The opioid abuse issue is becoming something more and more people are being made aware of every day.
At Thursday's meeting of the Vilas County board's tribal concerns committee, chairman Al Bauman referenced the back page of the Nov. 28 edition of The Lakeland Times, where various court cases from Vilas and Oneida counties were published.
Ninety percent of those in the newspaper, he observed, were from Lac du Flambeau.
While much of the focus to this point has been on treatment, there's beginning to be more discussion about what can be done in the way of prevention.
Bauman opened a nearly hour long discussion about the issue by stating the obvious with regard to prevention and treatment: it costs money.
"Where's the money coming from?" he asked. "At least for treatment?"
A couple of weeks earlier, at the most recent meeting of the Vilas County board Nov. 14, Bauman's fellow county board supervisor Erv Teichmiller pointed out funding for counties and schools to address drug abuse prevention efforts is nearly non-existent.
Thursday, Bauman said Vilas County was developing resolutions regarding different aspects to the opioid abuse issue to be approved by the county board and then forwarded to state and federal lawmakers.
He said he hoped the tribal council for the Lac du Flambeau Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians "is working towards some of the avenues that all the county, state and feds are involved (in)."
Vilas County supervisor, committee member and former tribal council president Tom Maulson asked what sort of dollars were available "to stomp this thing out because it ain't getting any better."
"I know they had a big drug bust not too long ago around here," he said. "When is it gonna quit? We've got our babies out there ... over 100 kids are being put into different homes because of the parents. What are we doing about that?"
Committee member Bob Hanson, also a county supervisor and a supervisor for the town of Lac du Flambeau, said the county should join a class-action lawsuit begun against the big pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the opiates.
"At this point, about two-thirds of the counties in Wisconsin are on board with one lawsuit or another," he said. "We need to get on board with that. We need to cut the head off the snake by attacking where it's coming from."
'Families are broken'
There was broad discussion about the topic, as there is frequently at meetings of the tribal concerns committee.
The point society is now on the wrong end of the opioid epidemic - after people are caught up in it - was once again mentioned and more than a few times.
With that is the effect it has on family members, whether its grandparents having to care for children while their parents are out wandering around and buying drugs, as Maulson stated at one point, or county government paying for housing for children of parents who are in and out of jail for drugs on a regular basis.
For 2017, Vilas County budgeted $1.4 million for its substitute care program, which includes foster care and group homes.
The same amount has been budgeted for 2018.
Rich Martin with the Vilas County social service juvenile intake program handed out information showing the county is projected to spend just over $260,000 more for the program in 2017.
Bauman said he's heard about prevention efforts and Dave Poupart, with the tribe's community health department, said there were.
He said he'd reported to the tribal council members department personnel have gone to the grade school at Lac du Flambeau "and did some education pieces with all grades ... regarding needle safety and what to do if you find a needle."
"What the needles are used for," Poupart said. "To find out what the kids knew."
He said the things some of the children shared were alarming.
"They're getting the word in the awareness," Poupart said. "We're getting it out there to these children. So, we're starting prevention efforts early."
He said sixth, seventh and eighth grade students want department personnel to come back on possibly a quarterly status and do more education regarding drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and other infections.
"So, we're gonna plan on working on getting that prevention out there," Poupart said.
He said flyers concerning needle safety and what to do if any were found in the community are also being developed for distribution.
"We can put information about drug prevention and abuse on there also," Poupart said.
Committee member and tribal council member Betty Jo Graveen said she agreed with Vilas County health department director Gina Egan, who earlier in the meeting said prevention needs to start with families.
"Our families are broken," Graveen said. Not all of them but a big majority of them. I think that's where it has to start. Something has to be done with the kids. The little kids because they're affected by that stuff. They're breathing it."
Graveen was at the tribal council meeting when the tribal community health department's report - including input from Lac du Flambeau students - was presented by Poupart.
"For once, I had a good feeling because this was coming from the students," she said. "When they found those needles, or if they saw them ... one was even in a baby crib. There has to be ... we have family programs here but I'm not satisfied."
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at email@example.com.