MPD officers hear from recovered heroin addict as part of new program training

MPD officers hear from recovered heroin addict as part of new program training

With heroin overdose numbers skyrocketing over the past three years, Madison police have realized something needs to change. They’re hoping the change will come from a new program called the Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative.

It all started with a $700,000 federal grant to fund the resources needed, which include training for officers and working with Dane County Public Health for treatment options.

More than 400 officers will be trained over the next few months to transition from their current procedure when called to an overdose scene. Right now, they arrest the person who overdosed and put them in jail with a felony charge. There is also the Dane County Drug Court available, but still typically leads to an addict relapsing and overdosing again in the future. The MPD wants to change this cycle by offering treatment options instead.

During a training session on Wednesday, officers heard from 25-year-old Adele Mack, who is a recovered heroin addict.

“I was convicted with four felonies, five misdemeanors and spent a year incarcerated,” Mack told officers.

For two year, Mack said she only thought about her next heroin fix and overdosed multiple times. She said it al lstarted in seventh grade when she started smoking marijuana, then turned to alcohol, mushrooms, ecstasy, and finally, heroin.

She told officers her first heroin use happened when she found herself in an abusive relationship. Mack’s boyfriend at the time told her to try heroin and the addiction took off after that.

She ended up being taken to jail after her mother pressed charges for theft.

“It wasn’t until about six months into my sentence that I stopped thinking, dreaming of drugs and heroin all the time,” Mack said.

Mack said going to jail saved her life and knowing she was about to be an aunt for the first time.

Now, she is almost four years clean and shares her story with anyone who will listen. On Wednesday, that happened to be officers training for the MARI program.

“I think having the officers (be) able to see a face, and be able to put a face to the after part of recovery will give them a little bit more hope to what they’re doing in their daily jobs,” Mack said.

Cpt. Cory Nelson brought the idea for the MARI program to MPD as said hearing recovered addicts stories is one of the most powerful pieces to the training.

“Our officers are responding every day to overdoses. They’re seeing people at their absolute rock-bottom worst and I think people tend to become a little uncaring, a little hard,” Nelson said. “This is just to try and educate them that these are people struggling with substance abuse (who) are normal people and maybe made some bad decisions.”

It’s to show them addicts can change, if given the opportunity.

“Now I’m at a point where I can make the conscious decision every day. I can wake up and chose to live or die and I chose to live,” Mack said.

Nelson said they plan to roll out the new procedure this summer.