Alliance to HEAL setting up long range plan to tackle opioid addiction

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – In 2017, 916 people died from drug overdoses in Wisconsin last year up from 827 the year before.

The deaths are blamed on prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

A group of local organizations are revamping their efforts to end opioid addiction in La Crosse.

The Alliance to Heal launched last month.The group includes experts from both Mayo Clinic Health System and Gundersen Health System along with the La Crosse County Health Department.

The group is the biggest one yet to tackle drug addiction locally. Other major players are the La Crosse Community Foundation, local schools, and law enforcement.

The Alliance has four main goals: education, identifying high risk people, providing a medical
detox center and stopping over-distribution of drugs.

Jen Rombalski, La Crosse County Health Department Director says that’s where the hospitals come in.

“How many opioid providers, not just doctors, but dentists and veterinarians, too. How many opioids are people prescribing?

That’s been on our radar for a long time actually but making that change, implementing it at a level that’s going to be maximally impactful is something we’re going to work towards as well. It’s not the only piece that really causes and makes opioid addiction worse,” said Rombalski.

Right now health experts say that addicts have limited options when it comes to recovery.  They need to be clean and sober for at least 24 to 48 hours to get in to a treatment center but how do you do that when there are no medical detox centers in the area. Often times, addicts go back to drugs to take the pain away during that period of detox. Right now one of the largest detox centers unfortunately is the La Crosse County Jail.

Another big problem in the fight against addiction is the rise in cost in Narcan, the life saving drug used for overdoses. A Gundersen Health System doctor says Narcan used to cost 90 cents but today it costs 90 dollars a dose.

Heather Armstrong

Heather Armstrong

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