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Health experts report opioid deaths have declined statewide in Wisconsin

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Unfortunately nationwide, the opioid epidemic is not new, but there is hope. In recent years, local health officials have reported that statewide, and locally, opioid deaths are down and will continue to decline in the state of Wisconsin.

Al Bliss, a Health Educator at Alliance to HEAL, said in-town programs like Alliance to HEAL, raise awareness of the risk of an opioid use disorder. The facility also works with health care systems, and Medicaid treatment providers, which Bliss said is a big reason opioid death numbers have declined, and will continue to drop.

"We are seeing a significant decrease with the number of prescription opioids that are present in decedent toxicology reports, so we see a sound reduction," said Bliss. "I would relate a lot of the reasoning is certainly the awareness but also the implementation of the CDC guidelines."

Alliance to HEAL works with the county jail, by working with incarcerated individuals who are struggling with addiction, to get on the path of recovery.

Chris Sekorski, a Recovery Coach at Coulee Recovery Center, said in the past, he struggled with drug addiction and turned what once was a weakness into a strength.

"Addictions are very powerful, and for myself, I tried to overcome it on my own," Sekorski said. "Once I started to become part of the community of recovering people, that made the walk to recovery easier, a whole lot more fun and filled with friendship and connection than I would have ever dreamed possible."

Sekorski said people do not have to fight their addiction alone, the first step he suggests is reaching out, because that is what he did to take control of his life.

"We are lucky that La Crosse has a vibrant young, youthful, alive, recovery community, full of people having fun and connecting," Sekorski said. "It's great to see people recovering and rebuilding their lives, and that is inspirational to me."

In 2016, the CDC created major guidelines to reduce access to opioids. The guidelines are divided into three main categories for patients: 1.) Determining When to Initiate or Continue Opioids for Chronic Pain, 2.) Opioid Selection, Dosage, Duration, Follow-Up, and Discontinuation, 3.) Assessing Risk and Addressing Harms of Opioid Use.

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Lindsey Ford

Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist.

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