Several statewide leadership and law-enforcement agencies are putting the rapid proliferation of heroin abuse in Wisconsin at the forefront of concern and teaming up with local organizations to educate people about preventing and treating the alarming problem.
State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced Wednesday a $25,000 grant to the Dane County Narcotics and Gang Task Force was designated to a new multimedia anti-heroin campaign the state Department of Justice created called The Fly Effect.
“Heroin is a problem we don’t know how to deal with now,” Van Hollen said. “We need to find solutions.”
According to Van Hollen, heroin overdoses statewide are escalating at an “astounding” rate, from 149 in 2007 to 300 in 2012. Furthermore, Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis said emergency personnel are increasingly finding two or three unresponsive individuals when they respond to the scene of a heroin overdose, whereas heroin overdoses were previously more isolated deaths.
Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray said heroin abuse is “unique” in that it impacts all demographics, and the current heroin problem in Wisconsin “isn’t fully realized.” He added if the number of heroin overdoses were instead homicides, the general public would be in a state of “crisis.”
Safe Communities Executive Director Cheryl Wittke said part of the Dane County grant money will go toward a public education campaign. The $25,000 Van Hollen allotted to Dane County is a portion of the $125,000 being awarded to communities across the state.
Wittke said Safe Communities is taking a preventative approach to reduce the heroin epidemic by teaching at-risk youths refusal skills as well as educating parents and teachers about early detection signs, such as common triggers of heroin use.