— From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nov. 10
Last month, we urged whoever won the attorney general’s race to give a high priority to the state’s effort against the growing heroin plague in Wisconsin. Last week, winner Brad Schimel said he’ll do exactly that — as he promised to do during his campaign — when he takes office.
Currently the Waukesha County district attorney, Schimel said he would seek to aggressively expand enforcement, treatment and prevention efforts on heroin — actions that he said probably would require additional funding from taxpayers.
“We’re going to hit them by land, air and sea,” Schimel said of drug dealers and those who are spreading addiction through the state.
That’s great tough talk on dealing with dealers, and it’s necessary, but Schimel also will be putting resources into treatment and prevention efforts, which are just as necessary as enforcement. Schimel, who was instrumental in developing drunken driving courts in Waukesha County, knows full well that treatment and special courts targeted at drugs and drinking can play key roles in curbing this scourge.
Schimel won’t be starting from scratch. Under outgoing Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, the Department of Justice started a statewide heroin prevention awareness campaign named the Fly Effect Heroin Prevention Campaign. It’s one of the best things Van Hollen did in office.
According to the campaign’s website, “Since 1995, the number of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who have tried heroin has increased by more than 300%. And according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, more than 75% of people who try heroin once will use the drug again.”
And in Wisconsin, the website says, “The number of heroin cases processed by the state crime lab has steadily increased in almost every Wisconsin county throughout the last three years. So have the number of heroin-related deaths, rising about 50 percent last year to 199, according to a recent survey (2013) of county coroners. By comparison, Wisconsin averaged 29 such deaths each year from 2000 to 2007.”
Heroin poses a threat to every community and every family in the state. The department’s campaign, coupled with laws that were pushed by Rep. John Nygren, can help curb that threat. Schimel unveiled a plan during his campaign that he called the STOP Heroin initiative, which stands for “Support Teaching Opiates Prevention.” The plan called for increased training, better coordination with other states and more aggressive prosecution to combat heroin abuse.
He’ll need help from the Legislature to achieve his goals. And the Legislature has so far given bipartisan support to the efforts to curb heroin use. This certainly is an issue that offers common ground in a bitterly divided state. We hope that bipartisan support continues and that Schimel is given the tools he will need.