Initiative looks to prevent substance abuse

Initiative looks to prevent substance abuse

Sauk County is looking at new ways to tackle the county’s opioid crisis. Treatment services have expanded in the area in recent years, but health officers said the county is still missing a major tool.

The Sauk County Health Department is working with the Sauk County Health and Wellness Coalition to form a new initiative that will partner with resources around the county to prevent substance abuse.

Kim Lohman, director of the SSM Health Treatment Recovery Center in Baraboo, works with patients addicted to everything from prescription pills to heroin and methamphetamine.

“Addiction has come to the backdoor and now it’s in middle class America, and we are not taught how to watch our kids and how to prevent this,” she said.

Addiction to opioids is affecting people of all ages and backgrounds, according to Lohman.

“This does not care how old you are. It doesn’t care what race you are, what economic class you are, what you do for a living. It will take anybody’s life and quickly,” Lohman said.

Prevention and limiting access is key. The county is facing an epidemic of drug misuse that includes prescription opioid, heroin, methamphetamine and other substances, according to Sauk County Health Services.

“It has to be a multifaceted approach for it to work. Doing a lot in one sector is great but it really has to be a sea of change. We need to start thinking of addiction differently as a brain disease,” said Sara Jesse, health educator at the Sauk County Health Department.

Opioids were the leading factors of overdose deaths in Sauk County between 2009 to 2013 ranking 91 percent of all drug deaths in the county.

Out of those numbers prescription pills caused double the amount of deaths as heroin. Jesse hosted a kickoff meeting for the initiative Wednesday. Partners in law enforcement, the school district, hospitals and local government are all working together to form preventative solutions. According to Jesse, those tools have been hard to implement, with state and county funding focusing on treatment instead of preventative approaches.

“To say we are going to tackle this issue just by preventing overdose death is not enough. Treatment is not enough, but the whole spectrum of prevention is needed from stopping people from using in the first place to quickly getting them help to keeping them alive, so they can choose treatment,” Jesse said.

The new initiative will focus on reducing access to drugs, educating the community on the epidemic, enhancing screening for drug misuse and decreasing the stigma associated with getting treatment.

Without prevention, addiction continues and so does an inevitable truth, according to Lohman.

“Not only losing people to addiction, but the honest truth is we will lose a lot of people to death,” Lohman said.

Jesse is working to secure grant funding to help with the initiative. Her goal is for the group to continue to meet and combine resources, and develop ways to approach prevention.