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Heroin: A Statewide Epidemic in Wisconsin

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GRAPHIC: This image of a fly represents the Wisconsin Department of Justice program called "The Fly Effect," to help illustrate the destructive power of heroin. Courtesy Wisconsin DOJ.
GRAPHIC: This image of a fly represents the Wisconsin Department of Justice program called "The Fly Effect," to help illustrate the destructive power of heroin. Courtesy Wisconsin DOJ.
January 23, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – New statistics show another spike in heroin use in Wisconsin.

And Jim Engels, special agent in charge of the Madison office of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, has seen the drug’s devastating effects.

He says it has spread like wildfire across the state in the past year-and-a-half.

"We're seeing it in Madison, Milwaukee,” he points out. “Counties to the north, counties in southwest Wisconsin, northwest Wisconsin, central Wisconsin.

“We see it in our midsize cities, in our small townships. It's a problem that's unfortunately spread very quickly through Wisconsin."

There are more than 1,000 cases of heroin addiction spread over 57 Wisconsin counties right now, and Engels says the death toll continues to mount.

His department is using a multidisciplinary approach to combat the problem.

And he explains it's going to take a major effort, and a lot of resources.

"It's overhauling our corrections, our law enforcement, our EMS and fire services,” he says. “Our social services who are dealing with the family effects that it has on the innocent people in the family who aren't using heroin.

“It's not just going to be one approach, it's going to be a team effort that it's going to take, to try and put a dent into this."

A few months ago, the state Department of Justice launched radio and TV ads as part of a campaign called The Fly Effect to educate people about the dangers of heroin use.

Engels describes heroin addiction as a horrible thing.

"So many of the people that we speak to out in the field, people that are involved with heroin, are very honest with us,” he says. “They don't want to be using heroin any more, they don't like the addiction.

“They made a mistake, they tried heroin, they became addicted, and they don't want to be. It's not a good thing. It's a terrible addiction. It's very difficult to beat."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI