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Alliance to HEAL seeks continuum of care

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) – While La Crosse has a well deserved reputation for the quality of overall health care, a system for treating those addicted to drugs is lacking.

Last summer, a group called the Alliance To Heal formed in La Crosse.   A major goal is to address the needs of the community and what treatment programs may involve.

The Tellurian Recovery Center is set in one most tranquil locations in the state-the Aldo Leopold Nature Preserve in Madison. The serene setting is in stark contrast to the harsh realities of the lives of the addicts who come here for treatment-people struggling with addictions, going through detox and facing life or death choices.

Tellurian Business Development Director Tom Engel says “We are providing the full continuum of services that many agencies and many communities cannot provide.”

Last year, at least 20 people, possibly as many as 25, died of drug overdoses in La Crosse County. That number is down from 29 the year before.

Hundreds more overdosed but survived due to prompt treatment with the drug Narcan, which counteracts the effect of opioid drugs.

But what happens once the person is out of immediate danger but still in need of treatment?

La Crosse has treatment facilities, but currently lacks a detoxification center, a place to stabilize someone dangerously under the influence.  Establishing one is a priority of the Alliance to Heal.

Alliance member Tom Thompson says, “Most addicts don’t want to be addicts. They want to be healthy. They want to contribute to the community.”

Last month the Alliance heard a presentation from the Tellurian Recovery Center. Its a full service drug and alcohol treatment facility whose services may become a part of the treatment program in La Crosse. Tom Engel said the lack of a detox center is a glaring gap.

Engel said, “The crime, the losses of work, the fraud. These can be reduced with effective treatment and opioid treatment programs.”

The Alliance to Heal is made up of a cross section of the community, including both health care systems. Two competitors who are working together to meet an urgent need in the community they both serve.

Josh Court with Mayo Clinic Health System says, “The opioid epidemic affects all areas of the community. Our schools, our neighborhoods, our businesses, criminal justice systems, health care organizations. It impacts everyone. So we just need everyone together working collaboratively looking at this as a community response not an individual organization response.”

“So if they can have a bed they can go to so they can just get past that hole that they’re looking at as far as the physical withdrawals that they’re looking at, says Tammy Anderson with Gundersen Health System. “Then their mindset is in a much better place to get the help that they need.”

The cause is especially close to the heart for alliance member Tom Thompson. He’s served the community in various ways for 40 years. But this project is personal.

“We’ve spoken publicly about this. We’ve done forums. Our daughter, I’m happy to say is almost seven years sober from the whole opioid buffet, if you wlll.   We never gave up and that’s the message to say right now; recovery can happen, that’s one of our slogans. Keep hope. That word hope became one of the most important four letter words that my family learned during the entire time.”

The project is in the very early stages. The Alliance formed just six months ago.

Members will spend the next few months gathering information about what services the treatment facility should offer.

RELATED: Local agencies collect unusued or expired prescription drugs

Scott Hackworth

Scott Hackworth co-anchors the News 19 Six and Ten PM reports. He came to News 19 in 1991.

Scott grew up in Oklahoma and upstate New York. After graduating from Oklahoma State University, he started his broadcasting career as an Associate Producer at KJRH Television in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He went on to become the Weekend Anchor at KSNF Television in Joplin Missouri and from there to a Morning and Noon show anchor position at KCRG Television in Cedar Rapids Iowa.

Scott has been honored by the Associated Press of Wisconsin for Best Series Reporting and was part of the team that put together our September 11th, 2001 coverage that won the Wisconsin Associated Press award for Best Newscast. He has also hosted News 19 Town Hall Meetings that have been honored in a variety of categories.

Scott is an avid reader and loves politics, current events and sports. He is also believed to be the only Oklahoma State University or New York Mets fan in all of Wisconsin.

Scott and his wife Gina live in Onalaska and are occasionally (but not often enough) visited by their two grown sons.

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