JACKSON — The Washington County Heroin Task Force and Elevate are hosting a roundtable breakfast discussion on tackling the opioid epidemic, with key actors from county agencies.
On Thursday from 7:30 to 9 a.m. experts and volunteers, including law enforcement, nonprofit leaders, school administration, state representatives and students will discuss prevention and the next step agencies can take to properly address the prevalence of drugs and alcohol related issues in Washington County.
Elevate’s director of community engagement and partnerships Ronna Corliss said now is the time to take a step back and examine prevention efforts within the county to determine what can be done to stop or lessen the drug epidemic in the community.
“People need to be present, be involved and be open to assisting when needed,” Corliss said, to collectively work on pieces of these pressing issues. “Any community member can help by locking up prescriptions they have in their house; don’t make them so available to someone who may rob them or be in their house visiting and come across them in the medicine cabinet,” Corliss said. “Become a member of the heroin task force and know what some of the needs are, especially for parents — get the right message to your kids that these medicines are serious and can be very dangerous.”
Sometimes by doing nothing and being careless, Corliss said, can lead to others taking advantage of the situation and becoming addicted.
There are areas of strength in prevention now, she said, which will be addressed and built on.
“From a law enforcement standpoint, some of the things they’re already doing in prevention like alcohol and tobacco compliance checks, are working,” Corliss said. “Also, responsible alcohol class for retailers and other similar things like environmental prevention programs are essential in reducing access for youth, which prevents further problems down the road.”
Treatment and diversion is one aspect Corliss said is working well, so similar additions are being considered, like drug court. While law enforcement cannot ignore the fact a crime has been committed, there are different reactive methods on their end.
“When a person does commit a crime while they’re under the influence of a drug, there are consequences for that,” Corliss said. “But they have the opportunity to, rather than jail time, work on the issue, whether that’s going directly to treatment or whatever they need; that’s where the diversion piece comes in.”
Other aspects are working but could be expanded on in the future, including policies around accessibility to places serving alcohol and rules within schools.
“We don’t want to take the fun away from responsible adults, but there’s not a place for our youth in these environments,” Corliss said, so reducing access and availability are key.
But for prevention to be more effective, it comes down to the community member level.
To dive deeper into these topics, round table speakers will include Kari Lerch from the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, Slinger School District Superintendent James Curler, students from Kewaskum High School showing an anti-drug video they created, state Rep. Rick Gundrum, R-Slinger talking about a proposed bill, and a member of the Hartford Police Department explaining compliance checks and other measures taken by law enforcement.
The roundtable will take place at Terrace 167, 3210 Highway 167, Richfield.