Drug use and abuse has hit staggering numbers in Wisconsin and across the nation with thousands of overdoses and deaths reported each year right here in our communities.
Sadly, once drug use has taken over a person's life it can be extremely difficult to ever be free from the behavior. Fortunately some passionate local groups are hoping to light the way toward recovery in the dark depths of addiction.
It took years of devastating addiction for Jesse Heffernan to begin the healing journey of recovery. Now he's started Helios, and trains other people how to be recovery coaches. Many of those coaches are people in recovery as well, who know what it's like to lead a life of active addiction.
Dan Braaten is a substance abuse counselor at Prevea Behavior Care. He says the latest statistics he's seen are staggering, and he works with people dealing with all sorts of addictions. Braaten says among people with addictions, it takes a lot of motivation as well as a strong support system to be able to overcome it. Outside support groups are also a great help, but it seems there aren't enough resources available to the people of northeast Wisconsin who need it.
Heffernan along with Anthony Alvarado of Rise Together are partnering with law enforcement like Jason Webber from the Town of Menasha Police Department. Webber has been active for years in education around the country for drug abuse awareness.
Webber sees drug cases, including overdoses, on a weekly or even daily basis. He says it's a problem that reaches to the far corners of our communities. Far enough that the life-saving drug naloxone, or "narcan" has been made even more accessible to the public recently. It can reverse the effects of a drug overdose, like heroin.
Fox Valley Metro PD officers recently got narcan kits to keep in their patrol cars. Since receiving the ktis in December, they've already had to administer the drug.
Whether the addiction is heroin, painkillers, or any other destructive behavior, groups like Helios and Rise Together are hoping to bring their services to the forefront of our communities, hoping to show people that help is available for those looking for it.
Working with police, they hope to be able to team up recovery coaches with police officers and let them be the guide for someone possibly in the moments of clarity after a life-threatening close call.
Programs by the groups also hope to eliminate barriers to treatment, and break down the walls that keep addicts from speaking up and asking for help.
Now, people in recovery and those still taking the first steps in the journey need to be met with a nurturing community that will embrace the recovery culture trying to erase an epidemic.