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Opper:‘Tremendous strides’ made on heroin awareness, but work remains
DA encourages public to utilize upcoming drug collection day
By Arthur Thomas- Freeman Staff
April 25, 2015

WAUKESHA — Heroin and prescription drug abuse still remains “the issue facing Waukesha County,” District Attorney Susan Opper said Friday morning, but there have also been “tremendous strides” made in increasing awareness of the problem.

Like her predecessor, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, Opper stressed the need for prevention. She urged parents to keep prescription medicine locked up and to utilize drug collection days like the one planned for May 16. She also said the pills teens choose to take can go beyond those meant for humans.

“We’ve seen many, many times kids taking the prescription medication for your pets,” Opper said during the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s One-on-One with Public Officials event.

Opper said parents of teens who become addicted to painkillers or heroin might be unaware in some circumstances, but many are painfully aware of their children’s issues. “It’s not that they sticking their heads in the sand,” Opper said. “It’s the worst nightmare.”

Opper also said doctors need to develop more awareness. She highlighted former Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre’s struggles with painkillers as the first time she really recognized the addictive potential of pain pills.

She said her doctor recently offered her Vicodin for a sinus infection and she has dealt with families of former high school athletes who started on pain pills for a sports injury.

“Please don’t think I’m doctor bashing, because I’m not. This is a problem we have to deal with on all levels,” Opper said, adding she feels doctors want to do what they can to help their patients.

‘The most awful life in the world’

She continually stressed the importance of prevention, noting that “nobody is a heroin user” as opposed to being addicted.

Opper recounted a case she prosecuted a few years ago where three young adults were testifying about their daily routines as heroin addicts. The days would include stealing from and lying to friends and family, scrounging for scrap metal or other possible sources of money, and then going to Milwaukee to get heroin. She said the accounts was not unique to the case.

“That’s your life,” said Opper. “Everyday you wake up and you just have to hustle to get 20 bucks together, find a way to get yourself down to Milwaukee, get back and shoot up. That’s your day. Then you go to sleep and the next day you start all over again.

“Can you imagine that? Isn’t that the most awful life in the world?”

The individuals in that case are still using heroin today, Opper said, underscoring the challenges of shaking such an addiction.

While drug treatment courts have had some success, Opper said there are funding issues and the number of people the program can handle is a “drop in the bucket.”

She didn’t have an exact estimate for the number of heroin addicts in the county, but thought it might be from 500 to 1,000, based on her experience. Of those, she estimated 25 percent would be able to get clean.

Opper also doesn’t think media coverage of the heroin issue has gone too far.

“Sometimes I’m a little cautious of what I see in the media. Not on this issue, they have been spot on from what I’ve seen,” she said. “I don’t think they overstate the situation.”


Fighting heroin addiction
County drug task force preparing multistage attack on opioid crisis
By Matt Masterson - Daily News
April 16, 2015

WAUKESHA — Nearly eight months after it first convened, Waukesha County’s Heroin & Other Illicit Drug Task Force is beginning to zero in on a multistage plan of attack on the heroin and opioid crisis that has plagued the area, region and state.

The task force — encompassing dozens of representatives from local and county government, health care, law enforcement and other community resources — uses a five-pillar approach to try and break down the drug epidemic into more manageable segments.

The group met on Tuesday to hear from each pillar — prevention, harm reduction, law enforcement, treatment and workplace — and learn what goals have been identified, how they can be accomplished and what challenges lie ahead.

“Everyone is very excited about where we are going, even though we know we have a ways to go,” Waukesha County Health & Human Services Director Antwayne Robertson said. “We still have the community and all the various systems very invested and continuing this effort.”

The task force is also adding a sixth pillar, focusing on drug-affected infants and giving pregnant mothers the resources and help they need to keep babies from entering the world as addicts.

‘We are in the deep end of the pool’

Each of the pillar groups has conducted preliminary background analysis to identify the next steps to take. For the prevention pillar, this includes universal education on drugs — the group’s tagline is “It doesn’t start with heroin” — and marketing toward parents and children about how addicts typically build toward heroin through marijuana, alcohol or prescription pills.

The law enforcement pillar plans to increase drug and alcohol impairment training as well as giving officers naloxone, an opioid antagonist used to reverse heroin overdoses, and making sure they know how to use it.

“In some cases (law enforcement) are going to be the first responder,” said Dorothy Chaney, president of the Wisconsin Community Health Alliance, “and they want to make sure that their staff is equipped with the drugs but also the knowledge of how to administer them.”

Chaney’s group is based in Marshfield, but she conducts work across the state and has been brought in by the Waukesha task force to ensure its work will have a tangible impact on the community.

To do this, she has challenged each of the pillar groups to identify baseline data — such as the number of times naloxone is administered across the county — that can be used to track success.

Chaney said once each pillar group has the appropriate data, she will compile it all to “tell the story of Waukesha County” in the form of a preliminary analysis that can be used to look back on and gauge success.

She said the most impressive aspect of Tuesday’s meeting was the attendees’ dedication to cooperation.

“That is a really strong statement that they are all working together and we are all sort of working together in our own areas of expertise,” Chaney said. “The groups have really identified some very important strategies that are going to have some pretty immediate impact in Waukesha County on this issue.”

Those strategies include increases in needle exchanges and educating users about the state’s Good Samaritan 911 law, which allows them to avoid arrest if they call 911 to report an overdose.

For the population-level addiction problems, Chaney said it may be five or more years before major changes are seen, but with the steps currently being taken, smaller victories can be found.

“We are in the deep end of the pool,” Chaney said. “These problems do not go away overnight and it is critically important that we have baseline data, so that we are not just working hard, but that we are actually working to do things that are going to have an impact.”


Bill could reclassify opioids
Optometrists don’t see eye-to-eye on prescribing hydrocodone
By ALEX ZANK - Daily News
March 23, 2015


Dr. Jerry Olson of West Bend Optical pulls up photographs of the back of his eyes on a fundus camera. Olson said he has only thought about prescribing medication containing opioids once and ended up prescribing a different medication.   
Alex Zank/Daily News   

A bill that would re-grant prescriptive authority to Wisconsin optometrists for therapeutic medications containing opioids is under consideration in the state Senate. One of the bill’s cosponsors is state Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum).

In August, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reclassified hydrocodone, a semisynthetic opioid, as a schedule II drug. In Wisconsin, optometrists are allowed to administer schedule III, IV and V drugs, according to the bill.

Dr. Eric Paulsen, a practicing optometrist in Sturgeon Bay and president of the Wisconsin Optometric Association, said optometrists had been using hydrocodone for 25 years before the DEA rescheduling of the drug.

“We’re just trying to reestablish our ability to use something we’ve used a long time,” Paulsen said. “We’re not expanding our scope (with this legislation).”

Paulsen said optometrists need the authority to prescribe the drug, particularly in cases where patients have corneal injuries. He said the cornea, a transparent tissue covering the front of the eye, has more nerve endings than just about anywhere else in the body.

Dr. Jerry Olson, an optometrist at West Bend Optical, said in his 35 years of practice, he only came across one instance where he had considered prescribing a narcotic like hydrocodone. He ended up prescribing something else.

“My feeling is if you do have something lesser, use that (instead),” Olson said.

In a news release from the DEA announcing the rescheduling of hydrocodone, the agency said hydrocodone combination products were shown to have a high potential for abuse.

Drugs that fall into the schedule II category have the highest potential for harm and abuse, according to the DEA release.

Kremer and state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), one of the bill’s authors, did not return calls for comment by deadline.


Drug search my school, kids say
By Denise Seyver - News Graphic Staff
March 19, 2015


Muskego High School Associate Principal John LaFleur talks about drug search policies enacted in his school against the backdrop of photos of former students who died from drug overdoses.  
Photo by Denise Seyfer  

PORT WASHINGTON — Young people may not be dying while they are in high school, but many are dying soon after. Those were the words of Muskego High School Associate Principal John LaFleur during a legal update last Thursday, sponsored by the Ozaukee County Heroin Task Force.

More changes need to happen, LaFleur said.

School leaders, government officials, law enforcement and public safety personnel from around the county attended the event. They also heard presentations from individuals who have committed themselves to working the front lines of Ozaukee County’s opiate and heroin addiction problem, including county Circuit Judge Paul Malloy, District Attorney Adam Gerol, Ozaukee County Sheriff James Johnson and Marian Ballos of Ozaukee County Child Protective Services.

Keeping key stakeholders informed and ahead of recent drug-use statistics was the goal of the gathering, as well as advocating why drug policy changes need to be evaluated, enforced and possibly altered.

“Kids indicated drug searches need to happen inside the schools,” said LaFleur, whose school has a policy to search belongings in classrooms. “Our kids can’t learn when they are high.”

He said drugs move from parking lots to lockers to classrooms.

“The talk was (some) student athletes were abusing pain killers before games, before going out to play football,” he said.

Task force members asked school officials to evaluate their policies to see what else can be done to prevent drugs from making its way onto school campuses.

Currently in southern Ozaukee County schools, police search the parking lots, hallways and lockers.

Conducting random, canine drug searches outside and inside the school buildings, including in classrooms is just one of the proposals being advocated. In fact, some schools in other counties have instituted random drug testing of those students involved in school athletics and other groups or clubs.

These types of searches are legal, Gerol said, as long as the school has adopted a specific policy.

“A school board’s goal is to ensure that the environment where the students are learning is a safe and healthy one,” said Shea Halula, executive director of Starting Point of Ozaukee, which is a task force sponsor. “There are many different ways to ensure this. One piece of the puzzle is searches; it is not a stand-alone activity. Other prevention and intervention activities need to be done to support the end goal.”

When asked his opinion on random drug testing, Cedarburg High School Principal Jeff Nelson said the schools have not had “formal conversations about implementing random drug testing for extracurricular participants. If our school community were interested in adding this, we would have a process that we would follow that would include school board and parent input before moving forward,” he said.

Nelson said that over the past six years, they have averaged two drug searches a year.

“We don’t have dogs go into classrooms and search backpacks, as students are not allowed to carry backpacks into classes.”

Grafton Superintendent Mel Lightner said K9 searches are happening inside his schools. He said he is also considering developing a random drug testing plan to present to the Grafton School Board.

“If one child is deterred from using illegal drugs from a drug test and has a drug-free life, it’s successful,” said Lightner, who had an aggressive drug policy at his former school district in Kimberly.

He considers parking in the school lot a privilege, as such, when attaining a parking permit he suggested a condition be an agreement to random drug testing and searches, in addition to a required agreement when participating in school co-curriculars and athletics.

Lightner said he wanted to deter students from using marijuana. He suggested more needs to be done to curtail boredom and engage students on the weekends by opening the schools and the gymnasiums.

“I can understand that some parents might be apprehensive,” Halula said. “However, it goes back to the student’s well-being, safety and healthy decisions. All three of these are taken in account when (searches) are done.”

Ozaukee County Sheriff James Johnson said he believes school searches involving police dogs should be part of a comprehensive approach to keeping schools drug- free “as is education, prevention and parental involvement.”

Ozaukee County has shown an increase in drug crimes and felonies over the past three years, Gerol said. In 2014, the county experienced a record 363 reported felonies and 284 drug-related crimes. The year before, the county reported 254 drug crimes and 303 felonies.

According to the DA, the road to addiction takes a predictive path, starting with peer pressure and experimentation. The easy availability of a cheap, highly addictive substance only adds to the problem with addiction following.

“We can create a scarcity of the resource,” Gerol said, “We may not be able to prosecute our way out of this drug problem. We can and should make it as difficult as possible for users to acquire and consume drugs.”

Yet, Gerol said he wants to provide help for those addicted and “give the heroin addict a chance to succeed.”

“The safety of our children, whether at school, at home or playing, is a priority of all law enforcement,” Johnson said. “(By) working together with students, parents, schools and law enforcement, increased safety can be achieved.”

Denise Seyfer can be reached at .

Students will face random drug tests next year
School Board passes policy including middle schoolers in program
By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff
March 19, 2015


Oconomowoc High School Principal Joseph Moylan spoke passionately about the random drug testing policy after watching it fail 12 years ago. The policy was unanimously approved by the four board members present Tuesday.   
Eric Oliver/Enterprise Staff  

OCONOMOWOC — An outpouring of community support urged the Oconomowoc Area School Board to approve the random drug testing policy at the March 17 board meeting.

Fifteen community members spoke to the four board members present to vote for the policy, two spoke against it. After public comment, the board voted unanimously to approve the policy. Three board members were absent and excused from the meeting.

Starting next year, the policy calls for randomly testing students in grades seven to 12 who are in sports and extracurricular activities. Students signing up to park in the high school parking lot will also be subject to testing.

A portion of the policy relating to seventh and eighth grade testing was amended. Originally, when a seventh or eighth grader is selected, a parent would be notified before to witness the test with their student. The amendment adds the option for the parent to designate someone to witness the test if they are unavailable.

With the policy approved, the district will be the first in the state to randomly drug test students at the middle school level, board member Dave Guckenberger said.

Guckenberger — who said at past board meetings he was against the policy because of the inclusion of seventh and eighth graders — said he was convinced by public support at the meeting to change his position.

Oconomowoc High School Principal Joseph Moylan spoke passionately about the need for the policy. After watching the first attempt at a drug testing policy fail 12 years ago, Moylan addressed issues he heard brought to the board regarding the current effort. One claim against the policy was it would deter participation in activities; Moylan referenced his testing of students with a breathalyzer at dances and said 900 students were at the last dance.

Moylan also said he shows up to work every day because he cares about the kids in the community and it took too long for the policy’s implementation.

“I’m sad to say that tonight I’m asking you sitting at this table for the second time to do something for our kids,” Moylan said. “I’m sad to say that I have watched, went through six funerals last year of kids who died, and I wish I didn’t have to.”

Board President Don Wiemer talked about the past failed attempt and said his position as Oconomowoc Lake Police Chief has made him “sick” of the substance abuse problem seen in young people in Oconomowoc. He said the policy was the right thing to do.

“If we would’ve passed it back then, (are) there any lives we could’ve saved?” Wiemer said. “We don’t know that. We can’t go back 12 years. We’re here today.”


‘Let’s do some crazy things to make WISCONSIN a HEALTHIER PLACE’ 
Schimel:Breaking addiction crisis requires outside-the-box thinking
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff
March 9, 2015

The Lybert family — from left, Tyler, Ashleigh, Sandi and Rick — spoke during Friday’s “Three Voices of Recovery” luncheon at Waukesha County Technical College about the toll addiction took on their family and the path taken to recovery.        
Matt Masterson/Freeman Staff

PEWAUKEE — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said it is going to take some “crazy things” to make Wisconsin a healthier place by breaking free from the heroin and opioid addiction crisis that has gripped the state.

Speaking at Rosecrance Health Network’s “Three Voices Making a Difference for Recovery” event at Waukesha County Technical College on Friday, Schimel said society needs to change the conversation about addiction and help people realize that being an addict does not mean he or she has character flaws.

“Because parents with kids who are addicted — or worse, they have had to bury — are anxious to tell you that their kid isn’t weak,” he said. “They are very anxious for me to know that their kid wasn’t weak, their kid wasn’t morally corrupt. Their kid was a good kid.

“We need to change the conversation so more people recognize that it is OK to ask for help, it is OK to have this conversation with your kids.”

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel spoke at Friday’s “Three Voices of Recovery” luncheon about doing some “crazy things” to make Wisconsin a healthier place.        
Matt Masterson/Freeman Staff

The former Waukesha County district attorney cited data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, indicating deaths from opioids rose by 1 percent from 2012 to 2013 — a total four times higher that that of a decade ago — and heroin- related overdose deaths increased by 39 percent.

“What if we saw in the course of a decade the deaths from traffic accidents quadruple or if we saw from 2012 to 2013 the deaths from traffic crashes go up by 39 percent?” Schimel said. “What would we be prepared to do about it as a state, as a community, a county? We would do crazy things.”

Schimel said Waukesha County is blessed with the treatment and recovery resources it has, adding that people across the state are forced to drive through multiple counties to find the level of treatment available in Waukesha.

Schimel said his office plans to fund another statewide drug takeback in May, allowing residents to turn in unused or unwanted prescription medications. He said 68 percent of those who abuse prescription medications got them from a family member or friend.

“We have a lot of work in front of us,” Schimel said. “We have a lot of people we have to return back to productive members and healthy members of our society. The ripples of this, if we don’t do crazy things, are going to go on and on and on.”

Lending a hand

Also speaking during the event were Flo Hilliard, director of Wisconsin Voices for Recovery, as well as Sandi and Rick Lybert, a Hartland couple whose son, Tyler, celebrated his sixth anniversary of beginning recovery Friday.

The Lyberts appeared with Tyler and his sister, Ashleigh, to talk about the impact addiction had on their family as well as Your Choice — a drug and alcohol abuse prevention, education and awareness program for students and parents that they began.

As a teen and into his early 20s, Tyler Lybert was a heroin addict and an alcoholic. He said he would wake up daily and vow to quit, but would be back using again by that afternoon.

“I didn’t think surviving was even possible,” he said, “I tried different treatments, I tried counseling and things like that, but none of it ever worked. I didn’t see any way out, so I figured my only way out would be death. I thought if I die, maybe my family could finally have some peace.”

The addiction led to Tyler getting evicted from his home and, as the Lyberts put it, “wreaked havoc on (their) marriage, family and finances.”

Tyler said he eventually faced the choice of entering treatment or never speaking with his family again. He entered Waukesha County’s Alcohol Treatment Court, graduated, and remains on the road to recovery.

“Recovery is possible,” Sandi Lybert said, “and we are here as a family showing that it is.”


Why I will NEVER let heroin win
By Linda Lenz
March 5, 2015

Last month marked two years since I last saw my son Tony alive.

When he was alive he was magic. Beautiful like a shooting star. Full of emotion. Public radio kind of intelligent. Artistic. Funnier than anyone I have ever met. I mean smart funny. He was strong and brave yet soft and loving — to everyone. Especially to his brother and to us, his mom and dad.

On Feb. 13, 2013 as I sat having lunch at the mall with a friend, holding her baby I heard my phone ring. I left work early and thought, “My stupid boss. I’ll call back later.” But after the fifth ring I answered. It was my husband, Rick. “It’s Tony,” he said.

God, I knew.

“What happened? Is he in the hospital? What hospital?” I pleaded. Rick hesitated. He was on the phone while running through the mall trying to find me.

“He’s not in the hospital,” Rick said.

“Is he OK?” I screamed.

“No,” Rick answered.

Our lives changed in an instant.

You love and protect your kids when they are alive. You fight like a tiger to protect their memory when they are gone.

One of the worst things about losing a child to an overdose is that you feel you must convince people your child was good. I will tell you how my son died all day long. Heroin! But having to defend my beautiful son to those who stand in judgment is torture.

Why in the world would my son stick a needle in his arm? Someone please tell me!

Nearly 95 percent of the people I have spoken with (hundreds of addicts) first became opiate addicts by using prescription pain pills. They are opiates. They work the same way on the brain as heroin. They can make you an opiate addict even if properly prescribed for pain.

Our older son, Canton, died in 2010 from a rare genetic disorder, vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Near the end of his life, he was prescribed a tremendous amount of narcotics to help him with pain. But even he was treated like an addict near the end. Funny. You can be dying and you are judged based on this epidemic. But, the epidemic itself is never addressed!

While our Tony was alive, we had no idea about opiates. I thought Tony made a bad decision — he chose to shoot heroin. I was wrong. He took a risk as teens do. He thought a prescription pill was not all that dangerous. He had his wisdom teeth out and I let him have the whole prescription (too many pills!) because I thought it was a lesson in growing up. Well, my son did make one bad decision, but it was not to shoot heroin. It was disguised as a prescription. Something safe. Something the other kids were using in high school.

One problem is that many physicians have not been trained properly in prescribing these drugs. And even worse, if you tell your prescribing doctor you think you are addicted to opiates, he or she may take you off with no help for the addiction. This turns a soccer mom into a heroin addict. It isn’t just a “Dr. Phil” segment. It is real and families are being torn apart.

Don’t tell me this is not a disease! Seriously. I will have to wrestle you to the floor.

At first, I grappled with the notion that a disease can come from something you choose to ingest, although cigarettes cause cancer, the wrong foods can cause type II diabetes, etc. We do things to our bodies that make us sick. I had to understand why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled this a disease. How could you choose to take a pill or try a drug and then say, “I have a disease”? I found this amazing video, “Heroin at Home,” that explains scientifically what this drug does to the brain. Please share it. If you haven’t been touched by this epidemic — bigger than measles, the flu, Ebola — on this planet, then I am sorry to tell you, you probably will be. If you hear anything that I am saying in memory of my Tony, please hear this: Heroin cannot win! That is how it is. We can’t and I won’t let it win.

We have a power, together. Do not stop telling everyone there is an epidemic and it starts with pills. If you are in recovery, if you have an addicted child, spouse or loved one ... do not give up hope. Not ever.

Because if we give up, even once, heroin wins.

For me, heroin will never win. This is my gift to my son.

I love you, Tony.

— Mom (Linda Lenz lives in Muskego.)


A needle that can save addicts’ lives
AIDS Resource Center gives out free Narcan and syringes
Feb. 24, 2015

Dennis Radloff of the AIDS Research Center of Wisconsin points to his presentation while holding a syringe with naloxone during a training session Saturday at the Democratic Party of Washington County in West Bend. Naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, is used on individuals that overdose on opiates or heroin.        
John Ehlke/Daily News

Kelly Krueger of West Bend cringes when her phone rings late at night.

During her days, her thoughts often stray to funeral plans.

She is the mother of an addict.

On Saturday, however, Krueger and about 20 others learned how to administer naloxone, better known by the brand name of Narcan, an antidote used to reverse opiate or heroin overdoses. Kits containing five doses of naloxone and five syringes are available for free through the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Krueger said her child’s path to addiction started the way many do — with an injury and a prescription for a powerful painkiller.

Krueger said her child “had a whole life ahead of her” before addiction took over her life.

“People here would like to push it aside and not think there is a heroin problem in West Bend, but it’s here,” Krueger said. “There have been so many overdoses. Our young people are dying. It’s very scary.”

Krueger, who attended the naloxone training session Saturday afternoon in downtown West Bend, said having an antidote on hand has given her “some peace of mind.”

“It’s something you hope you never have to use but I’m glad I have it,” Krueger said.

AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin Prevention Specialist Dennis Radloff, who conducted the training session, said naloxone is not physically or psychologically addicting.

According to a handout Radloff provided from the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, “naloxone has no effects of its own — using it without having opiates in you is like injecting water” and “it has no potential for abuse.”

Radloff said the acronym to remember when it comes to what to do if someone is found unresponsive is “SCARE ME” — Stimulation, Call for help, Airway, Rescue breathing, Evaluate, Muscular injection and Evaluate.

“The ‘S’ is for stimulation,” Radloff said. “Can the person be awakened? If the person has taken a high amount of opiates or heroin, they’ll be drowsy or nod off. Try to rub their chest bone with your knuckles to awaken the person.”

Other signs of a possible overdose are a pale complexion or a bluish-tinged face or lips and slow, raspy breathing with gurgling or choking sounds.

Radloff said the next step is to call 911, if the person is not responding.

Clear the person’s airway, making sure nothing is in their mouth and then perform rescue breathing, doing two quick breaths every five seconds. Evaluate the person to see if they are any better and determine if you can get the naloxone and prepare it quickly enough so the person will not have to go without breathing assistance very long.

Next, inject one dose of naloxone into a muscle.

Radloff said emergency responders and law enforcement officers use a form of naloxone inhaled through the nose. Due to its high cost, the kits provided for free through the Naloxone Program of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin-Prevention Department contain five small vials of a single dose each and five syringes.

“You can give the injection right through someone’s clothes, either in their thigh, butt or shoulder,” Radloff said. “Usually one shot does it but if the person is still unresponsive another dose can be given. Naloxone wears off in 30 to 90 minutes.”

Kimberly Roemer, who started a support group in West Bend that meets the first and third Thursdays of the month for families of addicts, those who have lost loved ones to opiate or heroin and addicts in recovery, said more than 40 people attended the first naloxone training session, with Saturday being the second one.

“Addiction hurts everyone,” Roemer said. “It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t discriminate by color, gender, religion, sexual orientation or station in life.”

“We’ve seen kids in middle school and people in their 80s who are addicts,” Roemer said. “The addiction often starts with prescription opiates.”

Roemer said the opiate abuse situation is so dire that she’s even heard of “kids having parties after raiding their parents or grandparents medicine cabinets and trying all the drugs they’ve found.”

“We need to talk about these things even in elementary school because we’re seeing children whose parents are addicts,” she said.

Roemer said she would like to hold naloxone training sessions once a month.

For more information about the support group or the training sessions, email Roemer at kimberly .

For more information about the free naloxone kits, call the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, 3716 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, at 800-359-9272 or 414-225-1608.


Heroin Education Night 2015

The Heroin Task Force of Ozaukee County hosted a drug education night at Homestead High School in Mequon where participants, youth and adults, heard from an array of speakers how drug addiction, especially to prescription drugs like opiates and heroin, can ruin lives and kill those who use and abuse those substances.
Posted 02-20-2015


Heroin, opiate deaths remain steady in 2014
Nearly three dozen died in Waukesha County last year due to drugs
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff
Feb. 20, 2015

WAUKESHA — The total number of drug-related deaths in Waukesha County dropped slightly from 2013 to 2014, but deaths related to heroin and other opiates were nearly mirror images from the previous year.

According to data from the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s office, 34 people died either from an accident, suicide or an undetermined manner relating to drugs last year, based on completed death certificates. Of those, 10 deaths were heroin-related and 20 involved opiates, either alone or in combination with other substances.

Only three of those 20 opiate- related deaths were caused by opiates alone, according to the data. Fourteen others were found to be in combination with some other substance, while the other three deaths were listed as “opiate unspecified.”

The data also showed three deaths were caused by non-opiate medications and one was due to an over-the-counter medicine.

“Very frankly, even one death is one too many,” said Joe Muchka, executive director of the Addiction Resource Council. “We all agree with (state Attorney General Brad Schimel) that the major issue is really opiates and prescription drug abuse that leads to heroin abuse.”

In 2013, there were 35 recorded drug-related deaths — 10 of which were caused by heroin and another 21 involved opiate prescription medications. The year prior to that, Waukesha County had 21 deaths from heroin and 28 opiate-related deaths.

Twenty-four of the deaths were ruled accidents, while five were deemed suicides and five more were undetermined.

Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper said the numbers show the area is “holding steady,” but was unsure if that is a positive or negative.

Before she was appointed DA by Gov. Scott Walker earlier this month, Opper worked for the county as a deputy district attorney, almost exclusively handling Len Bias homicide cases — in which drug dealers are charged with first-degree reckless homicide when someone dies from using their product.

She still plans on handling those cases personally.

A newly galvanized community

Many heroin addicts begin by taking prescription medications, which both Opper and Muchka said are becoming far too easily obtainable.  Data from the 2014 Wisconsin Epidemiological Profile on Alcohol and Other Drug Use shows that between January and June of 2013, there were 841 prescriptions per 1,000 population in Waukesha County. “For me, from what I see, the issue continues to be the painkillers and how readily available they are,” Opper said. “I think it is more of a societal change that needs to occur that will obviously take a significant amount of time and effort.”

The profile also 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.

Opper believes doctors need to understand the impact opiates they prescribe can have.

“I just don’t think they see where it leads to,” she said. “Their intentions are very good, they are trying to help a patient, but I don’t think they see the big picture. They don’t see the end result that we do.”

With more than two dozen deaths, 2014 becomes at least the third consecutive year in which heroin- and opiate-related deaths have outpaced the number of traffic fatalities in Waukesha County. In 2012 and 2013 each, 28 people died in traffic accidents and another 24 fatalities were recorded last year, according to preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

“That is shocking,” Muchka said. “If that continues to trend upwards, we have a major, major problem we have got to deal with.”

But Muchka believes local awareness has increased dramatically as parents have begun taking more notice of the problem.

The movement is also beginning to pick up support from private businesses and the medical field, which could bring in more funding for education and prevention programs.

Muchka said the issue is galvanizing the local community.

“Everybody is coming together in Waukesha County in ways that we haven’t before,” he said. “It may have happened slowly, but the good news is that it is happening.”


OASD drug testing hits speed bump
Community members urge board to consider policy again after alleged inaccuracies, confusing wording
By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff
Feb. 19, 2015

OCONOMOWOC — A random drug testing policy for students in the Oconomowoc Area School District will have to clear one more hurdle, after community members raised concerns at the School Board’s Tuesday meeting.

The board’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee had recommended the board waive a second reading and approve the policy. Board member Steve Zimmer made a motion to do just that, but eventually recalled it after considering what two community members said during public comment against bypassing the second reading.

The board ultimately approved a first reading of the policy by a 6-1 vote. Board member Dave Guckenberger, who is against the policy testing intermediate school students, was the lone dissenting vote.

The community concerns focused on questions regarding survey data used to support the policy and whether the public wanted the policy.

Oconomowoc resident Karl Buschhaus urged the board to examine the information posted on the OASD website after finding what he believes are inaccuracies in drug usage surveys presented to the board. He claimed that information in the Youth Behavior Risk Survey, a survey of the students enrolled in health classes is inaccurate.

While Director of Student Services Lisa Dawes admitted at the Tuesday meeting the data on the survey was confusing, Oconomowoc High School counselor Scott Bakkum told the Enterprise Wednesday the data may have underreported the amount of drug use. Director of Communications and Marketing Kate Winkler said Wednesday the district could not release the survey. “We are confident that the proposed drug testing policy was crafted using a highly inclusive process involving parents, staff, students and community members over the past 9 months,” according to a district statement released by Winkler. “The data shows that drug use and abuse is a public health crisis in our state and our community. We are making every effort to help our children stay safe and drug-free. This policy is part of a comprehensive approach to intervention, consistent with our AODA programs district-wide.”

Buschhaus also said even though the majority of parents at the public meeting in October spoke out against the drug policy, the board was assured the “silent majority,” was for it at the February Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee meeting. He asked the board to gather more information and to possibly survey parents.

Board member Jessica Karnowski was one of the parents at that October meeting before she was a member of the board.

She previously told the Enterprise she had concerns about the policy, including whether it would deter drug use and the role parents would have. She also said the district’s proposed policy a “bullying tactic.”

Karnowski addressed those comments at the meeting in a long speech stressing the growing heroin problem in the community. She said she changed her mind after doing some research and failing to find a study or statistic that implied a drug test at school would be detrimental to a student body.

“Let’s give them another weapon in their arsenal to say no,” Karnowski said.

The policy will be brought up at the March 17 meeting.


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Helping heroin addicts test jails
Inmates having withdrawal symptoms need to be monitored
By AMANDA VOSS - Daily News
Feb. 1, 2015

Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt gives an update during the Common Sense Citizens of Washington County on Wednesday at the Moose Lodge chapter 1398 in West Bend.        
John Ehlke/Daily News

The number of heroin-addicted inmates — some of whom are monitored every 30 minutes for withdrawal symptoms — has increased in the Washington County Jail.

Lt. Scott Lehman of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department said they’ve seen steady growth in that area.

“I’ve worked here for 15 years,” Lehman said. “When I started I got a few who said they’ve used it and now it’s a regular thing.”

Members of the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department are seeing the same.

Capt. Jeffrey Sauer, jail administrator and court services captain at the Ozaukee County Jail, said there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of inmates addicted to heroin in their jail.

The inside of a holding cell is seen Friday at the Ozaukee Sheriff’s Department in Port Washington.       
John Ehlke/Daily News

He said on a Monday, there used to be one or two inmates in the Ozaukee County Jail addicted to heroin; now six out of eight of its observation cells are used to treat inmates addicted to heroin arrested over the weekend.

Lt. Martin Schulteis of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department said heroin is a Schedule I drug as defined by Wisconsin statues. When someone is arrested for the possession of a Schedule I or II narcotic drug they are not arrested on the specific drug for possession, but the class of drugs.

In 2014, there were 258 physical bookings into the Washington County Jail for possession of a Schedule I or II narcotic drug. There were 36 more bookings for the delivery of heroin.

Lehman said inmates come in the jail through the booking area.

He said officers make an assessment to determine whether or not the person arrested is fit for jail. Information from the arresting officer is examined, a questionnaire is filled out about medical and mental health, and inmates are asked if they take any drugs.

“A lot of other people we see they’ve been through our system,” Lehman said. “We look at past history.”

If an officer finds out the inmate has used heroin, Lehman said certain procedures are put in place.

“Our first concern is their health,” Lehman said. “If they’ve used within 24 hours, they are put on a watch. An officer comes around every 30 minutes and logs their behavior.”

If the inmate hasn’t used within 24 hours, but is showing signs of withdrawal, they are put on a watch, Lehman said.

Steve Dahlen, house manager at Exodus House in Kewaskum, said he’s been told the symptoms include shakes, hot and cold sweats, body aches, vomiting and diarrhea.

“Basically, the way it’s been described to me is you feel like you are going to die and you almost wish you were dead,” Dahlen said.

Dahlen, a recovering alcoholic, said the last time he was incarcerated in 2005 heroin wasn’t as prominent as it is now.

“Every once in a while you got a guy in your pod withdrawing from heroin,” Dahlen said. “They pretty much sit in their cell. They don’t do anything. They’re just feeling miserable. Maybe after four or five days they start to eat a little something. Maybe a week to two weeks they start to feel a little better.”

Cheryl Gnodtke, lead nurse at the Ozaukee County Jail, said inmates experiencing heroin withdrawal are put in an observation cell. Their blood pressure, heart rate, physical symptoms, changes in appetite, auditory or visual hallucinations are monitored.

She said inmates experiencing withdrawal symptoms are usually monitored 48-72 hours and then the inmate is transferred to the general population where they are monitored.

In the Washington County Jail, a nurse completes a medical assessment and some inmates are prescribed medication for withdrawals.

Since Lehman has been at the Washington County Sheriff’s Department he said they’ve taken more of a medical approach when monitoring inmates experiencing heroin withdrawals.

“With the sheer numbers we are seeing we’re a lot more defined on what we do,” Lehman said adding there are more tools at their disposal like checking oxygen levels.

“Our officers do a fantastic job,” Lehman said, adding their booking officers attend drug abuse recognition training.

Glenn Zipperer, a licensed clinical social worker and certified substance abuse counselor at the Ozaukee County Jail, said there is more of an emphasis on medical treatment whereas before it was a cold-turkey approach.

There are also treatment programs in the Washington and Ozaukee jails to help inmates addicted to heroin, other drugs and alcohol.

“We have volunteers who run a Narcotics Anonymous group with the jail, which has been well attended, but unfortunately we are not equipped to be a rehabilitation center,” Lehman said. “We work with human services to help provide inmates with information on other resources available in the community and we do everything we can to help stabilize them while they are incarcerated.”

Zipperer said in the holding area at the Ozaukee County Jail inmates are assessed and learn about the treatment programs and services available like individual and group counseling.

Ozaukee County Jail might offer a new treatment program specifically for inmates addicted to heroin, Sauer said.

“It’s still in the beginning stages of that,” Sauer said, adding they are teaming up with the human services department, but the program is a work in progress and is not sure when it will be implemented.

Dahlen runs an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting as a volunteer in the Washington County Jail and said some inmates, who are addicted to alcohol and heroin, have been in AA meetings. He said inmates learn coping skills, life skills and how to eliminate their triggers.

“Anything visual, audio or feeling a sensation of the drug or the drink,” Dahlen said. “A lot of times for the addicts a lot of them get a little rush from the pin prick of the needle and the drug isn’t even in them yet. When they see documentaries like ‘Intervention’ that could be a trigger.”

He said inmates also learn how to deal with life on life’s terms, come to terms with what their addiction is, who they’ve hurt and how it affects everyone.

Dahlen said when some inmates are released from jail they go back to using right away.

“Something to celebrate for getting out of jail or that’s their comfort zone,” Dahlen said.

Dahlen has also seen heroin use grow.

“Say 12 to 13 years ago, I went through Exodus House as a resident the first time it was primarily alcohol,” Dahlen said. “There might be one or two cocaine addicts and there really was no heroin. I went through the Exodus House again in 2008 and as a resident I noticed a couple of guys out of 20 that had pill addictions and sometimes heroin.”

He said he’s been working at Exodus House for six and a half years and the number of residents addicted to heroin has doubled every year.

Sauer said heroin has been an issue that has increased in the last five years in Ozaukee County.

“We’re struggling to address it,” Sauer said. “It’s been a rapidly increasing problem.”

He said if the program to help inmates addicted to heroin is set up in the Ozaukee County Jail, it could be a solution.

When asked if the increase in inmates who come to the Washington County Jail addicted to heroin has cost the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Lehman said it would be difficult to determine.

“Yes, heroin addiction costs the entire community on multiple levels, but putting a dollar amount on what it costs the Sheriff’s Department would be difficult, if not impossible to do,” Lehman said.


Drug Treatment Court program helps addicts,
suffers from low graduation rate
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff
Jan. 29, 2015


WAUKESHA — Kyle Steinbrecher knows where his life could have gone if he hadn’t entered Waukesha County’s Drug Treatment Court program.

“I would be dead or in prison,” he said, “but probably dead.”

Steinbrecher, 26, graduated from the program in November after more than a year of treatment and said he is grateful for the opportunity he was offered to get help and break his addiction.

The program, which began in 2012, offers addicts who are facing criminal charges the chance to avoid jail time with regular court appearances and case management appointments, including office and home visits as well as random alcohol and drug testing.

But through two full years, the graduation rate for DTC stands at just 35 percent — less than half the rate for the county’s Alcohol Treatment Court, which deals with thirdand fourth-time operating while intoxicated offenders — according to Sara Carpenter, the multicounty court services administrator for Wisconsin Community Services.

“What we hear from participants,” she said, “is that it is a whole different animal than Alcohol Treatment Court. Addiction to this drug is a whole different ball game and these clients have so many struggles and it isn’t just addiction — it’s family, it is mental health, it’s employment, it’s education.”

A dangerous gateway

Steinbrecher, who spoke before the county’s Criminal Justice Collaborating Committee during its meeting Wednesday, said he began using marijuana when he was 17. Quickly, though, that took a turn down a more dangerous path.

“My addiction progressed through marijuana to Ecstasy, cocaine, acid, mushrooms, heroin and opiates,” he said. “When I got to opiates it was like I found my calling for drugs.”

He said a dealer started off giving him the drugs for free, but when that ran out he was forced to start buying them. Once he lost his job, he turned to stealing, lying and manipulating his way into finding his next fix. He pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and delivering narcotics on separate occasions before an arrest for disorderly conduct had him facing a decade in prison.

“That was kind of like my wake-up call,” he said. “Everybody has their different rock bottom or a wake-up call — for me it was facing 10 years in prison and realizing is prison really going to help me or is it just going to give me different connections?”

Instead, his attorney got him enrolled in the Drug Treatment Court program, sparing him from further jail time.

Not many grads

Carpenter said participants in Drug Treatment Court also have far more needs than their counterparts in ATC, which demands more from the program’s two caseworkers — who, she said, barely have time to eat lunch.

Their current caseload includes 46 participants.

In a report to the CJCC, Carpenter said in 2014 DTC accepted 112 participants and finished the year with 59 more on its wait list. Of those accepted, seven graduated, bringing the program’s total number of graduates up to 17 in its history.

Those numbers compare rather unfavorably with Alcohol Treatment Court, where last year alone there were 31 graduates from the third-offense OWI population and 17 more from the fourtime offenders.

In addition, graduates from DTC last year were with the program for an average of 556 days — well above the 425day average for third-time OWI offenders.

CJCC Coordinator Rebecca Luczaj said the county is aware of these disparities and is taking steps to try and boost DTC graduation, including reaching out to American University, a nationwide technical assistance provider for the program.

“I told them our dilemma,” Luczaj said, “that we have a low graduation rate and wanted them to look at that and see what we can do. So they are actually going to send us some technical assistance consultants who are going to meet with our team and work with us just analyzing how our program operates now and maybe make some suggestions of some things we can do to maybe increase that number.”

‘I have my old son back.’

Steinbrecher entered Drug Treatment Court on Oct. 31, 2013. He said the early stages of the program were overwhelming because so much is required. But within a couple months, he was in a routine and became more comfortable with his caseworkers.

“I was closed in the beginning,” he said. “But I realized that unless you talk about something, you are not going to fix it.

“If I could fix my own problem... I wouldn’t need any of you. If I could get off drugs on my own it would be like, whatever, but that is not the case.”

He said he relied on the color call system, a daily routine where participants are called for random drug tests based on different colors chosen each day, to help him stay focused on recovery rather than seeking out drugs — something he said never really crossed his mind during treatment.

Steinbrecher graduated from Drug Treatment Court on Nov. 18, 2014, 383 days after he entered it. He said he is back working and still receives help from staff as well as monthly injections of Vivitrol — an opioid receptor antagonist used once monthly to combat opioid dependence.

He received an ovation from the full committee after sharing his story and was invited by CJCC Chair Judge Jennifer Dorow to return to the program in the future as a visitor.

“I appreciate the opportunity I got,” he said. “My mom is happy — she is like ‘I have my old son back.’”



Rindo: ‘I’m sick and tired of burying kids’ 
School Board committee approves random drug test policy
By Eric Oliver - Enterprise Staff 
Jan. 29, 2015

OCONOMOWOC — A School Board committee on Tuesday approved a policy that could see 75 percent to 80 percent of Oconomowoc students in grades seven through 12 randomly drug tested starting next year.

The Committee on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment approved the proposal, which, if the School Board approves it at its Feb. 17 meeting, would apply to all students engaged in sports and extracurricular activities and those signing up to park in the high school parking lot.

Random drug tests

Director of Student Services and Special Education Lisa Dawes presented the proposed random drug test policies to the committee. Under the plan, the district would cover the cost of a standard split sample test, where two specimens are separately screened for drugs. If a parent or student wishes to contest a positive finding, a third test of the original sample can be done at their expense.

If the policy is approved by the board, the next steps will be to look for a vendor to conduct the testing, make updates to the student handbooks, develop a conset form and have conversations at freshman athletic meetings about the new policy.

School Board members John Suttner and Jessica Karnowski showed interest over an option for private testing that could be conducted at a pre-approved offsite facility within 24 hours.

Dawes said that should not be considered because of the possibility of altering the sample.

Oconomowoc Area School District Superintendent Roger Rindo said standardizing is the best way to ensure equal treatment to all students. Dawes and Rindo said that the test as well as the inclusion of all the current anti-drug practices will be another tool for students to say no.

“As superintendent we’re responsible for 5,200 kids and if this is a policy that impacts one life I can’t say that it is something I can’t fully support,” Rindo said. “Right now we can’t say that we are doing everything and I’m sick and tired of burying kids. At least if we have this in place along with all the other things we are doing I can sleep at night saying we are doing everything we can.”

Karnowski had another concern over the effectiveness of the new drug policy as a deterrent since the current policy is not acting as such. Rindo said that the current policy is not sufficient enough because it can only punish students for drug use on the property or by admission.

Dawes said a reason it’s ineffective is because it relies heavily on students to report illegal substance use, which does not happen.



Heroin problem not going away; a sustained fight needed
Enterprise Editorial Board
Jan. 29, 2015

The heroin problem in Waukesha County, like hundreds of other communities in the U.S., is not going away anytime soon — particularly if we take our eyes off the ultimate goal: saving lives and getting addicts in treatment.

Oconomowoc Area School District Superintendent Roger Rindo said at a meeting of the Committee on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment he didn’t want to sound melodramatic, but that he was “sick of burying kids.”

His message wasn’t melodramatic, it was the truth and it needs to be amplified many times over until everyone hears it loud and clear: We must stop the senseless deaths of our young people.

Rindo and the school district’s aggressive drug testing policy is in the right; unprecedented risks require unprecedented measures, particularly when safeguarding against a foe as insidious as opiates.

It might be difficult for parents to imagine their middle schoolers, or even elementary schoolers, experimenting with or using drugs. However, time and time again, we see court documents that outline the use and abuse of opiates by teens and even pre-teens.

It is easy to rally a community beset by tragedy, be that cancer or a terrible accident or an overdose. However, what’s really needed is sustained awareness about the problem by every person in the community.

Opiate addiction has no socioeconomic or racial boundaries. Blame is irrelevant and wrongheaded. Solutions are the only thing that matter.

In that spirit, the next Stairway to Heroin event will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 17, starting with a resource fair at 5:45 p.m. and a program from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Westbrook Church, 1100 Highway 83 in Hartland.

The event is the third in the Stairway to Heroin series and is titled “A Bridge to Action, Communities Coming Together.”

We strongly recommend everyone attend. The event is free and more information can be found at

Avoiding the ‘tangle’of the courts
Program offers new options for addicts who commit crimes
By Denise Seyfer - News Graphic Staff 
Jan. 22, 2015

PORT WASHINGTON — A newly implemented program is giving new options for selected drug offenders with a hope that it will curb the drug problem countywide and keep the offenders out of the criminal justice system.

Thanks to a $132,900 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the Ozaukee County District Attorney’s Office and local judges are working with Starting Point of Ozaukee to implement a treatment alternatives and diversion program, or TAD, for offenders who meet the criteria. The county is making a $37,780 match. The goal of the program is to change the behavior of those who may have committed crimes due to their drug or alcohol addiction.

“The program is actively (helping individuals,)” said Kerry Young, TAD program coordinator and case manager for Ozaukee County. “What this program offers to individuals who have alcohol or drug charges is an opportunity to avoid getting tangled in the criminal justice system.”

Ozaukee County currently has eight active TAD cases, with three cases pending and five cases that were pinpointed for diversion or deferred prosecution and have not responded to the opportunity to enter the program, Young said.

Recently released statistics from the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office drug unit show seizures of prescription drugs, heroin, cocaine and marijuana support the necessity to provide substance abuse treatment, interventions and education.

“The numbers are solely based on the drug unit’s activity,” said Ozaukee Sheriff’s Lt. Rodney Galbraith, head of the drug unit. “As far as cocaine and marijuana being higher is very much likely affected by who the informant(s) was and who they had access to during that year and not by the availability or price of the drug. Other drug levels that were down were likely caused by a lack of informants rather than any change in the levels of availability of the drug … (it’s) not a reflection of the problem.”

Four deputies make up the drug unit. The seizure figures do not include cases and arrests that other officers make throughout the sheriff’s office and other countywide law enforcement officers, Galbraith said. TAD focuses on reducing recidivism and incarceration due to substance abuse by providing treatment and support to break the addiction cycle in individuals who meet criteria set by the courts and the DA’s office. Though many different TAD models exist, Ozaukee County uses a diversion and district attorney model, in which the DA makes referrals which are sent to a case manager for evaluation. The model uses strict guidelines, such as a zero tolerance for alcohol, drugs and arrests, holding participants accountable.

“My office selects participants that ordinarily would be appropriate for (removal) in the criminal justice system,” said Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol. “People with no criminal contacts, no hint of violence in the contact that caused them to be arrested and people that are truly suspected of having an established or potentially burgeoning AODA problem. Most of these people are what we sometimes would call a ‘self-corrector.’ Criminal justice alone might have been enough to scare a person into better behavior. However, on probation, there would be little therapy or oversight.”

Gerol said that evaluation typically begins with a request for charges from a law enforcement agency. When the DA believes the defendant may be appropriate for diversion, a draft of a criminal complaint is written. The complaint is not filed; however, it is sent to the defendant with a letter suggesting that they consult with an attorney and perhaps consider the program. Within 10 days, the person makes an appointment with Starting Point to see if they believe the person has an alcohol or drug addiction and could benefit from the program.

“We are one of over 30 counties that received funding for TAD,” said Starting Point Director Shea Halula. “One of the biggest issues with TAD is that many people do not realize what it is and how cost effective it is.”

Halula added that TAD has a three-year recidivism rate of 17 percent and every $1 invested in TAD yields $1.96.

The evidence-based TAD approach and case management has been found to “successfully divert nonviolent offenders with substance abuse treatment needs from further criminal justice system involvement,” according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Through the creation of TAD, the criminal justice system is able to provide increased opportunities for treatment of substance abusing offenders, specifically reducing the risk of social, economic and health problems. In addition to increased criminal justice costs, substance abuse contributes to chronic disease, decreased productivity, social and family disruption, lack of educational attainment and increased health care costs, the university’s TAD 2007-2010 Evaluation Report’s executive summary said.

University studies show TAD projects successfully divert nonviolent offenders with alcohol or other drug problems from jail and prison incarceration. A total of 135,118 incarceration days were averted by TAD projects during the first four years of TAD, or 86,530 jail days and 45,588 prison days.

Further, TAD participants are less likely to be convicted of a new offense after program discharge than those who do not participate. More than three-quarters, or 76 percent, of TAD participants are not convicted of a new crime after their program participation.

TAD conviction rates of 24 percent for participants is still lower than that of 38.2 percent for offenders released from prison and convicted of a new crime within three years, according to Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

“TAD gives many sectors, such as county board members, the county administrator, judges, the DA, the sheriff’s office, human services and health departments, as well as other key stakeholders the opportunity to come together as a team and use resources and tools to best serve the participants,” Halula said.

Denise Seyfer can be reached at .

Area police clock big heroin increases from 2013 to 2014
New Berlin’s heroin arrests almost doubled
By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff
Jan. 21, 2015

WAUKESHA — Heroin has been described as an epidemic sweeping southeastern Wisconsin and Attorney General Brad Schimel has declared it public enemy number 1, but local police jurisdictions are still reporting massive increases in heroin-related arrests during the past two years.

In New Berlin, heroin arrests almost doubled from 2013 to 2014, with police arresting 10 people for heroin possession and 12 people for heroin paraphernalia in 2013. 18 people were arrested for heroin possession and 21 for heroin paraphernalia in 2014.

“We’re definitely not immune to it in New Berlin,” New Berlin Police Capt. Mike Glider said. “Everyone’s priority in Waukesha County is to increase awareness of heroin. It’s not just an inner city problem — the suburbs too. All jurisdictions have seen an increase. It’s a trend we are trying to reverse.”

Capt. Jay Iding of the Pewaukee Police Department said heroin and marijuana numbers ticked up slightly in 2014 over 2013.

“Waukesha County as a whole, southeastern Wisconsin as a whole, it is just that again we are dealing with this heroin issue,” Iding said. “It is huge.”

New Berlin police also saw a slight spike in marijuana arrests, from 103 in 2013 to 113 in 2014. Glider said that might be attributable to two new K-9 units being used on traffic stops last year.

“They can legally do a sniff around the vehicle as long as it doesn’t prolong the time of a traffic stop. If they hit, we can search,” Glider said. “They can smell drugs coming out of doors or windows, and they’ll go crazy if they think there are drugs inside the car. It also works for opiates.”

Waukesha police arrested 263 people for possession of marijuana in 2013, versus 213 in 2014. In Waukesha, heroin possession arrests increased from 30 in 2013 to 39 last year. Arrests for selling heroin dropped from 38 to 13, and arrests for selling cocaine dropped from 41 to 22.

Waukesha Police Lt. Tom Wagner said the drops might be attributable to a reallocation of resources.

“When you have heroin-related death investigations, which I believe we had 12 of last year, they take up a lot of resources,” Wagner said. “It might take a two-month investigation into one incident that results in one arrest.”

Wagner said although heroin use and distribution is a growing trend and thus a growing concern, marijuana and other drugs are still a priority for his department. He also said many drug offenders are caught when they’re doing something else illegal.

“It’s like if you get in a fight and you’ve got a bag of weed in your pocket,” Wagner said.



Meth making mark in county
Lab discovered in area last year
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff
Jan. 21, 2015

WAUKESHA — Methamphetamine use is not nearly on the crisis level of heroin and other opioids in Waukesha County, but the drug has been found in the area and at least one lab was discovered in the county in 2014 for the first time in years.

Detective John Kopatich of the Metro Drug Unit gave a presentation to the county’s Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Advisory Committee Tuesday about the production and history of methamphetamine in Waukesha.

He said meth — a white, odorless powder — is extremely addictive and produces the same sort of euphoric state as heroin by boosting dopamine levels in users’ brains.

Last year, the Metro Drug Unit purchased just 86.52 grams of methamphetamine through undercover agents or informants. Between 2008 and 2012, the price of meth dropped by 70 percent, but its purity increased by 130 percent, according to Kopatich.

The drug is much more common in areas including the southern United States, the Dakotas and Canada, according to Kopatich. Most of the country’s meth comes from Mexico, but it can be made virtually anywhere using inexpensive, over-the-counter ingredients cooked together in small “shake-and-bake” or one-pot labs.

“It is very small, easily concealable,” he said. “Over 90 percent of the labs that are getting taken out by law enforcement across the country are these shake-and-bake one-pot ones.”

These labs are built using two-liter bottles and allow users to make one or two grams per cook.

In May a Town of Lisbon man, Dale Saugstad, was charged with manufacturing meth in one such lab. He told investigators he learned to do the “shake and bake” method while living down south, and as far as he knew he was the only person in the area making meth, according to the criminal complaint against him. He was eventually found guilty and received a 10-year prison sentence last September.

While these small labs are often easy to hide, they are also extremely volatile.

“We talked to one of the DEA agents who came and cleaned up our lab in Lisbon,” Kopatich said, “(and he said) that 50 percent of the time these will result in explosion.”

Last year five people in Pewaukee were also indicted after receiving shipments of meth from California.

Recovering addict: ‘I thought I was in control’

During the meeting, Susie Austin — a member of the AODA Advisory Committee and herself a recovering methamphetamine user — recounted the horrors she experienced when the drug overtook her life two decades ago in Arizona.

“I thought I was in control,” she said. “I had seizures from overdosing. I had been beaten, I had been raped, I had just about everything you can have happen ... but I still thought I was in control.”

Austin, now a Waukesha resident, has been with the committee for nearly 15 years and works with Celebrate Recovery, a local recovery program based on Christianity.

Austin said she did not believe she had a problem while she was using, but quickly got caught up in the drugs. She received a round of applause from the committee after saying she had gotten out of that situation 17 years ago.

“You don’t realize what is happening to you,” she said. “I was 30 years old, I wasn’t a big drug user, then all of a sudden I got caught up in using and dealing.”


Heroin now part of D.A.R.E. curriculum
Studies have cited little impact on drug, alcohol use
Jan. 17, 2015

Jenna Rondorf didn’t know anything about heroin, but by the time the Holy Angels Catholic School fifth-grader graduated Thursday afternoon from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, she had learned enough to make her want to avoid it.

“I think one of the most important things I learned is that taking drugs is a big problem and that we need to make good decisions not to do that,” Rondorf said. “I never heard about heroin before but I did learn that even if you do it once, you can get addicted, and that’s bad.”

Rondorf and nearly 40 other fifth-grade students at Holy Angels joined millions of other children around the world who have participated in the D.A.R.E. program that is taught by law enforcement officers.

“We met once a week for an hour for 14 weeks,” Washington County Sheriff’s Department Detective Hope Demler said just before the graduation ceremony began Thursday at Holy Angels. “In the program, we talk about a variety of drugs, like marijuana and inhalants,” Demler said. “For the first time, we’ve added a section about heroin, which is a growing problem.”

The D.A.R.E. program focuses on much more than just drugs, Demler noted.

Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt, left, signs the t-shirt of Lola Chemer, right, a fifth-grader at Holy Angels Catholic School after she and nearly 40 other students at the school graduated from the Drub Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. Local dignitaries and parents attended a graduation ceremony Thursday afternoon for the students at Holy Angels.      
Linda McAlpine/Daily News

One of the program’s goals is to give students the tools they need to make good decisions, Demler said.

“We talk about other issues, like alcohol and prescription drug abuse, tobacco use, bullying and how to resist peer pressure,” Demler said. “We address making healthy choices and respecting others.”

During the graduation ceremony, four students were selected to read the essays they wrote about what they learned in the program. A skit was also presented about the perils of drinking and driving.

Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen led the graduating students in taking the D.A.R.E. pledge: “I know how dangerous alcohol and other drugs can be for my body. I pledge to be responsible and never use any unlawful drugs. I pledge to educate others about the dangers of drugs. I value my life. I know there are other things to do than drugs. I can be trusted to keep this pledge.”

Jeff Gonzalez, who was in the audience to see his son Alex graduate from the program, said there was one thing in particular he appreciated about D.A.R.E. — after each session, students had to bring home a paper that detailed what had been covered that day. The paper, called Points to Ponder, had to be signed by a parent or guardian and returned to the school.

“The paper kept us informed about what our son was learning in the program and it also helped us to have discussions about those points,” Jeff Gonzalez said.

Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt, left, signs the D.A.R.E. t-shirt of Joe Held, right, a fifth-grader at Holy Angels Catholic School as classmate Daniel Krause looks on after they and nearly 40 other students at the school graduated from the Drub Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program.       
Linda McAlpine/Daily News

When asked if he had any concerns about the appropriateness of such education for that group, Gonzalez said no.

“I think it’s very appropriate for this age group because they’re on the cusp of middle school and they’re likely to start hearing about these kinds of things,” Gonzalez said. “We need to help them learn how to resist peer pressure and this is about the right age for that.”

The Washington County Sheriff’s Department has been involved in teaching the D.A.R.E. program in area schools for many years and Schmidt said he sees it as valuable not only for the students but their parents as well.

“From my perspective, I think we need to provide this education because many parents find it difficult to talk about these things with their kids,” Schmidt said.

Not everyone is convinced the program is effective in deterring kids from using drugs or alcohol.

“We were a part of the program for quite some time, but then reports came out from the Department of Justice, the Government Accountability Board and other science studies that said it had little impact on drug use,” West Bend Police Department Capt. Tim Dehring said. “The chief looked at the time and money invested in doing the program and decided it would be better to use our resources elsewhere.”

The liaison officer program, which puts a police officer in each of the city’s high schools and one at Badger Middle School, stems from that decision, Dehring said.

An article from Scientific American that is featured on that website, notes that “if you were one of the millions of children who completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program between 1983 and 2009, you may be surprised to learn that scientists have repeatedly shown that the program did not work. Despite being the nation’s most popular substance- abuse prevention program, D.A.R.E. did not make you less likely to become a drug addict or even to refuse that first beer from your friends.”

Over the past few years, the D.A.R.E. curriculum has been revamped. Gone are the long, drug-fact laden lectures, which have been replaced with interactive lessons.

“It’s not an anti-drug program,” Michelle Miller-Day, co-developer of the curriculum and a communications researcher at Chapman University, is quoted as saying in an article on the D.A.R.E. website. “It’s about things like being honest and safe and responsible.”

Kewaskum Elementary School Principal Jody Heipp said the D.A.R.E. program will get underway for fifth-graders next week.

“We feel the program is something that is proactive. It teaches about making positive decisions relating to alcohol and drugs, how to resist peer pressure, having character, being good citizens and being good role models for others,” Heipp said, adding that it will be taught by the Kewaskum Police Department.

Drug education for parents
School District hosts workshop
Jan. 15, 2015

Debbie Adelmann of Kewaskum looks as West Bend Superintendent Ted Neitzke holds up a jar of spices and a bottle of a prescription medication as an item to watch during the “Risks Facing our Children” presentation on Wednesday night at
Badger Middle School in West Bend.      

John Ehlke/Daily News

On Wednesday afternoon, West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Neitzke went shopping at a grocery store and, in less time than it takes to have a pizza delivered, he rounded up an assortment of things that kids are using to get high.

As Neitzke pulled each item out of a paper bag, he explained to about 80 parents of middle schoolers how things like a bottle of soda or orange juice can be used to disguise alcohol use during a workshop Wednesday night on alcohol and drugs at Badger Middle School.

Neitzke showed parents how items in their kitchens could be used to get an inexpensive buzz — knowledge that is just a Google search away for today’s kids.

“We want to help you understand the reality that your kids are facing, even as middle schoolers,” Neitzke said during the workshop, which was sponsored by the school district, the West Bend Police Department and the West Bend Fire Department.

West Bend Police Officer Justin Klopp hosted a slide presentation in which he shared with parents a litany of drugs, from the familiar, like marijuana and heroin, to the latest fad drugs like DXM and ecstasy, and the signs and symptoms of their use.

“Parents who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s may think that marijuana is no big deal, but back in the day, weed was not as potent as it is today,” Klopp said.

Bloodshot eyes, relaxed reflexes, an increase appetite, dilated pupils, paranoia and disorientation are signs that can indicate marijuana usage, Klopp said.

Cocaine can be snorted or smoked, which causes symptoms like excitement, exaggerated reflexes, anxiety, a runny or red nose, loss of appetite and dilated pupils, Klopp said.

“Ecstasy is still very popular. It comes in pill form and usually has some sort of markings or design on it,” Klopp said. “Slang terms for it include molly, wheels, rolls and e-bombs and signs to look for are a dazed appearance, body tremors, perspiring and nausea.”

“Heroin usually comes in small foil packs called bindles,” Klopp said. “Heroin users often put together a kit that contains a syringe, alcohol wipes, a spoon, a tea light and a lighter, and something to use as a tourniquet.”

“When people start using heroin, they may snort or smoke it, but it usually isn’t long before they graduate to using a needle.”

Signs of heroin use include a low, raspy voice, falling asleep, depressed reflexes, facial itching, shallow breathing and puncture marks, Klopp said.

“Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is an ingredient in cough syrup,” Klopp said. “Signs of its abuse include a blank stare, repetitive speech, agitation and possible violent or combative behavior.”

West Bend Fire Department Battalion Chief Chuck Beistle told the audience that the department’s ambulance crews regularly deal with calls of people overdosing on drugs.

“We had a call for a middle school-aged child who was unresponsive, that turned out to be an overdose,” Beistle said. “In another case, a person was dropped off right at the fire station that was turning blue and wasn’t breathing but had a faint pulse. His friends had driven around with him in the car trying to figure out what to do with him. When we talked to his father, his father said he didn’t know what was going on. We did all we could but he died at the fire station. We later found out he had been in the hospital about two months before from an overdose.”

Beistle said parents need to be honest if their child is abusing drugs and that they should also know who their children are hanging out with.

“It’s a scary and confusing world for our kids,” West Bend Police Capt. Tim Dehring said. “Think about the kind of news stories our children are exposed to, where they’re hearing about kindergarten kids being shot and killed while in school. Think about the kind of television programs that are out there that seem to encourage growing up too fast.”

“It’s a scary world for us as parents, too, but we need to remember that we need to be parents to our kids and not try to be their best friend,” Dehring said.

The district will host a workshop for parents and their middle school children from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 11 at Badger Middle School to engage in a conversation about how kids can avoid risky behaviors.

For more information, visit

Schimel to drug dealers: ‘You are public enemy
No. 1’
Waukesha County’s district attorney since 2006 sworn in as attorney general
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff
Jan. 6, 2015

MADISON — Brad Schimel left no doubt about what his top priority in office will be.

“I am committed to fighting the scourge of heroin gripping the state and I am putting the drug smugglers and dealers on notice: you are public enemy No. 1,” he said, drawing a round of applause in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda during his inauguration as the state’s 44th attorney general.

Schimel succeeds J.B. Van Hollen, who did not run for reelection to a third term, after defeating Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ in November.

Waukesha County’s district attorney since 2006, Schimel officially took the oath of office and was sworn in by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson during a ceremony in Madison on Monday.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel addresses the audience during his inauguration ceremony at the Capitol in Madison on Monday.     
Associated Press

Schimel was introduced to a crowd of hundreds by his daughters Mackenzie and Hailey, who said their dad always puts others before himself and taught them they could do anything if they work hard and are determined.

The state’s top lawman said in his 25 years working as a frontline prosecutor in Waukesha he has worked with victims from every type of crime imaginable, but the biggest challenge he has faced is the ongoing heroin and prescription opioid crisis.

“I have dealt firsthand with heroin,” he said, “and I am sick of meeting parents who have had to bury a child because of drugs.”

With Schimel on board, Waukesha County has led the state in the number of Len Bias homicide cases prosecuted — where drug dealers are charged with first-degree reckless homicide when users die from using their product. He told The Freeman last week he is proud of that record, but wants to share it statewide and go after such cases in communities across Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, left, takes the oath of office from Shirley Abrahamson, chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. From Schimel’s left are his daughters Hailey and
Mackenzie and wife Sandi.     

Associated Press

Schimel also identified Internet predators and human trafficking as other top priorities he will handle as attorney general and vowed to “make our college campuses, neighborhoods and Main Streets safer.”

State Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, said he was excited for the inauguration, specifically to hear what Schimel would have to say. He believes Schimel will be a great proponent for the justice system and “a wonderful addition to the team.”

“What I am looking for is Brad to be Brad,” Farrow said. “He is very tough on crime, he also looks at how those who have been victims of crimes can get their lives back on track and he has done a phenomenal job of that in Waukesha County and I think he is going to bring some of that experience to the attorney general’s office.”

Former Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, left, shakes hands with newly inaugurated Attorney General Brad Schimel at the Capitol in Madison on Monday.     
Associated Press

Following protests in Milwaukee in December after a police officer was not charged in the shooting death of Dontre Hamilton last summer, Schimel stressed that law enforcement would have “no stronger partner” than the Wisconsin Department of Justice under his leadership.

“They will have my commitment,” he said, “that we will work together to ensure a safe Wisconsin.”



Sober housing considered for Ozaukee County
Home would create drug, alcohol-free environment for recovery 

By Denise Seyfer - News Graphic Staff
Jan. 6, 2015

OZAUKEE COUNTY — “To err is human,” as the saying goes. Accepting the notion, however, may prove too challenging for some, especially when referring to individuals who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction. With increased crime linked to drug use and addiction, especially to heroin in Ozaukee County, some people may want to lock up the offenders and throw away the key. Instead, the Heroin Task Force in Ozaukee County, a group of community leaders, citizens and law enforcement. is working for solutions to battle the growing epidemic among our youth. Members have been collaborating over the last year to improve the lives of those suffering from addiction, while preventing other teens from choosing the same path. One cutting-edge program under consideration to curb recidivism and relapse entails sober housing. The concept provides an affordable drug- and alcohol-free environment that creates a safe place for peer-group recovery support for nonviolent, first-time offenders. “Many individuals who are caught up in drug and alcohol dependence often have lost all support from family and friends who do not use,” said Ozaukee County Human Services Director Michael Lappen. “We know that many individuals are in the jail for crimes related to their substance use. After they have been there for a while and have been detoxed, they may wish to try and remain clean and sober, but their only ‘friends’ left are the people they were using drugs and alcohol with.”

These individuals tend to be arrested for possession and may face up to a one-year sentence.

Newly seated Ozaukee County Sheriff James Johnson said that sober housing provides support, structure and accountability for those with addictions.

“The program requires the addict to pursue treatment and voluntarily submit to random drug screens; this maintains accountability” he said. “Sober housing gives the foundation to acquire skills that help them to be productive members of society.”

“A body clean of drugs and alcohol can lead to a clean life.”
— James Johnson, Ozaukee County Sheriff

Ozaukee County does not currently offer any sober housing options. That tide may be turning though, as members of the task force’s policy and advocacy committee explore potential houses to use as a transitional living facility.

Under the proposed sober-housing business plan, those individuals selected for sober housing will undergo a rigorous interview process. Screening applicants is the “single most important action that can be taken,” which will require a person-to-person interview with the house managers and staff, according to the plan.

Selected individuals must prove their dedication to sobriety by their continued involvement in a 12-step recovery program and have to follow all house rules. Violation of house rules are grounds for immediate eviction, the plan said.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction is a complex disease and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. In fact, drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse; therefore, quitting becomes difficult, even for those who want to quit.

Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications with behavioral therapy remains the best way to ensure success for most patients, the institute’s information said.

Though there are some similarities, sober housing differs from other types of transitional housing options such as halfway homes. The key difference is that halfway houses are for offenders of all types, where a parole officer is required. Halfway houses place felons such as drug-users and/or sex offenders and those who are mentally ill that are coming from a prison, a hospital or a rehabilitation center.

In addition, halfway homes are governed by federal and state laws. Those residents are typically there under court order and cannot move out unless approved by a judge, court order or a parole officer.

In contrast, privately-owned sober housing is solely for drug addicts and alcoholics who have completed detoxification programs, according to information in the task force business plan. Houses are to never be co-ed. Its sole purpose is to support the individual in developing and maintaining holistic, healthy habits and activities that aid in long-term sobriety.

Curfews, drug testing, household chores, cooking and group meetings are common features in these settings, according to the business plan. Often, house rules mandate that individuals must be actively in school or looking for employment. Therefore, some sober houses lock their doors from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., hoping residents are engaged in healthy lifestyle activities.

Sober housing provides many social and financial advantages, Lappen said.

“The county would see significant savings in the cost of jailing people if we can reduce recidivism,” he said. “We would also see a reduction in the petty crimes related to drug use … stealing from cars, garages, etc. to support their daily ‘fix.’ The department of human services has seen a large spike in child welfare cases related to addiction to opiates and heroin. If we can help parents get sober, it will reduce the social costs of kids being impacted by drugs and also the costs to the taxpayers of removing the kids from their families and placing them in foster care.”

Although Heroin Task Force members have a detailed business model for sober housing, they lack the funding to support the endeavor. Starting Point of Ozaukee is looking for those organizations or individuals who are willing to bring this concept to fruition with any and all time, talents or treasures.

Sober housing provides the door; yet, each individual must choose to walk through it.

“A body clean of drugs and alcohol can lead to a clean life,” Johnson said.

For more information on how to help, call 375-1110 or visit

Denise Seyfer can be reached at .

Ending the addiction cycle
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series on heroin addiction. 

By Ken Merrill - Daily News
Dec. 30, 2014

The chances that a heroin addict can simply decide to quit — and stay clean — are slim.

Until recently, the dominant thinking in the medical community was that addiction is a disease. People with addictions aren’t bad people, they’re just sick, we were told.

That’s changing.

Research has shown that drug addiction alters brain structure until it becomes an uncontrollable compulsive behavior.

Over time, everything is about heroin. Interpersonal relationships — family, friends — are only worth what they do to enhance the addict’s ability to get more heroin.

The common thread between addiction and diseases is that left untreated, they can be fatal.

Tina Perry, 44, is a recovering cocaine addict with a child in prison for heroin-related offenses.

“There’s no face to an addict,” Perry said. “There’s no lifestyle to an addict. It’s an addiction that anybody — any race, any color, any age — could have.

“I’ve heard ‘Mom, this is a beautiful drug,’ but it destroys and wrecks lives,” Perry said. “You can teach your children this is not good, this is not the way to be ... it’s not ever the parents’ fault. It doesn’t matter if you come from money or if you don’t. The scenarios don’t matter.”

Perry started using drugs as a teenager in the late 1980s at the height of cocaine’s popularity.

After a suicide attempt — she slit her wrists at the end of a four-day party — she was forced into rehab.

“I completed the rehab and changed my life,” Perry said. “Done with the drugs, done with the lifestyle. I did not go back to the people who I hung around with. I couldn’t go back to the kids I partied with because I probably would have continued that lifestyle. Something just released in me. I didn’t want that life any more.”

It’s personal, too, for Jessica Geschke, director of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services at Affiliated Clinical Services in West Bend and a street team coordinator for Rise Together, a support and advocacy group for recovering addicts.

Her brother’s a heroin addict — “two months clean” she said. “That’s why I got into this.

“My family has been through hell and back,” Geschke said. “I’m in recovery myself, trying to figure out the right way to do this balancing act so that I don’t enable his addiction.”
Online video
■ Recovering heroin addicts tell their stories on video at

“Sure,” she said. “I’ve met lots of addicts who have quit without any type of services. They’ve been strong in their NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and their faith and they say ‘I’ve never needed treatment.’ “They detox at home by themselves,” Geschke said. “It’s horrible. It’s not something I would recommend because you don’t know how long it’s going to last.”

Nadine Machkovech, 21, was able to detox and stay clean without a formal rehab program.

Now a recovery coach and street team coordinator for Rise Together, Machkovech pointed to two events that led to her recovery.

“I lost my grandma and a close friend died of a heroin overdose,” Machkovech said. “I had a lot of guilt and shame — why had it taken him instead of me?”

Jessie Geschke of Affiliated Services leans her sweatshirt on the back of a chair at one of her desks at the group therapy office on Dec. 18 in West Bend. Her brother also wears the sweatshirt. He is in
“long-term recovery” for heroin addiction.    

John Ehlke/Daily News

After squandering the inheritance she received from her grandmother on an extended drug binge, Machkovech came clean.

“When I quit using I surrounded myself with really healthy people,” she said. “I was with my sister and her husband and I was doing 12-step support groups and going to church. The first couple of months after I stopped using it was hard to even think clearly. For so long, the drugs were making all the decisions for me. It was hard for me to understand how a person lives a normal life.

“Without my faith I know I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Machkovech said. “I finally realized that I had some kind of purpose in life, that I was put on earth for a reason. Two weeks after that I met Doug (Darby) and Anthony (Alvarado) through Rise Together and I started sharing my story. I found my purpose in life through that.”

Darby and Alvarado are cofounders of Rise Together.

Steve Dahlen is an alcoholic. He’s been sober since April 8, 2008, and works as a house manager at Exodus House, a transitional care facility in Kewaskum for alcoholics and drug addicts. Most of the residents are heroin addicts.

Steve Dahlen, a supervisor at Exodus House in Kewaskum, is shown Dec. 16.     
John Ehlke/Daily News

“No one wakes up one day and says ‘I think I’ll be a heroin addict,’” Dahlen said. “It’s something they get into and as they progress their life gets more and more out of control.”

Recovery is “a long process,” Dahlen said. “It’s not just 90 days at the Exodus House and it’s not just getting off the substance. It’s a lifestyle change.

“That person you see that’s addicted, doing terrible things, it’s not the person, it’s the drugs,” Dahlen said. “We made bad choices. Once you take that drug away and you see them, six, nine months later he’s a whole other person. It’s not the person, it’s the drugs that turned him into that.”

For all its advances, the medical community has been unable to develop a solution. There’s no magic bullet to cure addiction.

“It’s a chronically relapsing disease,” said Geschke. “It’s impossible to tell who will be successful” in rehabilitation and recovery.

Dahlen said addicts have to hit “rock bottom” before they’re ready to change.

“The rock bottom for me was being arrested, taken out of my house and not remembering,” he said. “I was the town drunk in Jackson.”

He sees people at rock bottom.

“When people come into treatment, when you see the look on their face, they’re very desperate,” Dahlen said. “When you talk to them after 30 days of treatment they’re a totally different person. Sometimes they come back a year later that they’re sober, they got married, they’ve got kids on the way, they’ve got a house, a good job. You never know what to expect of a resident when they come to us.”

Dahlen said his work “makes me feel good instead of thinking about all the crap I did.”

Katie Jones, a recovering heroin addict, said criminal activity to support her habit was, ultimately, her salvation.

“I became very good at making checks. Forging names,” she said. “That’s ultimately how I got clean — I went to prison. I don’t have any drug charges ... more than for forgery. I ended up getting caught in 2004. I stayed in the House of Corrections in Franklin for a year.

Katie Jones of Affiliated Services sits in front of a display she created for the group therapy room in one of their offices on Dec. 18 in West Bend. Jones has been 11 years clean of heroin use. She started with crystal methamphetamine and progressed to heroin.     
John Ehlke/Daily News

“When I got out I just told myself I’m not doing that again. I remapped everything I ever thought and started working on myself and the things I needed to fix.”

Geschke faced a personal crisis recently after the overdose deaths of three clients.

“I was at a point where I just said ‘I’m done. I can’t watch people die.’ “But then I went to a meeting of Rise Together and had a fire built under me,” Geschke said. “I may end up burying clients but I help 50 more. I help people every day.”

Perry’s experience has led her to create a program she calls “Just Listen.”

“It’s a positive living, positive lifestyle and also a substance abuse awareness program,” she said. “I want my program to be so good that they will not want to use to be a part of my program.

“I have a race with myself,” Perry said. “It’s not only to help my child, but the public. The faster I can reach out to people, the faster I will be saving lives and helping families.”

No common denominator
Heroin addicts come from variety of backgrounds
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on heroin addiction.

By Ken Merrill - Daily News
Dec. 29, 2014

Heroin, it seems, is everywhere.

It was once rare and expensive — the province of musicians and entertainers. Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton overcame heroin addictions. Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious, John Belushi, River Phoenix, Chris Farley, Corey Monteith and Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t. It’s a long list.

No longer. Heroin is readily available and inexpensive.

It’s synthesized from morphine, which is refined from opium in the seed pods of poppies. A powder, it can be smoked, snorted or injected. Inside your body, heroin is converted to morphine and binds to opioid receptors in the brain. An intense rush of pleasure — the “high” — quickly follows.

“It’s better than sex,” said Katie Jones, 43, a recovering addict who works as a street team coordinator with Rise Together, a support and advocacy group for recovering addicts.

Jones’ parents divorced when she was a preschooler, and she said her father’s family “has a lot of addiction issues.” When her mother remarried, she was sexually abused by her stepdad, who ended up being sentenced to prison.

“I think a majority of my issues came from not only of it being in the genes — y’know it runs in the family — but because of not dealing with things myself, the sexual abuse,” Jones said.

She began smoking marijuana and drinking in high school, and by her mid-20s she was injecting methamphetamine. She was introduced to heroin while on vacation.

“The first time I tried it I was like, ‘why have I never heard of this before?’” Jones said. “It totally numbed everything. I didn’t have to think about issues I was going through or bills or a house to take care of — all that kind of stuff.

“It’s like a dream state,” she said.

Nadine Machkovech, 21, a recovery coach and street team coordinator for Rise Together, grew up with “very loving and caring” parents in Beaver Dam, attending a Catholic middle school and graduating from Beaver Dam High School.

“I started using when I was 14 with alcohol,” Machkovech said. “When I got to high school, everybody was partying.”

Drinking, smoking marijuana. Everybody was doing it.

Nadine Machkovech of Appleton wears bracelets of Rise Together and WI United We Can, two organizations she supports. Machkovech celebrated one year of being sober Dec. 11.   
John Ehlke/Daily News

“That quickly turned into an everyday use,” she said. “After that it was cocaine, Adderol — and by the time I was 16, 17, I started using prescription pills. I was getting into so much trouble that I was looking for something more to make the feelings that I didn’t want to feel go away. I started using opiates, mainly Percocet. That spiraled into daily as well as shooting them up and entering into heroin.

“I have been in recovery since Dec. 11 of last year,” Machkovech said.

Studies show that most heroin addicts start by using prescription pills — pilfering Vicodin, Percocet or Oxycontin from the medicine cabinet or buying from friends. Also derived from the poppy plant, opioid pills are synthetic heroin.

“Pills were extremely expensive,” Machkovech said. “I had to deal a lot just to get my fix. At first my family members were being prescribed, so that’s where I got it from, then I was buying it off the streets.

“My family really didn’t know the extent of my drug use, but they enabled my addiction,” she said. “I was very good at manipulating them. I would do whatever my dad asked just to get what I wanted.”

Machkovech said the transition from pills to heroin was easy.

“I was already shooting up pills,” she said. “I was looking for a quicker high. Heroin was cheaper and would get in my system faster. It was a small step from shooting up pills to shooting up heroin. It felt like a rush ... a wave went through my whole body and I was completely numb.

“When I started shooting heroin I was just tired all the time,” Machkovech said. “I was crabby. I usually didn’t do much. Didn’t shower for days. I would be OK as long as I wasn’t sick.”

Tina Perry, 44, is both an addict and the mother of a heroin addict.

A cocaine addict as a Chicago-area teenager who was forced into rehab after a suicide attempt, Perry said being the parent of an addict is all-consuming.

“You never know how your day is gonna go,” Perry said. “I’m scared to death to get a phone call or get a knock on my door because I know what that means. When my phone rings I’m afraid to look at it because I don’t know. I don’t sleep well. I’ve had very crazy days being the parent of an addict.

Tina Perry smiles as she looks over the angel decoration she found that reminded her of her daughter Dec. 9 at her home in Mequon. Perry has a daughter in prison on heroin-related charges.   
John Ehlke/Daily News

“Addicts do not start out as criminals but they turn into criminals,” Perry said. “They will do anything to get this drug.”

“I was already shooting up pills. I was looking for a quicker high. Heroin was cheaper and would get in my system faster. It was a small step from shooting up pills to shooting up heroin.”

Len Bias Law an imperfect yet necessary tool in fighting opiates
Oconomowoc Enterprise
Dec. 17, 2014

Last week, warrants were issued for the arrest of two women charged with reckless homicide in the January overdose death of Samantha Medinger.

It is one of many reckless homicide cases in the county this year. The uptick is due to the increase in overdose deaths from heroin and prescription opiates.

Unfortunately, this has deeply affected Oconomowoc. Archie Badura, a young OHS alum, also died from an overdose here this year. It is a pair of tragedies that has proven everyone is susceptible to the devastation opiate use and addiction can have on families and communities.

In 1986, Maryland basketball standout Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose just days after being drafted to play for the Boston Celtics.

At that time, it was huge national news. A young star just starting his career collapses and dies after using what at the time was a drug at the height of its popularity. It stirred a national debate and a new awareness of the dangers of hard drugs.

Congress passed the the Len Bias law to address the growing concern. The law allows drug suppliers to be held accountable for deaths associated with the drugs they deal.

Wisconsin passed similar legislation two years later.

For the next decade, the law was rarely used, but with the current rise in opiate and heroin addiction and associated overdose deaths, it is now being employed liberally throughout Wisconsin.

The law is often applied to friends of the victim, rarely to high-level dealers. The law states the person who supplied the drug can be held responsible. It doesn’t discern between someone giving the drugs to the victim or selling the drugs. Sometimes this is a fellow user that is also addicted to opiates.

No law is perfect and there will always be a gray area when it comes to addiction and who ultimately can be held responsible for another person’s overdose death.

However, as more and more young people succumb and often die due to illegal opiate use, it is a solid start in coming to terms with a problem that must be vigorously fought so the tragedies that beset the Medingers and the Baduras stop spreading to more families.

Learning more about growing problem
Dozens turn out for Milwaukee community meeting on heroin
By RICH ROVITO - Special to The Post 
Dec. 2, 2014

Martine Tate doesn’t need statistics to prove to her that there is a growing heroin problem in the Milwaukee area. She has already experienced the nightmare that comes from losing a child to the drug.

Tate’s daughter, Valerie Powers-Ferris, died of a heroin overdose in March 2013 at the age of 36 after a lengthy battle with addiction.

"I missed a lot of clues. But who thinks there child is using heroin,"

Tate said, a framed photograph of her smiling daughter positioned on a podium as she spoke to a crowd of about 75 people that gathered Nov. 19 in the auditorium at the Milwaukee Public Schools Central Services Building on West Vliet Street.

The public meeting, organized by Milwaukee Common Council President Michael Murphy, aimed at starting a dialogue about what he sees as a growing public health crisis in the region.

"We unite to confront the tragic trend of increasing heroin and opiate addiction," Murphy said.

In 2013, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office reported 216 drug overdose deaths, the highest number ever recorded, Murphy said.

Overdose deaths last year tied to heroin use rose 34 percent to 69, up from 56 in 2012.

Through August of this year, the latest period for which figures are available, 71 deaths from heroin overdoses had been reported in Milwaukee County, Murphy said.

Addiction to prescription drugs that contain opiates, which often are prescribed to treat pain or injuries, often leads to heroin use, Murphy said.

In June, Murphy collaborated with the Zilber Family Foundation, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and elected officials in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Racine and Washington counties in organizing the first Southeast Wisconsin Regional Heroin/Opiates symposium.

"This trend has had a disastrous impact on families," he said.

Tate said her daughter, who was a mother to two children, developed back problems as a teenager that eventually required surgery. She took prescription drugs to cope with the pain.

Several years later, Powers-Ferris was once again prescribed medication to alleviate pain after being injured in a car accident. Tate noticed a gradual change in her once outgoing and effervescent daughter.

"She wasn’t laughing like she used to. There was irritability and she was withdrawn," Tate said. "I realized the problem was with the pills at first but I had absolutely no idea that it had progressed to heroin.

I had no idea where the depths of her addiction were going to take us."

An opiates abuser has a 25 percent chance of a relapse even after receiving treatment, said Christine Ullstrup, vice president of clinical services and programming at Meta House, a Milwaukee residential drug treatment facility.

Addressing the use of opiates, prescription drugs and heroin is a major focus of Meta House’s treatment programs.

"You need quality treatment on demand and you need it to be holistic," Ullstrup said.

Prescription drug and heroin abuse also is plaguing area schools, said Patricia Daugherty, a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney.

One in seven teenagers admitted last year to abusing prescription drugs, she said, noting that the path to addiction often begins in the medicine cabinet of the family’s home.

"They aren’t going into the central city and buying it on the street corner," Daugherty said.

Younger people view pills as safer than street drugs even though heroin and prescription drugs like oxycodone have a nearly identical chemical makeup, according to Daugherty.

Heroin often provides a cheaper alternative to prescription drugs, Daugherty said.

For example, a pill of oxycodone in the Milwaukee area can range from $15 to $30. An equivalent amount of heroin is $5 to $10, she said. The depressed price for heroin stems from a flooded international market.

About 50 people accused of taking part in a major heroin distribution ring on Milwaukee’s East Side were arrested earlier this month in an effort to reduce the availability of the drug, if even only temporarily.

Making matters worse, heroin on the street today can be as high as 90 percent pure, compare with 10 to 15 percent several years ago.

"That’s why we are seeing so many more overdoses now. It’s cheaper, more available and stronger than pills," Daugherty said.

Cavalier attitudes toward pain medications must be addressed to help temper demand.

"We aren’t going to arrest, legislate or even treat our way out of this," Daugherty said. "We have to, as a community, address it from all different avenues. You have to be willing to lock your medicine cabinets and we can’t have the same tired ‘just say no’ message. These drugs can kill the very first time."

Denise Sather, a psychologist who works in the wellness and prevention office for Milwaukee Public Schools, noted that a survey showed that the number of MPS high school students who admitted to using heroin one or more times rose to 7.4 percent in 2013, an increase of 2.5 percent from 2005.

MPS must remain focused on changing students’ behaviors concerning drugs, Sather said.

But challenges exist.

"Those who speak openly about their addiction are often treated like criminals and made to feel shame. Society treats addiction like a moral failure," Tate said.

Powers-Ferris developed endocarditis as a result of her extended drug abuse. The condition required open heart surgery. Later, Tate had plans for her daughter to get back into a recovery program.

Police found Powers-Ferris dead when conducting a wellness check at her residence.

"She was gone and I had to bury my child," Tate said. "The hole in my soul can never be filled."


District: Drug-testing policy a tool to prevent problems
Parents concerned about privacy, inclusiveness
By Katherine Michalets - Special to the Enterprise 
Oct. 30, 2014

OCONOMOWOC — In an effort to craft a random drug test policy for the Oconomowoc Area School District that takes into consideration feedback from the community, an informational meeting was held Monday night at the high school.

A few dozen people attended the meeting and questions were raised about privacy, supporting data, the exclusion of some students and how positive and negative results would be handled.

Pat and Pete Williams, who live right behind the high school’s football field, raised four children and took in 11 foster children, as well as some of their own grandchildren, so they are familiar with what it’s like to raise a teenager.

At the closing of the one-hour presentation and Q-and-A meeting Monday, Pat Williams said “parents are the last to know these kids have a problem.”

She encouraged parents to take any help they can get from the district in monitoring their children.

Earlier in the evening, Williams expressed concern about some students who she called “underachievers” being excluded from the drug testing, “I’d like to see them all get a chance of getting tested,” she said. “Why are you only targeting the overachievers?”

The proposed policy would affect intermediate and high school students. As a result of rights guaranteed in the Constitution, only students participating in a voluntary sport or co-curricular activity or who exercise the privilege of parking a motor vehicle in the district parking lot during the school day can be randomly tested. Substances that will be tested for by a contracted third party would include marijuana and opiates such as heroin, oxycodone, ecstasy, methadone, barbiturates and methamphetamines.

The testing of students will occur on a random basis and students will be selected by a number assigned to them. The student services director will supervise the selection of student numbers for testing and a computerbased system designed specifically for the purpose of randomly selecting students will be utilized.

Jessica Karnowski has children in fifth and fourth grades and 4K and expressed concern about whether drug testing deters drug use. She wanted to know what else the district is doing to prevent drug use among students.

She also felt that parents should get the final say about whether a child, especially for those as young as seventh grade, is tested and called the district’s proposed policy a “bullying tactic.”

Lisa Dawes, director of student services, said there was delicate discussion of whether to include seventh- and eighth-graders in the drug testing, but the district has heard from students that there is use of drugs at that age.

“We don’t always know,” Dawes said, referring to being a parent of a child. “Our goal is to help parents know before it becomes a problem.”

OHS counselor Scott Bakkum said the district has used many presentations and resources to help inform students about dangers to help prevent problems from occurring, such as the Stairway to Heroin events and Your Choice.

He suggested not looking at the drug testing as being punitive, but rather as a tool.

“We are in a different place than we were a few years ago,” Bakkum said.

Students were surveyed as part of the Stairway to Heroin program and he said the results were scary.

In order to create the draft policy, which would need to be approved by the School Board before being implemented, policies from area districts, including Muskego, Pewaukee and Arrowhead, were reviewed. The school district has also met with parent groups and clubs to gather feedback.

The next step will be for the policy to be reviewed by the curriculum committee and then will go to the full School Board likely in January, Dawes said. If approved, the district would have the rest of the school year to figure out logistics and then implement the policy for the 2015-2016 school year.

“(The policy) is meant to be preventative and to give kids a powerful reason to say no,” Dawes said.

Frequently asked questions about the OASD drug-testing policy:

How often will screenings take place?

Students become eligible for random drug testing on the first day they participate in practice, an activity or performance associated with a sport or extracurricular activity or request a parking permit.

What will the drug test entail?

Random urine tests will be conducted by a drug screen technician as a contracted outside agency of the district. The drug screen will be conducted on site in a designated private restroom. The agency will supervise the test; however, will not provide direct observation while the sample is being submitted.

What are the consequences of a positive drug test? No student shall be expelled or suspended from school as a sole result of any verified positive test conducted by the school under this program. However, students with a verified positive test under this program will be subject to the conditions set forth in the athletics/activities code. Student drug-testing information will not be turned over to any law enforcement authorities except under circumstances in which the district is legally compelled to surrender or disclose such test results.

How will the results be shared and kept private? Who will see the results? Testing results will be kept in a confidential file separate from the student’s other educational records. Results will only be disclosed to the administration personnel who have a need to be informed in order to implement or oversee implementation of the policy or consequences for violating the policy.

What is a student refuses to take a drug test? Will the refusal be construed as a drug-positive result?

The student will remain ineligible and parking privileges will be revoked until the student is tested.

How can a student contest the results of a positive drug test? Will a second confirming test be done?
Students will have an opportunity within 48 hours of notification of the first positive test result to have the split samples tested at the family’s expense.

Source: Oconomowoc Area School District

‘The devil is in our town’
Stairway to Heroin II hits home with recollections of those lost to addiction, message of hope to those struggling
By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff 
Oct. 16, 2014

OCONOMOWOC — Candid discussion silenced a crowd of more than 800 people Tuesday evening, when community members heard firsthand how heroin has devastated the lives of their friends and neighbors in Lake Country.

The Stairway to Heroin II presentation at the Oconomowoc Arts Center included stories of loved ones lost to addiction, journeys back from the brink, law enforcement’s perspective and the medical community’s input into the problem.

Oconomowoc High School senior Augie Badura, 17, shares his story at the Stairway to Heroin II presentation. His older brother Archie Badura, 19, overdosed on heroin in May. 
Josh Perttunen/Freeman Staff

A parent’s worst nightmare

Jody Medinger warned the audience that what she had to say was a parent’s worst nightmare.

She woke up from a nap on Jan. 4, went downstairs and found her daughter Samantha, 24, dead on the living room couch. Her daughter, she said, was a high-honor student who had been raised with a drug-free philosophy.

“There is a misconception that this only happens in bad families, in poor families, in families who don’t care,” Medinger said. “That’s not true. This disease does not discriminate. Samantha was known as the kid who didn’t do drugs. I knew all her friends and I knew all her friends’ parents.”

But the seed for addiction was planted when Samantha was prescribed opiate painkillers after surgery on her wisdom tooth.

“My good, smart, kid made one stupid, boneheaded decision,” Medinger said. “She chopped up a pill and snorted it and she — these are her words — ‘fell in love.’” Medinger said Samantha would struggle with heroin and opiate addiction for six years.

“Unbeknownst to myself, her father, her boyfriend, her doctor and her family, she had started using again,” Medinger said of that fateful day. “She had decided to take a shot before she went out for the evening with her boyfriend. Samantha did not intend to die that day; she intended to go out to dinner with her boyfriend.”

Speaking to a hushed audience, Medinger said her heartbreak proves that addiction can claim anyone.

“Samantha was gorgeous, sassy, gutsy, intelligent, funny and a wildly creative artist,” she said. “Heroin took it all, every last bit of Samantha, then it took her life.”

“I grew up in this town and my daughter grew up in this town. And the devil is in this town. The devil’s name is heroin.”

Chris Gleason, director of Rosecrance McHenry County, talks about his road to recovery, emphasizing that recovering addicts need hope and a strong sense of what they are good at to stave off addiction.  
Josh Perttunen/Freeman Staff

The discussion

Though painful to hear, stories like Medinger’s drive home the point that heroin is a very real problem among the community’s youths, said Oconomowoc High School Principal Joseph Moylan. “If we shy away from this discussion as a community, we are putting kids at risk,” he said.

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel also did his best to put things in perspective.

He said he has met too many families who are still struggling to comprehend how this addiction sunk its claws into their child. They’ve slid report cards across the table, marked with all A’s — or produced photographs of their child in a Boy Scout or team uniform.

“They wanted to convince me that their child wasn’t a bad child.” Schimel said. “Out of all of these parents who’ve experienced these tragedies, I’ve yet to meet the one where their child was the ‘bad’ child.”

Schimel also shared figures that highlight the epidemic.

Wisconsin has seen the number of opiate-related deaths per year nearly quadruple from 2000 to 2011, he said, jumping from 2.19 per 100,000 to 8.08 per 100,000. The number of visits to hospitals for heroin and opiate overdoses has also quadrupled. Using Narcan, EMS and hospital personnel — along with heroin users themselves — have brought more than 5,000 people who’ve overdosed back from the brink of death this year.

Additionally, Waukesha County has submitted the second-highest amount of heroin to the state crime lab, which Schimel attributes to both the prevalence of the drug and the county’s aggressive policy to thwart it. Another telling figure, he said, is that needle exchanges in the southeastern Wisconsin region have jumped from 170,000 needles exchanged in 2008 to more than 700,000 in 2012.

“Every way you measure this, we’re in trouble,” Schimel said, noting that figures like traffic deaths have fluctuated from year to year, while the amount heroin deaths has not stopped climbing.

“If we saw traffic deaths going up and up and up like this, what would be prepared to do about it?” he asked. “I think we’d do crazy things. Like putting a roundabout every 200 feet.”

Gains are being made using options like the drug treatment court, Schimel said, but stemming the tide of addiction will require continued funding and potentially drastic measures.

“Are we making progress? Yes. But we are driving a Model A and the problem just blew by us in a red Ferrari.”

High school seniors share their stories

A trio of high school seniors shared their experiences with the devastation heroin can cause. Augie Badura and Emma Pond spoke of the brothers they lost to addiction, while Ashley Herbst spoke of how she battled back from the brink.

Augie, 17, said he lost his older brother Archie, 19, in May. Archie, he said, was extensively involved with the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Nashotah and beloved by the parishioners there.

“We thought he might someday grow up to work at the church,” Augie said. “Not be dead at 19 years old.”

After a childhood filled with fun, friends and laughter, Augie said his brother started smoking marijuana in high school, rationalizing that it was the best cure for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Efforts to send him to boot camp could not halt his developing addictions, Augie said.

With the assistance of counselors and other school staff, Archie was able to graduate in 2013 — a milestone that meant a lot to him and his family.

But, Augie said his family could see him slipping away after that.

“He turned down great schools and job opportunities,” he said. When Archie started using opiates and told his brother, Augie said that he thought it was just a phase and didn’t tell his parents. When Archie confided later that he had used heroin for the first time, he told his brother he would never do it again. In retrospect, Augie said he should have sidestepped all of those assurances and rationalizations to get him the support he needed.

Senior Emma Pond shared memories of her brother Daniel juggling, doing the “Carlton” dance from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and making people laugh in any situation. He became addicted to pain pills after he received them during recovery from a torn ACL, she said.

Senior Ashley Herbst shared her story as a recovering addict, who was able to battle back from the brink after her secret use of heroin was discovered by Milwaukee Police on Jan. 1.

She had been at the point, she said, where she was using all of her money on drugs and “wasn’t using to feel high anymore, but to feel normal.”

Herbst will be nine months sober this month.

Pre-emptive measures

Moylan offered measures he believes can help combat these addictions before they begin.

First, he said, students must realize that they’re not invulnerable, a phenomenon he called the Superman myth.

“They believe ‘it can’t happen to me, I’m invincible, I can quit whenever I want,’” he said. “So you drink a little beer, you smoke a little pot; it’s no big deal, everybody does it. But, no heroin addict ever started by using heroin.”

Parents bear a responsibility, he added, and some must ditch preconceptions about their own behaviors.

“They believe things like ‘I did it when I was younger, so it can’t be that bad,’ or ‘If I take the keys and nobody drives, it’s OK to have a drink at my house.’ These messages to our children reinforce the need for our kids to use to feel better,” he said. “It starts them on a path we may not see them return from. We need to end the adult participation in the cycle.”

Moylan also suggested parents and other adults make use of the prescription drop-off at the police station.

“You have to know what a gift having a drop-off in the community is,” he said, noting that pills can’t just be returned to the pharmacy. “You have an opportunity to get those drugs now out of your house when you’re not using them and nobody will get into your personal supply.”

‘There is a face and a name to it’

Adding student and family testimonials to the program has made it a more powerful presentation, Moylan said, adding that the program was presented to students at the high school and middle school earlier on Tuesday.

“It makes it more real for the kids,” he said. “There is a face and a name to it. These are kids that they see every day, that they like, that are popular. It’s heroism for them to stand in front of the peers and share their story.”



Flames held high at Badura prayer vigil

NASHOTAH — A brief candlelight prayer vigil for Archie Badura, held at the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Nashotah, immediately followed the Stairway to Heroin II presentation on Tuesday evening.

Augie Badura, center, and parents Andy and Lauri are overcome with emotion Tuesday evening at the prayer vigil for Archie Badura, who died of a heroin overdose May 15. The vigil was held at the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Nashotah.   
Josh Perttunen/Freeman Staff

Those in attendance held their candles high and slowly cycled through the church as the young man was fondly remembered — and light was shed on the addiction he and others have dealt with, or will deal with.

Members of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church raise their candles Tuesday evening as “This Little Light of Mine' is performed as part of a prayer vigil for Archie Badura.    
Josh Perttunen/Freeman Staff

People were invited to bring a picture of a loved one that has been lost to addiction, suicide or mental illness to place on Archie’s memorial, or to bring along someone who is in recovery from addiction.

— Enterprise Staff

A closer look at random drug policies in other districts
Pewaukee has had policy in place for 10 years, Arrowhead for 8
By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff 
Oct. 9, 2014

OCONOMOWOC — As the Oconomowoc Area School District fine-tunes a random drug-testing policy to bring before district parents and its school board, the architects of that plan say they are aware that other schools in the county have approved similar policies.

The policy being mulled in Oconomowoc would require students to comply with random drug tests as a condition of participation in any school athletics, clubs or organizations. Testing could extend to other school-related privileges, such as the ownership of a parking pass, as well.

“The impetus for this policy stems from the students we lost last year due to drug use,” said Lisa Dawes, the district’s director of student services and special education.

Pewaukee policy has been in place for decade

Pewaukee High School’s random drug testing policy has been in place for a decade now.

PHS Principal Marty Van Hulle remembered when the district started discussing the policy in February 2003. The school board had charged administration with the task of surveying the community to gauge what steps they wanted the district to take.

“We were just trying to deter students from using drugs,” Van Hulle said. “There was no watershed moment, we were trying to be proactive.”

The policy applies to any club or group that has an adviser or coach. It applies to approximately 75 percent of the student body, Van Hulle estimated.

OHS Athletic Director Scott Raduka said linking random drug tests to the combination of privileges proposed in his district could affect an estimated 1,043 students, which affects approximately 70 percent of the student body. Currently, no OASD students are tested.

The first time a student tests positive for banned drugs in Pewaukee, no matter what type of drugs, he or she will miss 30 percent of the season, Van Hulle said. The second offense yields a 50 percent suspension and the third offense is a lifetime ban from participation. Results are not referred to law enforcement.

To date, Van Hulle said the policy had its desired impact and has not needed to be tweaked in the last 10 years.

“The key was that it had to be truly random and confidential,” he added. “The testing company generates a list of numbers, that we then match to the corresponding students. If a student is absent, they don’t take the test that day, but are on the list for next month.”

In the system used by PHS, even the dates are randomly generated. The whole testing and communication of results is handled by the professionals at the laboratory, Van Hulle said.

Extending the policy to include students’ parking privileges is something his district did not consider, he said, and he is not aware if that can be done.

“This policy took a lot of time, a lot of communication and a lot of involvement with students and parents,” Van Hulle said. “It’s not an overnight decision, to say the least.”

Now that it’s been implemented, Van Hulle said he’d recommend a similar policy for every school district.

“I don’t think that it’s ever a bad thing to try and deter kids from things that are unhealthy or illegal,” he said.

Confidentiality is key at Arrowhead High School

Arrowhead Union High School formulated its random drug test policy just two years after Pewaukee’s was put into place.

Superintendent Craig Jefson was just starting his tenure during its first year of implementation, but knew that the policy was riding a wave of community support.

“There was extensive surveying done of the community and parents,” he said. “They felt like it was everybody’s responsibility to deter students from drug use — including law enforcement, medical professionals and also the responsibility of community members and parents. They felt the school had to play a role and asked what we were going to do about it.”

Maintaining strict confidentiality and clear objectives have been crucial parts of the process, Jefson said. Random number generators generate numbers monthly, which correspond to 20 students tested per campus.

The results of those tests, administered by ProHealth Care professionals during the school year, are only shared with Jefson as yearend figures, he said, and the assistant principals are the only ones who know individual results.

“It’s as confidential as possible,” he added. “We didn’t want to become Big Brother, we didn’t want to be punitive. We just wanted to give students another reason to say ‘no.’ If we’re the excuse that they need, let us be that excuse.”

The district didn’t want anything else to muddy the objective when crafting the policy, Jefson said. Linking the testing to parking passes was debated, but ultimately the district didn’t want to go that route and was uncertain if it was legally permissible.

Jefson estimated 60 percent of the student body is involved in athletics, 30 percent in music and 35 percent in other activities. The cumulative cost for testing is $12,000 to $15,000, which is picked up by the school district. With that level of investment, Jefson said it is important to focus on results.

“Though we don’t have many tests come back positive — and most of those are for nicotine — the assistant principals feel strongly that this policy is a deterrent,” he said. “To back that up, there have been student surveys and anecdotal conversations with students where they cite it as a deterrent.”

There must be vigilance in being aware of unintended consequences, Jefson said.

“A kid who tests positive could continue using chemicals and decide to quit the activity where he or she was doing positive things,” he said. “This would be counterproductive. Coaches have to help students who may be reactionary to realize that we are offering help.”

And the parents still play the most important role, he added.

What will Oconomowoc do?

Whether to implement the policy in the Oconomowoc district — which would apply from seventh grade on up — is a decision that the school board will discuss and make a decision on over the course of the next few months. Board President Don Wiemer said this topic was visited nearly 10 years ago and tabled because of concerns, such as how the district would deal with false positives.

Some of those concerns have been addressed since then, with input from the district administrative team, alcohol and other drug abuse coordinator, high school principal, athletic director and the district’s AODA committee.

A parent information night, where residents will be empowered to ask questions on the proposed policy, is being held at the Oconomowoc Arts Center at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27.


Community U to tackle area drug problem

Oct. 1, 2014

The growing problem of illegal drugs, especially heroin, is a community issue that Hartford Rotary’s new president, Police Chief David Groves, hopes the club and the community can address together and see results.

Part of that effort includes a program called Hartford Community U at Hartford Union High School at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

“I looked around and thought about what things we (the Rotary) would like to address as a pressing issue,” Groves said. “It’s our goal to share hope with the many members of our community dealing with the issue of illegal drug use.”

The free community-wide forum will feature presenters from the perspectives of education, advocacy, prevention and law enforcement. There will also be presentations from family members and former addicts regarding the impact these issues are having on lives.

“Narcotic abuse and addiction has become an epidemic in our society,” Groves said. “The Hartford Rotary Club believes that an informed community is a safer community.”

Groves said the drug problem affects the community in ways that aren’t easily seen.

Groves said his department has been dealing with local human resource departments.

“Some have confided in us that even when they tell people about an upcoming drug test, still one in four don’t pass,” Groves said. “So this is not a small thing.”

Groves said Washington County in 2012, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, was one of the seven counties in the state that submitted 30 or more heroin cases to the state crime lab.

“That same year the county was also in the top 11 for heroin overdoses,” Groves said.

Al Davies, EMS coordinator at Aurora Medical Center in Hartford, has worked to train local police officers and emergency personnel how to administer Narcan, a drug used to revive people who have overdosed on heroin.

“There’s been a serious increase in the volume of people we see who have used it,” Davies said. “There’s been a marked rise this year from last year. I know Narcan has been used on several occasions by emergency personnel around here.”

Groves said many robberies and other crimes committed in Hartford and the area are related to people needing money to purchase illegal drugs.


School leaders learn signs of drug use
Sept. 25, 2014

 West Bend School District principals and administrators listen as Hartland Police Department Detective Matt Harper explains how a variety of items are connected to illegal drug use. The educators spent Tuesday and Wednesday learning how to spot students who may be impaired from drug or alcohol abuse during a workshop held at the district’s Education Service Center.
Linda McAlpine/Daily News

Fluttering eyelids, body tremors, loss of balance — these physical signs may indicate a person is impaired from alcohol or drugs, symptoms that more than a dozen principals and administrators in the West Bend School District have spent the past two days learning about.

“We’re not going to pretend that we don’t have drugs in the West Bend School District. We want to be proactive so we can continue to keep our children safe,” district Superintendent Ted Neitzke said Wednesday during a break in the workshop “Drug Impairment Training for Educational Professionals.”

The West Bend Police Department organized the training sessions, led by Steve Krejci of the Milwaukee Police Department and Matt Harper, a detective with the Hartland Police Department.

On Tuesday, the educators learned about drugs — legal and illegal — that can be abused, from depressants and stimulants to hallucinogens and narcotics.

Wednesday’s session was dedicated to learning the physical symptoms connected to drug and alcohol abuse, and becoming acquainted with a variety of items that can be associated with drug use.

“You might not see the heroin, but if you start finding discolored cotton balls laying around, you might have a student who is injecting heroin,” Harper said. “The cotton balls are used as a filter.”

Finding bits of tin foil or the corners of plastic bags — the packaging that some drugs come in — can also be a sign of drug use, Harper said.

Harper pointed out some ordinary household products can be abused to produce a drug “high.”

He also shared some of the ways that students may use to conceal alcohol or drug usage.

“This kind of training is really beneficial for educators because they get to see and touch the different drugs and the paraphernalia that is associated with drug abuse,” Harper said during a break. “They’re learning what to look for that might tip them off to a student using drugs in addition to the physical symptoms.”

Krejci said the workshop also teaches the educators what the current drug trends are in schools.

Janelle Townsend, assistant principal at the West Bend high schools, said one of the things that impressed her was “how creative students can be when it comes to concealing drugs.”

Harper demonstrated several items that can easily be purchased online to “hide their stash.”

Principals from the district’s elementary, middle and high schools attended the workshop.

“I can guarantee that after these sessions, they will start to look at their students differently,” Neitzke said of those who attended the workshop. “They will now have a level of awareness about drugs that maybe they didn’t have before and they will start seeing things that they didn’t before.”

Neitzke said the district will hold meetings in the near future to share information about drug and alcohol abuse with parents.

“We also want to create a culture amongst our students that if they see something, they should say something,” Neitzke said. “We will also be looking at writing district policies that include a higher level of consequences for students using drugs or alcohol but that also include a level of support to help them.”


County drug coalition reviews ‘five pillar’ approach to stopping opioid crisis
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff 
Sept. 25, 2014

WAUKESHA — The Drug Coalition of Waukesha County convened for its second meeting Wednesday to continue discussing possible solutions for the area’s ongoing opioid crisis, while also looking at some of its youngest victims.

The group — comprised of representatives from county government, health care, law enforcement and education — invited two members from the Wisconsin’s Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Committee Heroin Ad-hoc Committee to talk about what the state has done to curb opioid addiction.

Christy Niemuth, prevention coordinator for Wisconsin’s Division of Mental Health & Substance Abuse services, introduced a “five pillar“ strategy that seeks to balance public order and health to forge a safe and healthy community. The pillars include prevention, law enforcement, treatment, harm reduction and workforce issues. “We needed to broaden our scope,” she said. “We felt that if we focused our efforts on those five buckets... we could really begin developing some specific recommendations for folks working in each of those fields and come up with a collaborative, community-wide approach that would affect all areas.”

Data from a recent Ad-hoc Committee report was also presented showing the number of counties in Wisconsin that have reported heroin overdoses has grown from 20 in 2008 to more than 50 in 2012, the most recent year with available data.

The coalition split into three smaller groups during Wednesday’s meeting, based on three of the pillars: reduction, law enforcement and treatment. Following hourlong individual discussions by the groups, the full coalition came back together and offered possible solutions such as increasing the county’s drug court and creating a new drug awareness education system to replace DARE.

County Executive Dan Vrakas also suggested compiling a list of local organizations that families in need could use as a resource.

While much of the meeting focused on solutions, the group was also reminded of the problems faced by children and infants in homes affected by addiction.

County Board Supervisor Christine Howard said there are 17 known drug-affected babies in Waukesha County, which prompted her to invite Amy Baumann, vice president of programs for Safe Babies Healthy Families, to attend Wednesday’s meeting. The local organization works with families to make sure children have a safe and healthy living environment, but Baumann said the group is seeing more referrals for drug-affected babies than ever before.

“There are times where we will get a referral per week and I can tell you five years ago we probably had none on our caseload,” she said. “It is just becoming such a hardship for us just to service these families because they take so much more time than our traditional families.”

Each of the coalition’s three subgroups said they plan on meeting again on their own in the coming weeks and a meeting of the full body was scheduled for early November.


Heroin Task Force ramps up efforts

By Denise Seyfer - News Graphic Staff 
Sept. 18, 2014

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.

Their task is no easy one, as leaders have stated consistently in the past.

“It is without question the single worst crime problem I’ve seen in Ozaukee County in my 34 years of law enforcement,” Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Lt. Rod Galbraith said in January as efforts to tackle the problem began.

Members of the community education committee detailed four goals, which centered around a marketing campaign aimed toward parents, public and private schools and students and the faith community to curtail drug addiction, especially to heroin.

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 .


How to defeat drug abuse?
Cross-system meeting program seeks solutions for county’s continuing heroin & opiate crisis
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff 
August 29, 2014

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.”


Heroin dealer sentenced to 3 years in prison
West Bend man, 19, sold drugs to undercover agent
By AMANDA VOSS - Daily News
August 19, 2014

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.”

3 men revived from heroin overdoses in 2 days
Crews administer Narcan; officer taken to hospital after stuck with used needle
August 5, 2014

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.

SALS home helps get addicts back on their feet
By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff  
August 1, 2014

Kevin Schaefer, John E. Arneson and Patrick Reilly discuss SALS Sober House
during a Thursday interview. 

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

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.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

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 in.

“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 the
SALS Sober House locations.  

Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

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


VIEW >> 97th Assembly candidates forum on tobacco,
alcohol and drug abuse
Posted 08-01-2014

Sheriff candidates put spotlight on heroin crisis leading up to August primary
By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff  
July 25, 2014

WAUKESHA — 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.”


Drug dealers avoiding Ozaukee County
Law enforcement still pursuing those who get drugs to residents

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff 
July 8, 2014

PORT WASHINGTON — Call it a cat-and-mouse game.

Drug dealers apparently have gotten the word to stay out of Ozaukee County. They apparently have realized drug laws are enforced aggressively – and judges don’t treat their cases lightly. Prosecutors have responded by finding different charges to file.

In one recent arrest – and the district attorney said last week similar cases are being investigated – a Milwaukee man was charged with two felony heroin-dealing charges, even though the drug deals allegedly occurred in Milwaukee County.

Antonio C. Green Sr., 33, was charged in late June with three counts of conspiracy to commit manufacture/delivery of heroin. The complaint was immediately sealed so the case wouldn’t turn up on an online court database. Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland issued an arrest warrant. Green, arrested July 1 in Milwaukee, made an initial court appearance Wednesday. He is being held in the Ozaukee County jail on a $25,000 cash bond.

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said law enforcement and prosecutors are responding to drug dealers with a new approach.

“We needed to develop a strategy to deal with the fact that drug dealers were not consummating their drug deals in Ozaukee County because they recognized there was a significant law enforcement presence,” Gerol said, adding that law enforcement has been starting to see dealers switch the meeting location to the other side of the county line.
The crimes addressed in the criminal complaint allegedly occurred in a parking lot of a store in the 5600 block of North Bayshore Drive in Glendale on June 17, June 18 and June 19. An undercover sheriff’s deputy, who was in Ozaukee County, arranged by text to meet Green for the first time to buy a gram of heroin for $160, the criminal complaint said.

The text also said that they could meet at that location but it had to be quick because “I gotta meet my man back in Grafton on his break for his share,” the deputy texted, according to the complaint.

The two met. Green got into the passenger seat of the deputy’s car and turned over 1.1 grams of heroin for $160 in pre-recorded buy money, the complaint said.

A second drug deal – also for a gram for $160 – allegedly occurred in the same parking lot the next day. Again, the deputy was in Ozaukee County when the transaction was arranged. The deputy also texted he “had to make it back to Grafton in time,” the complaint said.

The third deal – this time, three grams for $500 – allegedly occurred on June 19. In a text setting up that deal, the deputy mentioned wanting to pick up some more “to bring back to Grafton,” the complaint said.

“As a continuing effort to fight the heroin epidemic, the Ozaukee County Drug Task Force remains committed to bringing to justice any drug dealer that targets the citizens of Ozaukee County,” said Lt. Rod Galbraith, the sheriff’s department’s lead detective and supervisor of the drug task force, in a news release announcing Green’s arrest.

The district attorney said his office can assert jurisdiction if they can show that the drugs are intended for resale or distribution in Ozaukee County.

“The idea is to create fear in drug dealers over selling in Ozaukee County and profile their purchasers and hopefully deter them from selling to people from Ozaukee County,” Gerol said.

Each of the three charges carries a maximum penalty of 12 1/2 years in prison and a $25,000 fine, court records said.

Gary Achterberg can be reached at .


‘This is the work of the devil’
First responders, deputy DA share realities of heroin problem

By Katherine Michalets - Special to The Freeman
June 26, 2014

DELAFIELD –To illustrate how problematic the heroin addiction problem is in Waukesha County, Delafield Police Officer Dan Bloedow on Thursday described two brothers who bought heroin and shot up together in their home, resulting in one brother dying from an overdose while his mother and brother monitored him after he was found unconscious in the bathroom.

“But the monitoring was actually watching him die,” he said.

The heroin addiction awareness meeting was organized by Alderman Jeff Krickhahn and held in Delafield City Hall on Thursday. Krickhahn became emotional while he spoke of how a friend’s son died from a heroin overdose.

Krickhahn said heroin has increasingly become the party drug of choice for today’s youth because of the euphoric high it can provide and its availability. The presenters at Thursday’s meeting also shared how heroin addiction often begins after someone starts abusing opiate drugs like oxycodone. Those people may move on to heroin because they can no longer get the prescription drugs.

Bloedow said he has only responded to the single fatal heroin overdose, but he worries about the future.

“We are very fortunate that we haven’t had another, but I fear that another one is not far off,” he said.

Officer Landon Nyren, a member of the Major Investigations Unit with Bloedow, said officers have seen every type of person imaginable abusing heroin or other opiates. Another prescription drug that Nyren has seen abused is Fentanyl, which comes in both preparations to be taken orally and patches.

One fatality Nyren investigated came after a man complained to his Fentanyl supplier that the patch wasn’t working well, so the supplier told him to “suck on it.”

The man’s friends later found him dead with the patch still in his mouth.

“Not only does your friend die of an overdose, you find them,” he said.

Nyren said the majority of property crimes in the area are prompted by heroin or other opiate addictions.

According to data Bloedow read, in 2013 there were 227 heroin deaths in Wisconsin and between 2008 and 2013 there was a 201 percent increase in fatal heroin overdoses.

Problem is complex

The problem is not one that police arrests can solve, nor can prosecution fix, said Waukesha County Deputy District Attorney Susan Opper.

“This is the work of the devil,” she said. “There is no answer.”

Opper has been assigned only to prosecuting narcotic cases in Waukesha County, something that wasn’t needed a few years ago, but now narcotic-related homicides exceed traffic deaths in the county. She said heroin addicts eventually need a fix each day just so they don’t get sick. It’s a constant struggle to figure out how to pay for the drugs, where to get them and what mode of transportation can be taken to get them.

“I would not wish this on my worst enemy even for a day,” Opper said of a heroin addict’s lifestyle.

The issue is complex, she said, explaining that even if a judge orders treatment, a person can refuse to cooperate. Friends can also be enablers. The addiction can even begin at a young age, Opper said, because high school athletes may be prescribed a strong pain pill for an injury and when they are no longer able to get the prescription, they might turn to heroin.

“They think they are invincible,” she said.

The police officers, Opper and members of Lake Country Fire & Rescue also shared their frustration with the supplies provided for free through a needle exchange program, including burners, tourniquets, alcohol wipes and a drug called Narcan that counteracts a heroin overdose. Opper said she has heard of friends who have called each other to locate Narcan instead of calling 9-1-1.

Awareness is important, Nyren said, suggesting that when a doctor prescribes a strong pain pill, the patient could ask if something like aspirin might work as well.

Opper said awareness must also be increased in the medical community and work is being done locally with the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Lake Country Fire & Rescue Chief Jack Edwards suggested having an exit plan prepared for young people when they are exposed to heroin.

“Everyone thinks it’s the big city problem, but it’s not,” he said, adding almost all of the LCFR paramedics have heroin overdose experience.

For more info

■ For more information about heroin, go to or call 608-266-1221. Other resources include 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or A pamphlet will also be available at the Delafield Public Library, 500 Genesee St.

A ‘full-court press’ against heroin
Counselors: Community must fight addiction on many fronts

By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff
June 26, 2014

OCONOMOWOC — Staff at area schools will note that the names being associated with fatal drug overdoses are all too familiar. Sometimes, said counselor Scott Bakkum of Oconomowoc High School, it is a name that was announced over the loudspeakers at graduation only a year or so ago.

Social worker Deborah Fowler said she can’t link all of those fatalities to heroin, but she has seen more fatal overdoses of former students hit the news pages in the last five years than in all of her previous 10 years combined.

The sobering topic of student heroin use — and other student addictions — marks the penultimate installment in the Enterprise’s five-part series that examines the roles and responsibilities of today’s school counselor.

A month ago, the series began by exploring the increasing mental health needs of students. Two weeks ago, a system of more intense career guidance and planning was examined. In the week that followed, the Enterprise delved into counselors’ impact on curriculum. The series will conclude next week with a snapshot on how counselors rely upon measurable data to gauge the impact of their lessons.

‘The stakes are so much higher’

In partnership with Rosecrance, a group with substance abuse rehab facilities and which has an office in Pewaukee, OHS runs Substance Abuse Services that meet once a week for an eight-week period. These are for those who are recovering from marijuana, other drugs and alcohol — or those who are concerned about friends and family.

Though heroin use among students is a relatively new trend, which Bakkum said really started to become evident three years ago, the recovery group this year was primarily composed of those who are recovering from heroin use.

Self-reporting hasn’t occurred as much as it may for other substances, which Bakkum speculated may be due to the stigma of heroin use. With students coming back from treatment and participating in the school’s recovery groups, however, a dialogue is beginning.

“Students who are going through this are realizing that there are more kids like them than they know,” Bakkum said.

What staff members have been able to learn from the students themselves, Rosecrance and from law enforcement is that heroin is cheap, easy to get and more potent than it’s ever been. It could affect any student, regardless of academic standing or socioeconomics.

“I don’t think kids realize the potency,” Bakkum said. “They are teenagers and adolescents; a lot of it is their (curiosity.) Some of them have been on drugs and are no longer getting the high they want, so they want to try something different.” Though the progression isn’t the same for every student who tries and becomes addicted to heroin, there are those who make the leap up from prescription pills.

“Their belief is that, well, if it’s a prescription pill ... that a doctor prescribed it, it must be safe,” Bakkum said. “But, they’re not using it how it was prescribed.”

Pills are expensive, Fowler said, and economics are sometimes the driving force for the deadly switch to heroin.

In addition to the potency, Bakkum said there are those who believe that the spread of Narcan may manufacture a false sense of security, with students believing that they might be brought back from an overdose simply by having Narcan administered.

“It’s sort of one of those things where I think kids are pushing the boundaries much more so, and they don’t realize the stakes are so much higher with some of the drugs, heroin in particular,” he said. “It’s one time and the student could die. That’s a very different risk than the drugs in the past.”

‘Full-court press’

One of the things that needs to happen is a more aggressive effort on the part of the entire community, Bakkum said, which includes law enforcement, schools, peers, the business community and parents.

A more active parenting style could make a big impact, Bakkum said. Gone are the days where the landline is in the living room and conversations about risky behaviors may be overheard and thwarted by parents.

Students now hatch plans to engage in risky behaviors on the devices they carry in their pockets. Parents need to remember that the students have no expectation of privacy and that they can expect to see what is being said via text.

“Parents should know that it doesn’t start with heroin,” said Lisa Dawes, the director of student services and special education. “It starts with something else.

“When you talk about that full-court press, where all people have to be driving as hard in order to make change, that change has to start with things that people find a little more tolerant, but not necessarily legal, like alcohol. To be thinking about that ... I don’t think anybody sees their child moving on from having drinks at a family party or graduation party to moving onto a heavy-duty drug like heroin, but I think that’s what’s taken everybody by surprise — where it starts and where it ends up.”

Parents need to monitor that activity and texting, Fowler echoed, even with students placing tremendous pressure on them not to do so.

“Parents should respond to the changes that they notice,” she said. “That could be changes to friendship groups, eating and sleeping habits, changes in academic performance at school, truancy, or changes to hygiene.”

Community seems receptive

The community is showing some responsiveness in its ability to face these tough truths, Bakkum said. A “Stairway to Heroin” event at the Oconomowoc Arts Center in April was the most attended assembly in recent memory, with 575 parents and students in attendance. Ninety-one percent of those in attendance reported that they found the information useful and an unprecedented 100 percent reported that they felt more knowledgeable about the risks and behaviors.

A second event is planned for next fall, with possible firsthand input from a student who is recovering, Bakkum said.



Banding together
Milwaukee County organizations, agencies bring awareness to heroin epidemic

By DAVE FIDLIN - Special to The Post
June 20, 2014

The statistics do not lie.

With heroin use and the number fatal overdoses rising dramatically the past five years, few people would argue sweeping efforts need to be made to curb the epidemic.

While attention has turned toward elected officials and law enforcement to enact and uphold laws that address the issue, local leaders have asserted no one profession or organization can be handed the task of putting an end to heroin use in the Milwaukee area.

Efforts to stem the tide should not be done in a vacuum, advocates trumpeted at the regional symposium, "Heroin: Not on Our Watch Protecting Our Communities," that was held June 4 at Marquette University.

The daylong event, which included representatives from Milwaukee and four neighboring counties, included speakers from a number of nonprofit organizations and public agencies that shared a similar mission.

Throughout Milwaukee County, members of disparate groups have agreed to band together and fight the heroin epidemic that is sweeping the entire Milwaukee metropolitan area including some of the most affluent communities.

The Milwaukee-based AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin has nine branches throughout the state. As its name implies, the organization focuses primarily on creating awareness around HIV and AIDS.

More recently, however, the ARCW has rallied around other causes, including the rise in heroin use by youths.

"No one group is the solution to this," said Dennis Radloff, drug prevention specialist with the ARCW’s Milwaukee branch. "It takes all of us together."

As is the case with most organizations, Radloff readily admits funding is one of the largest obstacles as the ARCW aims to carry out its mission. Challenges aside, he said the organization is committed to offering a range of treatment and prevention services.

One way the ARCW has been involved with the heroin crisis has been the distribution of so-called heroin antidote kits that contain Narcan, a drug that is intended to reverse the effects of heroin.

Since word has spread about the rise of heroin use, a variety of coalitions has sprouted up throughout the region to advocate toward greater collaboration within and across county lines.

In Milwaukee County, an organization known as the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition has been working in tandem with the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute to bring awareness to the issue.

"The law enforcement are important. Organizations working toward treatments and cures are good. Community organizations are good," said Kari Lerch, a prevention services manager with the coalition. "But none of these groups can do this alone. Our community coalitions are a great way to bring everyone together."

While grass-roots efforts and nonprofit organizations have been viewed as an important mechanism toward bringing awareness to the epidemic, state-run agencies hold equal weight.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services Bureau of Prevention, Treatment and Recovery has an office in Milwaukee. The agency has been designated as the state’s official opioid treatment authority.

Tanya Hiser, a specialist with the agency, said a variety of medication-assisted treatments is available to heroin addicts. The bureau works as a liaison to help bring the treatments to people who need them.

As advocates scramble to get the word out about heroin’s rise, a variety of efforts is being taken to gain awareness. One such method has been a multimedia campaign known as the Fly Effect.

Playing off the lyrics in the age-old nursery rhyme, "I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly," the campaign basically states one hit of heroin is one hit too many.

Like the nursery rhyme, which portrayed the old woman and her ongoing efforts to build on her previous experiences, heroin use can start small and quickly grow out of control.

"Even the biggest spirals have the smallest start," said Christina McNichol, an agent with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. "In the case of heroin, what are users going to do to get their next hit?"

Southeastern Wisconsin has been especially hit hard with a more than double amount of heroin overdoses having been recorded from 2009 to 2013. In 2009, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties notched 45 overdoses. In 2013, the five-county region encountered 98 overdoses.

Heartbreak of heroin again a topic of discussion

June 19, 2014

 Pat Franklin of the town of Jackson, who lost two sons to drug overdoses, wipes a tear after watching a testimonial video Wednesday at Badger Middle School in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

WEST BEND - Steve Melstrand started his road to heroin addiction at 13 by smoking marijuana.

Melstrand, 25, of West Bend, who has been in recovery from his heroin addiction for the past four years, told the story of the hell he and his family went through during a program for the parents of fourth-through ninth-graders hosted by the West Bend School District at Badger Middle School titled “Learn the Risks.”

“By the time I was in high school, I started experimenting with other drugs. They were easy to get. I tried cocaine, ecstasy, acid and mushrooms,” he said. “It wasn’t long before I tried pills like oxycodone and Percocet.”

The next step in his journey was to try heroin.

“I started using heroin in my junior year in high school. One of my biggest regrets is that I let it take over and I gave up the things I had a passion for, like wrestling,” Melstrand said.

He was so hooked on heroin that even the overdose death of a close friend didn’t cause Melstrand to try to stop his addiction.

“It was surreal. It hit me hard but I felt I was invincible,” Melstrand said of his friend’s death by heroin.

It took a near-death experience of his own at the hands of heroin to make Melstrand seek help.

“My parents got me to talking to a psychiatrist and that got me to reevaluate and change the priorities in my life,” Melstrand said, adding that his newfound Christian faith has helped him turn his life around. He is now married with a young son and is a partner in his father’s small business.

Melstrand’s stepmother, Emily Melstrand, said as a parent, she felt she was naive about drug use, especially heroin. “I guess I just didn’t want to believe it,” she said, noting that the family had been active together.

West Bend Police Capt. Tim Dehring said even though heroin and prescription drug abuse are problems in the community, he said he has a strong belief they can be beaten.

“We need to defeat denial. These problems are here,” he said. “We also need to defeat the stigma, so that those who have these problems can talk about them and get the help they need.”

West Bend School District Superintendent Ted Neitzke gave the audience some solid advice to take home.

“Have a code,” he said. “Develop a code or phase that your child can use when calling you if they find themselves in a situation where there is pressure to make a bad choice.”

Neitzke encouraged parents to be parents, to be engaged with their middle schoolers.

“We as parents are involved with our children when they are in elementary school, but then we tend to step back when they turn,” he said. “That’s when we need to be more involved. Know who your children’s friends are. Get to know their parents. Have your house be the one that the kids want to come to. Be that safe place for them.”

Neitzke said the School District, along with the West Bend Police Department and Elevate, a community resource center in Jackson, plans to host other community conversations about issues facing Washington County.

The disturbing new face of heroin addiction

By Dave Fidlin - News Graphic Correspondent
June 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE — The numbers vary slightly, but every statistic tells a similar story: Heroin use is on the rise – regionally and nationally.

Southeastern Wisconsin has been especially hit hard with a more than double amount of heroin overdoses from 2009 to 2013. In 2009, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties notched 45 overdoses. In 2013, the five-county region encountered 98 overdoses.

With an unfortunate common bond, civic leaders and organizers gathered Wednesday at Marquette University for a symposium, “Heroin: Not On Our Watch – Protecting our Communities.”

Source: Ozaukee County Public Health Department

The rise of heroin use among youth has become a well-publicized epidemic this year. Wednesday’s daylong event was designed to put the spotlight on possible solutions.

While a number of possible remedies were discussed – including stiffer laws and changing regulations on prescription medications – time and again, speakers sounded a desire to collaborate with one another, across county lines.

Paul Decker, Waukesha County Board chairman, did not mince words as he discussed the epidemic throughout Waukesha and its surrounding communities. Decker said Waukesha County’s burgeoning population is, in part, made of people who have wanted to distance themselves from urban challenges.

“Denial is one of our biggest challenges,” Decker said. “But education is the key thing. We’ve got to collaborate. We’ve got to work together.”

Other counties abutting Milwaukee County – including Ozaukee and Washington counties – are also facing the issue head-on. Like Waukesha County, organizers in the other two counties have held meetings that have drawn larger-than-expected crowds.

Kirsten Johnson, director of the Ozaukee County Health Department, said a locally-oriented heroin summit was expected to draw no more than 200 people when it was held in January. More than 600 people showed up.

In the immediate aftermath of the summit, Johnson said the health department is meeting regularly with other groups, including the sheriff’s office and the county’s two primarily health care providers, Aurora and Columbia St. Mary’s.

“We have partners from every walk of life in our community,” Johnson said. “You name it, and everyone’s at the table. We’re really talking to one another.”

Local leaders also touted preventative measures. Ronna Corliss, a drug prevention coordinator with Washington County, said there has been a growing interest toward enhancing parent-student dialogue about the epidemic.

Corliss pointed to a recent series of meetings in West Bend that were well attended.

“We have to talk about how we can work beyond the borders of our counties,” Washington County Manager Joshua Schoemann said.

Early in the symposium, the hundreds of attendees heard from drug experts from outside southeastern Wisconsin, including state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, who gained national attention when he pursued legislation to curb the rise in heroin use.

For Nygren, the fight against heroin was personal. His daughter, Cassie, has been struggling with addiction to the drug. Nygren touched on his daughter’s radical transformation – from being a high-achieving student to one who was frequently truant.

“We never had the opportunity to see her graduate because the straight-A student dropped out,” Nygren said. “You think of heroin as something that is happening in dark alleys, but my beautiful baby girl was using it.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Common Council President Michael Murphy are among the local leaders who helped bring the symposium to fruition with philanthropic support by the Zilber Family Foundation.

As the seven-hour symposium wrapped, Murphy recounted some of the startling statistics aired throughout the day. But he expressed optimism as well.

“I believe, going forward, the information we gathered will serve as a foundation to making a difference,” Murphy said. “There is a sense of urgency. We’re all reaching out to the same audience.”


Federal views diverge on proper use of painkillers

Associated Press
June 10, 2014

WASHINGTON — How do you have a conversation about prescription drugs that provide critical pain relief to millions of Americans yet also cause more fatal overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined?

The answer is: It depends.

Different parts of the federal government describe the problem — and potential solutions — of abuse with Vicodin, OxyContin and other opioid drugs in different terms.

The White House has called opioid abuse an "epidemic" and a "growing national crisis" that causes more than 16,500 deaths per year. Meanwhile, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a top-ranking Drug Enforcement Administration official have called on doctors to dramatically scale back their use of prescription opioids.

In this May 30, 2014 file photo, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg answers questions during an interview at The Associated Press in Washington. While Hamburg acknowledged that opioids are overprescribed, she again emphasized the importance of keeping the drugs accessible to Americans with chronic pain _ a group estimated at about 100 million, or about 40 percent of all U.S. adults

But while Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg acknowledged that opioids are overprescribed in an interview with The Associated Press, she again emphasized the importance of keeping the drugs accessible to Americans with chronic pain — a group she cites as roughly 100 million, or about 40 percent of U.S. adults.

"I think we have an important balancing act of trying to assure that safe and effective drugs are available for patients who have real pain and need medical care," Hamburg said.

The agency's approach has won kudos from physicians who use opioids to treat pain, including the American Pain Society, a group that receives funding from the largest pain drugmakers, including Pfizer Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

But it also exposes a rift in the government's messaging about the appropriate role of opioids, which are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the U.S. CDC officials have called for more limited prescribing, citing figures that show a four-fold increase in opioid sales between 1999 and 2010, during which opioid overdose deaths more than tripled.

"These are dangerous medications and they should be reserved for situations like severe cancer pain where they can provide extremely important and essential palliation," CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "In many other situations, the risks far outweigh the benefits."

It's a view shared by anti-addiction advocates like Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, a group that wants the FDA to severely restrict pharmaceutical marketing of opioids.

"Over the past decade, there have been more than 125,000 painkiller overdose deaths because drug companies were permitted to falsely advertise these drugs as safe and effective for long-term use," said the group's president, Andrew Kolodny.

Experts agree that most overdoses occur in people abusing opioids at unsafe doses, often by grinding up tablets for snorting or injecting. But groups like PROP say that addiction often begins when doctors prescribe the drugs for common aches and pains. Opioids include both legal and illegal narcotics, such as heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone and oxycodone among others.

The appropriate medical role for opioids has been the subject of vigorous debate for over 20 years.

For most of the last century, doctors reserved opioids for acute pain following surgery or injury, or for severe, long-term pain due to deadly diseases like cancer. Using the drugs for more common ailments was considered too risky because they are highly addictive.

But in the 1990s, a new generation of specialists argued that opioids, when used carefully, could safely treat common forms of chronic pain, including back pain and arthritis. That message was amplified by pharmaceutical marketing for new, long-acting drugs like OxyContin, which the FDA approved in 1995.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, would later plead guilty and pay $634.5 million in fines for misleading doctors about the risks of addiction and abuse with OxyContin. But opioid prescriptions continued to rise unabated.

It's a trend closely monitored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, where officials say an oversupply of painkillers is fueling the black market for both prescription opioids and heroin.

DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator Joe Rannazzisi says it is "outrageous" that the U.S. consumes 99 percent of the world's hydrocodone — the most prescribed medicine in the country.

"A controlled substance shouldn't be the most widely prescribed medication in the United States," he said in an interview. "If we believe we're the only country that knows how to treat pain that's a pretty arrogant attitude."

To be sure, any successful effort to curb drug abuse must involve a wide range of players, including state lawmakers, medical boards, pharmacy chains and medical educators.

In her interview with the AP, Dr. Hamburg emphasized this multifaceted approach while highlighting two recent steps by the FDA to reduce harm from opioids.

In September, the FDA narrowed the prescribing label on long-acting opioids like OxyContin to specify that they should only be used for "pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock" therapy that cannot be managed with other approaches. Previously, the label simply stated the drugs were for "moderate to severe pain."

In October, the FDA recommended reclassifying hydrocodone-containing combination pills like Vicodin to limit how doctors can prescribe them.

But both of those actions came after outside pressure. The labeling change was in response to a petition from the physician group PROP, which sought much stricter labeling than what the FDA ultimately put in place. The change in classification for hydrocodone pills came after nearly a decade of prodding by the DEA, which argued that the drugs had been misclassified in the first place.

DEA's Rannazzisi says the difference in tone between various agencies reflects their unique missions. As he sees it, the FDA's primarily role is to review drugs and make sure they are marketed appropriately. But the DEA's mission to investigate drug diversion brings his staff much closer to the ongoing epidemic of abuse and addiction.

"Maybe sometimes people need to get out from behind their desks and actually go and look at what's going on," Rannazzisi said. "Because in the end this is a national tragedy that's not being addressed."

Some say addiction drug underused

WASHINGTON  — The government's top drug abuse experts are struggling to find ways to expand use of a medicine that is considered the best therapy for treating heroin and painkiller addiction.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan on Wednesday pressed officials from the White House, the National Institute of Drug Abuse and other agencies to increase access to buprenorphine, a medication which helps control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It remains underused.

First approved in 2002 — under a law crafted by Levin, a Democrat, and Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch — buprenorphine was hailed as a major advance over methadone, the decades-old standard for addiction treatment. Among other advantages, buprenorphine has a lower risk of overdose and milder side effects. It can be prescribed as a take-home medication in the privacy of a doctor's office, helping patients avoid the stigma of going to a methadone clinic.

But even amid a national epidemic of drug abuse and addiction, access to buprenorphine remains limited by federal restrictions, inconsistent insurance coverage and a lack of acceptance by physicians.

“As long as we have too few doctors certified to prescribe bupe, we will be missing a major weapon in the fight against the ravages of addiction,” Levin told the forum, which also included patients and non-government medical experts.

Only 4 percent of the 625,000 U.S doctors who are eligible to prescribe buprenorphine have received certification to use the drug, which comes as a pill or a film that dissolves under the tongue. Certification requires an eight hour training course in addiction medicine.

An estimated 2.5 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers or heroin, known collectively as opioids. Less than half are receiving medical treatment.

“It's somewhat paradoxical that physicians will use opioids to create a problem, but there seems to be reluctance to help address the problem,” said Dr. Westley Clark of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Clark and other experts noted that there is still a stigma attached to treating opioid addiction and many physicians are uninterested in learning how to use drugs like buprenorphine.

Communities rally to battle heroin outbreak amongst teens and young adults

May 2014

During his first stint with the Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Task Force in the 1990s, Lt. Rod Galbraith of the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department remembers only one resident who used heroin. "We didn’t see it as a problem," he says. "We were more worried about crack cocaine migrating north."

By the time Galbraith returned to the task force in 2009, though, heroin use had exploded in Ozaukee County.

Since 2009, nine people in Ozaukee County have died from heroin overdoses. The number is much higher in the more heavily populated Waukesha County, where 21 people overdosed in 2012.

"It’s devastating," says Galbraith.

Increased heroin use in metropolitan Milwaukee suburbs reflects a disturbing trend statewide. In 2012, heroin-related deaths doubled in Wisconsin to nearly 200. By comparison, the state averaged 29 such deaths each year from 2000 to 2007.

Before former student Luke Pulsifer died of a heroin overdose last June, Brookfield East High School teacher Chris Guthrie wasn’t aware heroin was a problem in the community. "I was shocked," he says. Today, Guthrie is actively involved with the Elmbrook Heroin Drug Awareness Task Force, an effort spearheaded by Elmbrook School District officials and Pulsifer’s parents, to raise awareness and provide resources to combat the growing heroin problem.

On Jan. 22, the task force held a summit on the local heroin problem, drawing more than 600 people. A similar forum held in Cedarburg on Jan. 29 by the Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Task Force also attracted a standing-room-only crowd. "I’ve never seen the community this engaged," says Galbraith. "It’s very telling."

Dr. Michael Miller, medical director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital-Oconomowoc, says prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin are the gateway to heroin. "Because they’re prescribed by a doctor, kids think they can’t be harmful," he says.

Once hooked on prescription opiates, addicts often switch to heroin, which delivers the same high at a cheaper cost. But the potency of heroin can vary widely, making it all too easy to overdose. "It’s like playing Russian roulette each time you use," says Guthrie.

Combating the suburban heroin epidemic requires a change in culture, says Galbraith. With heroin hitting those in their 20s the hardest, Galbraith says it’s important to talk to kids early on, before they’re exposed to it. "We need to educate parents of young children now," he says.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Legislature unanimously adopted the Heroin and Opiate Prevention and Education legislative package, also called HOPE. Comprised of four bills, the HOPE package helps reduce the diversion of opiate-based prescription medications, removes barriers that make people witnessing an overdose reluctant to call emergency medical services, and ensures naloxone (a drug used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose) is widely available.

"My hope is that we can prevent at least one family from suffering through the effects of heroin and prescription addiction," says Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), whose daughter struggles with heroin addiction.

Though heroin is considered highly addictive, Miller says rehabilitation is possible. "Unlike other drug addictions, there are medicines available to assist with treatment," he says.

If loved ones show signs of addiction like sudden personality changes, secrecy, dishonesty or increased sleepiness, Miller advocates taking action immediately.

"It’s better to speak up and encourage people to get help than leave it alone and hope for the best," he says.

Unfortunately, Miller says, opiate addiction has become a true epidemic. "People can’t take comfort that it’s not in their community. It’s prevalent everywhere."

Losing the Battle

By age 25, Tyler Herzog had been in and out of rehab and jail for years. The Menomonee Falls native started abusing prescription pills when he was a teen. Once an honor roll student at Menomonee Falls High School, Herzog had graduated to heroin by his senior year.

"It can only take once to get hooked, and once that happens it’s a tough cycle to break," says Herzog’s mom, Julie Berg.

But in 2011, Berg says her son seemed to be overcoming his eight-year addiction. He had been clean for nine months, had a job and had just moved into an apartment.

Then after a fight with his girlfriend, Herzog turned to heroin one last time. He fatally overdosed in February 2012.

Berg says she did everything she could to help her son. He entered 12 different rehab programs throughout his battle with addiction.

"Tyler was in a lot of different treatments," she says. "I never stopped looking for something that could work."

During his recovery at a halfway house in Waukesha, Tyler was asked to write a letter as part of his treatment.

"In the letter, he said that he hoped if he would die that his death would give some of the lost hope to change," Berg says.

That letter has given Berg the strength to share her experience as a mother searching for answers to the downward spiral of her son’s addiction. She now participates in The Fly Effect campaign, a heroin awareness campaign launched by the state’s Department of Justice.

"Heroin is beyond what any of us could ever imagine," she says.

Helpful Resources

Addiction Resource Council (ARC):

Elmbrook Parent Network:


Offers list of resources in southeastern Wisconsin

Rogers Memorial Hospital:

Wisconsin Department of Justice:


Statewide campaign to raise awareness of heroin’s destructive power

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

The SAMHSA National Helpline is free, confidential and available 24/7/365

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment Services Locator


Find treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations in your area

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Listing of Wisconsin community programs, as well as social and human services agencies


•The average age of first use among recent initiates is 22 years old.

•The number of heroin-related deaths in Wisconsin jumped by nearly 50 percent in 2012 to 199, according to a survey of county coroners. From 2000 to 2007, Wisconsin averaged 29 such deaths each year.

•Since 1995, the number of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who have tried heroin has increased by more than 300 percent, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.

•Nearly twice as many drug deaths occurred in Waukesha County in 2012 as traffic fatalities.

•The number of countywide heroin deaths more than tripled from six in 2011 to 21 in 2012 year, according to the Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office.

•According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, more than 75 percent of people who try heroin once will use the drug again.

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