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Wood, Portage County leaders discussing battle against heroin


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- More communities are working on ways to fight heroin use. Various leaders including law enforcement and medical professionals held a recent summit for Wood and Portage County to discuss what can be done to stop heroin from killing people.

Stevens Point Police Chief Kevin Ruder says they are trying to figure out how to best approach the issues.  “We’re trying to figure out what is this? Is this an enforcement issue, a different issue, education? What steps should we take?”

Ruder says heroin use has grown, and so have the deaths because it is so addictive.  “The problem with heroin unlike some drugs, is that you try it once, and it might be the last time you try it because people are being found with the needle still in their arm, dead from an overdose, and it may be their first, maybe their second attempt at trying it.”

During their summit, UW Madison Police shared information they have learned about how people are getting hooked.  Ruder says, “They found a direct correlation to a progression from pharmaceutical prescription medication for pain management that delves into heroin use.”

Ruder says it’s important not to be part of the problem by trying to help your friends and relatives by supplying your leftover pain medication.  “You think you’re being a good samaritan by giving them some unused prescription medication. In essence, what you are, you’re a drug dealer at that point. Don’t do that. Get the person some help.”

Portage County District Attorney Louis Molepske Jr. says the heroin problem today is nothing like it was 40 years ago. Now, he says it can affect anyone.  “It’s cheap and it’s pure, and it’s killing kids. These kids range from all different types of ages, people of all different ages and various backgrounds. This isn’t as we saw in the 70’s and 60’s, those people. This (time, it) is everyone can be affected.”

Molepske is encouraged by new legislation being pushed through Madison that will help put the emphasis on keeping people alive instead of having friends die for fear or reporting the overdose. “The State Legislature has passed some new legislation that I anticipate the Governor will sign, that there will be a little anonymity there. We will not prosecute you if you help your friends seek medical help. That’s what we’re most concerned about. We don’t want these people dying that are overdosing.”

There have been some changes in legal procedures to help involve landlords so they can keep drugs out of their buildings. Molepske says they now give them the proof they need to take action quickly.  “When we do search warrants, we find distribution, manufacturing drug operations, heroin or other type of drugs, we’re going to send landlords notices and say, hey, this is happening on your property. You may not be aware about it, but now you are. Please take corrective action.”

The group of Wood and Portage County officials will continue to work on ways to reach the community to educate about the dangers of heroin.