it is more powerful than the fear of death,” Schimel said.
Narcan, an opioid antagonist which counteracts the effects of a heroin overdose, has reportedly saved thousands of lives in Wisconsin and its use is growing. In 2008, there were 173 reported deployments of Narcan in Wisconsin. By 2012 there were 787 deployments reported by users themselves and another 3,700 from emergency medical services.
However, according to Schimel, the addictions are still not going away.
“The big problem is, at the same time we have seen those Narcan saves increase, we have also seen the deaths continue to rise,” he said. “We are not winning. We are moving forward, but we are driving a Model A and the problem just flew by us in a Ferrari.”
One of the programs offered by the CJCC is a Drug Treatment Court, which follows a “deferred prosecution model,” according to Luczaj. Under this, offenders who plead guilty are allowed into the 12 month rehab ilitation program, which requires frequent, random drug and alcohol testing, substance abuse treatment, regular status hearings before the drug court judge and more. Schimel said the average person coming into the program has already been revived by Narcan seven times.
According to Luczaj, since the program’s creation in 2012, there have been 111 applications to the program, of which 92 have been accepted, and so far, there have been 12 successful graduations.
“Drug Treatment Court is a lot more like parenting at times than it is like criminal justice,” Schimel said. “The standard criminal justice methods weren’t working and this has given us some success and we are turning these folks to becoming productive members of the community again.”