Parents of Heroin Overdose Victim to Speak at Public Forum, Thursday

By: WSAW Staff Email
By: WSAW Staff Email

It has been nearly 2 years since Michael and Brigette Henschel of Wautoma, received a heartbreaking phone call that every parent dreads.

Their daughter, Amalia, died on April 12, 2012 from a heroin overdose. She was only 21-years-old.

According to Brigette, "this was the worst day of our lives. At the age of 21, our beautiful, full of life daughter passed away tragically, unexpectedly and at the very beginning of her adult life. You love your children more than anything in this world. They are part of you and you love them more than life itself. When your child is born you look forward to the day they take their first step, the day they say mommy or daddy for the first time, their first day of school, the day they graduate high school, the day they graduate college or start the career they choose, the day they get married, the day they buy their first house, the day they start a family and you become grandparents, the many days they come to you for advice or help, and the days you watch their family grow up."
Brigette hopes that by sharing their story that they might be able to prevent other parents from experiencing what her and her husband have experienced.

Kevin Meighan, RN and Waushara County Public Health Nurse is a member of the State Heroin Task Force Committee who have been charged with writing the state report and recommendations on the heroin epidemic that is impacting our communities. Meighan also serves on the Board of Directors of the North Woods Coalition which is a 47 member coalition of 36 northern counties and 11 tribal nations dealing with a number of prevention issues including the current prescription pain medication/heroin epidemic.

In an effort to further the process of increasing awareness, this committee has scheduled a summit that is open to the public and will include several speakers that will address the epidemic in Waushara County. The details for the summit are as follows:

Thursday, April 24, 2014
World War II Building - Wautoma (Main Street)
6:00 PM - 8:30 PM

There will be a light meal and registration from 6:00 PM until 6:30 PM with the program beginning at 6:30 PM
An RSVP would be appreciated by email at or by calling 920-787-6550 during normal business hours.

In addition to several members of the committee also scheduled to speak are the founders of "Rise Together" (recovering addicts) and Dr. Michael Miller, psychiatrist and addiction psychiatrist with the Herrington Recovery Ctr., Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc Wisconsin. The guys from Rise Together have been sharing their story at high schools here in Waushara County over the past several weeks. Dr. Miller will be speaking about the definition of addiction and impacts that addiction has on addicts and their families.

The general consensus with most experts is that prescription narcotic pain medications are the primary gateway to heroin use. According to Wisconsin Health Department statistics from the year 2000 to 2007 Wisconsin averaged 29 heroin related deaths per year. In 2012 there were at least 199 heroin related deaths which could have easily been well over 1200 heroin related deaths if it weren't for the overdose drug Narcan.

Narcan is indicated for the complete or partial reverse of opioid/narcotic overdoses. Until recently this medication was restricted for use by hospitals and pre-hospital (EMS) care providers. According to Jerry Miller, former Waushara County Emergency Services Director, "in as little as 10 years ago if Narcan was used here in Waushara County more than once on the annual basis that would've been considered a lot". Today, according to County EMS officials Narcan is used an average of once every other week or 26 over the last year.

New legislation

On April 7, 2014 Gov. Scott Walker signed all seven of Representative John Nygren's (R-Marinette) HOPE Agenda Bills into law. HOPE which stands for heroin, opiate prevention and education, are a series of bills aimed at fighting the growing heroin and prescription drug epidemic in our state.

According to Nygren, "addiction affects people of all demographics, races and income levels. Many have focused on urban areas when considering the problem of addiction, but times have changed. Today, rural areas are also at risk. The truth is that we are currently amidst a heroin epidemic in Northeast Wisconsin. While I've said many times these bills are not the 'silver bullet' to solving the problem, they are certainly important steps in the right direction."

The bills that make up the HOPE agenda are as follows:
Assembly Bill 445: Requires individuals to show proper identification when picking up scheduled to or three narcotic/opiate prescription medication.

Assembly Bill 446: Provides all levels of EMTs, first responders, police and fire the ability to be trained to administer Narcan.

Assembly Bill 447: Provides limited immunity from certain criminal prosecutions for a person who seeks assistance from the police or medical professionals for another individual who has overdosed on controlled substances.

Assembly Bill 448: Encourages communities to set up drug disposal programs and regulates these programs to unwanted prescription drugs do not fall into the wrong hands. Waushara County already has established drop-off sites.

Assembly Bill 668: Expands Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (T A D) programs by increasing funding by $1.5 million annually. Waushara County recently established a TAD program.

Assembly Bill 701: Creates regional pilot programs to address opiate addiction in underserved areas.

Assembly Bill 702: creates a system of immediate punishments for individuals who violate their parole or probation parolees based on so-called "swift and certain" laws in other states. The model is based on research that shows that it's the swiftness and the certainty of the sanction not the length of the confinement, which has the greatest impact on influencing offender's behavior.

The statistics indicating the extent of this epidemic are staggering. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice website, since 1995, the number of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who have tried heroin has increased by more than 300%. Also according to the national Council on alcoholism and drug dependence, more than 75% of people who try heroin once will use the drug again.

In a 2010 report from the Center for disease control and prevention stated the United States makes up only 4.6% of the world's population, but consumes 80% of the world prescription opioids (narcotic pain medications), and 99% of the world's hydrocodone, which is the opioid that is in Vicodin. Over 20% of Wisconsin high school students report using a prescription drug (such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax) without a prescription.

Statistics from the Wisconsin Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) for the period of October 1 through December 31, 2013 are equally as concerning. For every person living in Waushara County there were 27.80 doses of medication dispensed during the reporting period. The total number of prescriptions dispensed in 2013 was 10,325,873. Of the top 15 monitored prescription drugs hydrocodone with acetaminophen (a narcotic pain medication) topped the list of total prescription at 19.85%.

For more information on this epidemic please plan on attending the Waushara County Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in Wautoma. In the fall of 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Justice launched a new statewide campaign called "The Fly Effect" to raise awareness of heroin's destructive power. You can view this powerful message at .

For more information on the summit please contact Kevin Meighan at 920-787-6590 or Sue Shemanski at 920-787-6550.

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