Law enforcement agencies alone will not be able to stop the growing methamphetamine epidemic in Wisconsin, state Attorney General Brad Schimel says.
“We will not arrest our way out of this,” Schimel said Thursday during a stop in Eau Claire.
Schimel attended a “kNOw Meth” conference, where he announced the state Department of Justice is committing $50,000 to assist in a meth public awareness campaign.
A decade ago, law enforcement officers did a great job of locating and shutting down meth labs in the state, and laws made it more difficult for meth makers to obtain ingredients used to make the drug, Schimel said. While they shut down that supplier, a new one came along.
“Only about 5 percent of meth in Wisconsin is actually made in Wisconsin,” Schimel said. “The drugs coming from Mexico are more powerful, more addictive and cheaper than the ones made here.”
It became clear that the state needs to address the demand for the drug, not just the supply of it, Schimel said.
Danielle Luther, Marshfield Clinic Health System substance abuse prevention manager, said the money will be spent over the course of the year on public service radio announcements, brochures, and creating a website that will offer information about the drug and how to prevent it.
“We need the message to be pervasive,” Schimel said.
Schimel stressed that meth addiction is no longer just a criminal matter — it is a public health concern. The drug is not only leading to full jails, it is taxing other public agencies in cases such as out-of-home placements by human services departments.
“It is creating people who are unable to work,” Schimel said.
The kNOw Meth public awareness campaign is being launched by the Northwoods Coalition and the DOJ. The report presented Thursday featured 45 recommendations to create public awareness, such as offering substance-free community events, more faith-based recovery groups and incentives like an awards banquet for those recovering from addiction. The report also recommends expanding the number of safe and sober living options.
Schimel talked about other recent efforts to curtail meth, such as adding four new drug agents and hiring Chippewa County assistant district attorney Chad Verbeten to handle meth cases for the DOJ.
Last week, the state Department of Health Services also announced grants to help treat people with meth and opioid addictions.
Contracts are pending with the Family Health Center of Marshfield and NorthLakes Community Clinic of Iron River to provide treatment for opioid and methamphetamine addictions in Barron, Burnett, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Pierce, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix, and Sawyer counties.
Those two facilities plan to use the funds to further develop their network of regional addiction services. Each program will receive $333,333.
The new programs are expected to begin serving clients no later than the end of April.
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