Target2: Heroin Epidemic, A Lengthy Recovery - WBAY

Target2: Heroin Epidemic, A Lengthy Recovery

A Brown County judge calls the explosion of heroin use in Northeast Wisconsin a "tragedy." Police say arrests won't solve it but instead treatment and rehabilitation will.

But our Target 2 investigation discovered many addicts who want to get better are priced out.

There are more than a dozen treatment options available in Northeast Wisconsin ranging from in and out-patient programs to dosing of methadone which is a drug used to wean people off heroin. All this though comes at a price even counselors say is scary.
"You just wish that you could have it all back. It's gone. Heroin will take everything from you and it won't give you anything in return," said a recovery heroin addict who only wants to be identified as Alice.  She is currently sitting in jail because of crimes she committed because of heroin. She's the new kind of heroin user investigators are seeing which is young women or mothers who abuse prescription pills then heroin.

After she says she shoplifted to pay for her heroin, Alice ended up in the Brown County Jail and immediately went through withdrawal. It was experience she said made her feel like she wanted to die.

Now heroin-free, she realizes she needs help.

Treatment Centers in Brown County:

Libertas in Green Bay also offers a Family and Friends Education Series. It’s free for people to attend.

A substance abuse counselor talks to families, explaining warning signs and intervention techniques.

Call 920-498-8600.

The group meets Thursday nights from 6:00-7:00 at Libertas, 1701 Dousman St., Green Bay.

Report complaints about insurance coverage/denials to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance:
"I'm in desperate need of treatment," Alice said.

That help is coming in an unlikely place. Target 2 has learned the Brown County Jail is testing a program and is asking every new inmate if they use heroin and want treatment with no strings attached.

"We have that captive audience where people start to look for other things," said Lt. John Mitchell of the Brown County Sheriff's Jail Division. "Maybe if somebody plants that seed with just a simple question, saying do you need help or are you interested in treatment, that people might start to come forward, and I think we're seeing a little bit of it."

Five people, including Alice have asked for help in the program's first few weeks. Once released, addicts will receive a call from counselors at Libertas explaining options.

Target 2 asked three large treatment centers in Brown County what heroin treatment costs. At Libertas, out-patient can range from 50-200 dollars a day and $1,600 a day for inpatient. At the Jackie Nitschke Center, it's $6,800 for 6 months of in and out-patient counseling.

QAM, a methadone clinic that uses a replacement drug to slowly wean people off heroin, costs $23 a day but treatment can take anywhere from two years to in some cases 10.

"Several people i just talked to recently are saying it's quite a deal compared to what they're spending on heroin and all the other drugs they were doing... several hundred dollars a day. This one guy was spending 1,000 dollars a week," said QAM Director Charlie Schrauth.

Target 2 found out insurance does cover most drug treatment but it's limited.

"The insurance companies use a medical model. when they're no longer at the threat of death, they no longer have these medical symptoms. then they're cured," said Jackie Nitschke Center Executive Director Bill LeBine.

Counselors say addicts are not better in just a few weeks so they fight for continued treatment.

"Sometimes we believe there is as much as one-third to half a day on the phone with insurance companies, and some of that time is spent, quite frankly, on hold," Libertas's Treatment Director Barbara Coniff.

The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance says while that's disappointing, most insurers do have benchmarks for treatment  and deny coverage if a person plateaus.

"If they're denied the coverage, then I think... Information is the key and asking for an additional level of review and supporting that decision with evidence usually will give them the best case scenario," said J.P. Wieske of the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

But appeals can take days and force treatment centers to find additional funding to cover that gap.

"We have a scholarship, a payment assistance program to help people get the care they need if they don't have any family resources," LeBine said.

Target 2 discovered more than one-thousand people received treatment in Brown County just last year for substance abuse.

"We've grown. We've expanded. We've had a build out in this clinic in the last year," LeBine said.

The treatment centers tell Target 2 they have far better success rate than incarceration.  That's prompted Brown County Judge Donald Zuidmulder to create a treatment court just for heroin users to start in July.

"You can't lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. That's not true. If you have a choice between treatment and prison or jail, it's amazing what a big motivator that is," Zuidmulder said.

Police have put together a guide about overdose prevention and treatment options. It's free and available at the Green Bay Police Department and other treatment centers.

I Am Heroin
(written by a heroin addict)

I destroy homes, I tear families apart,
I'll take your children, and that's just the start!
I am more costly than diamonds,
more precious than gold. The sorrow I bring is a sight to behold.
If you need me, remember I am easily found. I am in your child's school,
I live in your town. I live with the rich.
I live with the poor. I live down the street.

If this scares you to death, well maybe it should.  I have many names.  But one that's known best I am sure you have heard of me, I am heroin.
My power is awesome. Try me and see. But if you do, know you may never break free.                         Just try me once. I may let you go.
But try me twice and I'll own your soul.
When I possess you, for me you will steal and lie. You will do whatever it takes
just to get high. Crimes you will commit for my narcotic charms, for the pleasure
I will give you through your arms.
You will lie to your Mom and steal from your Dad
when you see their tears, you should feel bad.
But you have lost your morals and the way you were raised.
I am now your conscience. I will teach you my ways.
I take kids from their parents and parents from their kids.
I turn people from God and separate friends.
I'll take everything from you, your looks, and your pride.
I will always be with you, right by your side.
You'll give up everything for me - your friends,
your home your family and money. Soon you will have none.
If you try me be warned this is no game. If you give me the chance,
I'll drive you insane. I'll ravish your body.
I'll control your mind. I'll own you completely.
Your soul will be mine.
The nightmares I'll give you while lying in bed;
the voices you hear from inside your head.
The sweat, the shakes, and all the visions you'll see.
I want you to know they are gifts from me.
But by then it is too late, you know in your heart that you are mine
and we will never part. You'll regret that you tried me.
They always do. But remember you came to me, not I to you.
I can bring you more misery than words can tell.
Come take my hand, and I’ll lead you to Hell.

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