Former heroin addict Jame Winn (center) on the left is Joan Mack, director of Community Activated Recovery Enhancement (CARE), and Debbie Johnson, current CARE director.
It was January 2017 when Jameson (Jame) Winn from Portage entered a medical clinic in Reedsburg to see Dr. To visit Gina DeGiovanni. When DeGiovanni came into the treatment room and introduced himself, Winn looked her in the eye and said: "I am Jame Winn. I am addicted to heroin and if you do not help me I will die."
This day marked the beginning of Winn's most intense efforts in her fight against heroin addiction. DeGiovanni, who was from Sauk Prairie, about 20 miles west of Madison, knew exactly who to call. She referred Winn to the Good Neighbor Clinic in the Prairie du Sac.
A selfie by Jame Winn in 2015 when she was still an active heroin addict. She sought help from the Prairie du Sac-based community group, Community Activated Recovery Enhancement (CARE), a group that is making progress in the rural community's efforts to combat heroin addiction and overdose increases. (Photo: Jame Winn)
Winn's previous attempts to save herself from heroin were unsuccessful. Her addiction began after taking prescription pain relievers – especially Oxycontin from 2010 – to reduce the suffering from a back injury that had caused nerve damage to her spinal cord.
She treated her pain this way for a year. But when she almost fell asleep and drove her kids to school, she cut down one of three pills she took a day. The next time she saw a doctor, she informed the nurse that she had reduced her dosage.
"The nurse said she would not refill the prescription and sent me out the door," said Winn. "Then a friend said," I can help you, but you won't like it. "Then I started using heroin."
She continued this course for another six years. In December 2016, Winn and her husband Michael Fecht planned to celebrate his birthday. But this weekend Winn was so high that not much was celebrated.
"I was so overwhelmed that I completely lost the time between Friday and Sunday," said Winn. "When I came out, I said I was done. We called a number of rehab facilities and nobody had a bed. "
Within 24 hours she stood in front of DeGiovanni in the Reedsburg clinic and asked for help.
First steps from addiction
Winn's addiction story paints a picture of how a local community initiative, the Sauk Prairie-based Community Activated Recovery Enhancement, known as the CARE group, has made progress in combating heroin / opioid abuse and addiction after it had grown to epidemic proportions in this rural community, in the state and in the nation.
At the Good Neighbor Clinic, which has been funded by donations and United Way since 1999, Winn met the nurse Debbie Johnson, who administered medication to Winn to help detoxify heroin pain and illnesses. Johnson's next strategy in Winn's treatment was to administer Vivitrol, a drug that is said to quench the craving for drugs like heroin and even alcohol. Administering Vivitrol requires clean drug screening.
Winn showed up at the clinic a week later without showing traces of heroin in her bloodstream and received the Vivitrol, which was usually administered about once a month. She was assigned a consultant whose services were free from the start.
Johnson was appointed director of the CARE Group, which works with the Good Neighbor Clinic, in December.
The CARE group is part of the numerous community programs of St. Vincent de Paul Sauk Prairie. It emerged in 2014 in response to a growing heroin epidemic that not even a small rural community was immune to.
The group was a collective community coalition composed of around 30 law enforcement officers, government officials, doctors, social workers, legal professionals, educators and other volunteers who were keen to stop the cycle of detention. This was particularly effective for addicts like Winn, who might otherwise never have committed a crime in their lives other than getting a traffic ticket.
Winn was involved in a vicious circle of legal problems caused by her addiction, dating back to 2013 when she was first charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. In 2014, she was charged with jumping bail, which was rejected. However, she was convicted for possession and driving in a frenzy. In May 2016, her legal problems got worse when she was run over with a combination of 374 Percocets and Oxycontin pills, enough for herself and some to sell. The prosecutor accused her of a property-level crime with the intention of delivering.
With her progress, however, she was able to meet her legal requirements within the framework of a deferred law enforcement program and was on probation until October 1, 2019.
The recovery process was not easy – and also not smooth. In July 2017, at the beginning of her recovery, Winn was blinded by a devastating tragedy. Her sister Katie Rumsey died at the age of 38 from a fentanyl overdose of heroin. Her sister was one of her strongest allies in the fight against addiction.
"When I detoxified, she called and checked how I was," said Winn. "She helped my husband by taking care of me."
Even in the fog of unspeakable grief, Winn continued. She went to well-known local 12-tier groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous for additional support.
"I couldn't take over the vagueness of AA's higher power," said Winn. “I had a problem with God for me. I am an atheist. I have my beliefs. But I've worked the steps. "
For example, she developed a so-called "trigger list", a list of ten phone numbers of people she could call if she felt an urge.
"I would literally call everyone on the list until someone answered," said Winn.
Among the most important on her list was Johnson, who had been in close contact with Winn during the early and most difficult part of her recovery. It is still part of Winn's support network.
Winn writes her way away from the search for her own inner strength as well as Johnson's help and the ongoing treatment services offered by the CARE group.
Johnson, along with former CARE director and founding member Joan Mack, saw something of Winn in the early months of her recovery while he was treating her. In September 2017, nine months after Winn was on the road to recovery, they invited her to speak publicly at a CARE meeting in Baraboo, attended by medical, social work, law enforcement, and government officials.
Winn said that due to this type of lectures, especially to young people, she is now the most powerful. She has lectured several times in the health class at Pardeeville High School, in which she tells her story to the students. She said it was one of the imperatives to remain sober.
Recent drop in opioid overdose deaths
Since 2014, the CARE group, which manages drug treatment plans known as MAT, has helped approximately 400 clients who have requested alcohol or heroin addiction treatment, many on probation or probation. In 2017 alone, 86 new customers sought help from the CARE group, 50 of whom were heroin-dependent.
However, recent numbers show that the numbers for their customers are gradually decreasing. In 2019, CARE had 49 customers, 18 of whom were looking for help with heroin addiction.
The national numbers in which deaths from overdose of heroin are cited are also declining. According to an article by Jaime Rosenberg for the American Journal of Managed Care, published in June 2019, “the preliminary data predict a total of 69,096 deaths from November overdose for a period of 12 months 2018 compared to the forecast 72,287 for the twelve-month period ending in November 2017. If the trend continues until December 2018, it would be the first time since the 1990s that the annual overdose mortality rate has dropped. In the three decades since, overdoses have killed approximately 870,000 people. "
Rosenberg also states that deaths from the combination of heroin and fentanyl are increasing. "While the number of deaths from overdose of heroin, cocaine and natural opioids is gradually decreasing, the death rate from overdose with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more effective than morphine, has continued to increase."
In the 12-month period ending in December 2018, deaths from overdosing on synthetic opioids (national) rose to over 31,000 compared to approximately 29,000 in December 2017.
Nationwide overdose deaths seem to have been declining recently. Information from the federal centers for disease control and prevention estimated deaths from overdose in Wisconsin at 1,172 in 2018 and 1,133 in 2019.
The reasons for a decrease in the number at local and national level are difficult to determine, according to some experts. Mack, who retired at the end of December, said these numbers could be misleading because the drug Narcan, often in the form of a nasal spray, used to resuscitate unresponsive victims of heroin overdoses, by first responders, the police, and even individuals that act as well is widespread Samaritan. The Sauk Prairie Police Department began transporting Narcan in 2015, as the police usually arrive first at a 9-1-1 emergency call.
The Sauk County Health Department often provides courses for the general public in Narcan administration and a free bottle of Narcan spray.
"How much Narcan was distributed and how often was it used on one person?" Mack said. "It is not the complete information out there. It is not a true picture."
While Mack said she celebrated the frequent use of a life-saving medicine, the heart of the solution to an epidemic is to eliminate the causes of the addiction and treat it long-term. She said that initially using medication like Vivitrol to reduce cravings was just a good start to a long-term recovery process. However, she added that it was not a panacea.
"Vivitrol was made for alcoholism," said Mack. "It creates new paths in the brain. The high is turned off for people who have a high level of drugs or alcohol. You can stay tuned for a year and a half and your brain is rewired. "
Change of strategy of a community
Sauk County's soldiers in the fight against addiction have conducted prevention through punishment tactics. Officials say this approach to addictive crime not only helps the addict but the community as a whole.
In addition to drug treatment programs like CARE, law enforcement agencies have introduced new methods to help addicts instead of throwing them into prison for low-level addiction crimes.
Two years ago, the Sauk Prairie Police Department expanded its Prevention of Punishment approach to include a pre-arrest redirection pilot program funded through a federal grant that was awarded $ 5 million in 2016-2021 The escalating heroin epidemic in the region provided targeted combat.
Jerry Strunz, chief of police at Sauk Prairie, said the program uses a tripartite approach in which charges such as property or other minor non-violent charges are suspended for six months when these crimes are associated with a person's drug can become addiction. Instead, this person participates in a treatment program and if successful, no charges are filed at all or dismissed by the court.
People with addiction can also be referred to the program.
"A person who is not at risk of being charged and who has been referred by a family member or employer, or who knows that they need help, can be put in touch with resources," said Strunz. "We referred several to the CARE program."
Police officers can also refer people to the program if they have routine contact with them and believe that a person could benefit from a referral for treatment.
The program is evaluating its numbers, but Strunz said he had success.
"The fact that the department recognizes addiction as a disease and why addicts are more prone to crime is a long way off," said Strunz. "Giving people the opportunity to be treated pays off."
This month, Sauk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, appointed by the Sauk County Board, chose a new name for its criminal justice service program. It is now called the "Justice, Distraction, and Support Program" and reflects the county’s proactive efforts in the areas of criminal justice and addiction, especially at the adult drug court. The drug court is working to put suspects accused of nonviolent crimes related to addiction problems on treatment programs rather than in prison.
The CJCC also oversees the Substance Redirection and Substitution Support Program, a voluntary drug abuse and mental health program when an addict is not qualified to an adult court or has not committed a crime.
Director of the Sauk County Ministry of Health, Tim Lawther, who was tasked with overseeing the ministry last year, said that public programs are designed to help addicts stay out of prison and after release from prison Prison community members to contribute to the benefit of the entire community.
"My key framework for this position is the recognition that we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone in our community has the opportunity to live the healthiest and fullest life he can," said Lawther. “Justice is important to me. Not everyone has the same decisions, and we have to recognize that. "
HOPE of the comprehensive opioid laws of the state parliament
Five years and 30 bills have been passed by the state assembly since Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) began his very personal campaign against addiction with the heroin, opioid prevention, and education initiative known as HOPE. His daughter has spent her own struggle with heroin in recent years.
MP John Nygren speaks to colleagues after six bills in his HOPE agenda to combat opioid abuse on 1/21/20. (Photo Melanie Conklin)
Last month, the State Assembly passed new additions to the Nygren-sponsored or co-sponsored package of 30 bills, which together extend access to safe and reliable salvage shelters. Ensuring the protection of government employees when participating in drug-assisted treatment programs; Extending the requirements of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which provides healthcare professionals with information about prescriptions for controlled substances released in the state; extends access to drug-assisted treatment in correctional facilities; allows recovery coaches to bill through Medicaid; and extends the September 11 Merciful Samaritan Law, which allows heroin or other drug users to call the police in the event of a companion overdose and not be prosecuted.
Nygren's personnel consultant, Chris Borgerding, said the bills passed by the assembly will analyze which forms of MAT programs are currently used in prisons and prisons and will fund a pilot program to support these programs when inmates are released and most are prone to relapse into addiction.
According to Borgerding, a development that does not require legislative action is to persuade a number of insurance companies to forego prior approval to authorize the payment of medicines needed to initiate a treatment plan are required for an addict like Vivitrol.
"We met with some big insurers and they came to this agreement themselves," said Borgerding. "We didn't have to issue an invoice."
If you know someone who is struggling with heroin or opioid addiction, you can find resources here:
Debbie Johnson, Director for Community Activated Recovery Enhancement (CARE): 608-644-0504 extension 12
Heroin and opioid hotline of Sauk County (residents of Sauk County) 608-402-4312
Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 211 or 833-944-4673