CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- Chippewa County says the number of cases being referred to child protective services because of parent's drug use has skyrocketed.
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The human services department says meth addiction is overwhelming the county system and causing health leaders to take action.
Director Larry Winter says the county wants to prevent drug-addicted expectant mothers from avoiding treatment by getting involved in a prenatal program.
“The scope of the problem is consuming many of our public resources, from law enforcement to our courts, to our department of human services and other nonprofit organizations who serve this cliental,” said Winter.
The program looks to encourage expectant mothers to seek help before they’re 8 weeks along and get the support they need so babies aren't born addicted to drugs or premature..
Winter explained, “It's a way to really work upstream and it is a lot more longer term. The community of Chippewa County really wants to be more proactive around this issue in particular.”
In 2014 there were 28 cases referred to child protective services in Chippewa County by 2017 that number increased to 211.
The Children Youth and Families division says meth use alone was responsible for nearly 160 of those out-of-home placements in child welfare during 2017. That’s up from 10 cases in 2014.
Manager Melissa Christopherson said, “We are seeing a level of foster care placement related to methamphetamine that's really record breaking for Chippewa County. Although the numbers have started to plateau the increase that we saw at the beginning of this epidemic really put our system into a tailspin.”
However by working together the county hopes to find a way to proactively fight the problem.
Christopherson added, “I think we need increased community awareness and engagement of everyone in the community to know what meth is, how accessible it is, how to see it and how to help people who are struggling with addiction.”
County leaders will be participating in a 'Substance Abuse in Pregnancy' forum on January 30th in Chippewa Falls.
There is also a meth town hall meeting on January 25th from 6-7:30p.m. at Stillson Elementary School that is open to the community.