MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Thursday night at UW-Stout, dozens of people took time out of the day to sit down and talk about the drug epidemic and importance of mental health in the Chippewa Valley.
“I really believe we can't change what we don't know,” says Sen. Patty Schachtner. “And so we have to bring a topic that people don't know about to them to really springboard conversation.”
In Wisconsin, the number of people treated for meth addiction through county services more than doubled from 2010 to 2015, keeping law enforcement busy, and lawmakers looking for new ways to address the problem.
“Right now we're working very diligently to try to find different ways to address the epidemic,” says Eric Atkinson Chief of Police at the Menomonie police department.
“A lot of it has to do with access, you know where do you go for treatment, do we have it locally? Is it affordable?” says Sen. Schachtner.
A new service launched this week by the state's Department of Health is hoping to aid addicts seeking help.
Dial 211 and the Wisconsin addiction recovery helpline will connect people with resources to overcome a dependence on substances; a tool senator Schachtner says is a great first step.
“The way technoology is today, having someone at a phone when a person is reaching out for help, actually have access to information makes sense, so it's a first step and I think it's a great idea.”
While the new tool is in the early stages, leaders say educating the public about addiction is an essential piece in helping those in need.
“Creating a sense of understanding will allow us to better connect with those people facing addiction and help them resolve this problem so that they can be successful people,” says Chief Atkinson.
The Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline is now available to connect people with resources to overcome a dependence on opioids or other substances. This free and confidential service supported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is managed by 211 Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline is available statewide 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 211 or 833-944-4673.