GREEN BAY – Green Bay police say heroin addiction is growing significantly in Brown County. And now the county has a new $25,000 grant to fight the issue.
"We can't arrest our way out of this problem," said Green Bay Police Chief Tom Molitor, whose department is heading up the “Heroin Response Initiative” in Brown County.
Molitor says the goal is to take a collaborative approach to fighting heroin addiction.
The money was awarded to the Green Bay Police Department by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. It will be used to hire a full-time facilitator for the program.
The initiative will operate under a four-pillar approach of: prevention, treatment, enforcement and reduction of harm. Schools, businesses, hospitals, treatment centers, counselors, government agencies and others will fall under the pillars, with interaction coordinated by the program facilitator.
Molitor says there are already about 90 people involved in the initiative's steering committee.
"Treatment is probably the likely avenue to really start getting us on the other side of this problem," said Molitor.
"Treatment and prevention, education are going to be huge components of this," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen at the press conference Tuesday morning.
This grant is the first of four in the state – the other three have yet to be awarded. Each applicant has the potential to receive up to $25,000 to fight what Van Hollen calls a "scourge" of heroin addiction.
"We decided the best way to come up with a way to help them was to let them come up with their own ways to give them the resources to do so," explained Van Hollen. "Multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary, (Brown County was) out front, wanting to approach and attack this problem."
In 2005, 22 counties submitted heroin cases to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab. In 2011 that number increased to 37; in 2012 it jumped to 56 counties.
As far as Brown County goes, in 2008 it submitted 13 cases to the lab; last year, that number more than doubled to 33.
Cases submitted to the crime lab for analysis are not indicators of actual number of heroin arrests or convictions. Law enforcement agencies tell us those numbers are much higher.
Heroin addiction is a bigger problem than just for those taking the drug. Families, the community and businesses are affected too.
"Here in Northeast Wisconsin, we have a very vibrant workforce – a growing workforce – and heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse works against us," said Steve Baue, vice-president of human resources for Fincantieri Marine Groups three shipbuilding operations in Northeast Wisconsin.
Baue’s company is taking part in the heroin response initiative, as a part of the steering committee. He says employees are often fired for a failed drug test, and local help is needed.
"You're going to want to keep your good employees and however we can help them, that's what we're going to do," said Baue.
If these programs, like the one in Green Bay, are effective Van Hollen says there could be more money available for similar initiative across the state.
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