“Addiction is powerful and it takes on a life of it’s own,” said Betsy Byler. She works directly with addicts at the Human Development Center in Superior.
She has seen the harsh reality of drug addictions, and says the need for resources is only growing.
“We’ve had a pretty difficult time with Heroin, and then in the last year or so Methamphetamine has made a comeback,” said Byler.
In an FBI report released last month from 2011 to 2015, Wisconsin Meth use increased 250 and 300 percent.
“If your child or you or someone you love needed help today, what do they do,” said Byler.
Even for a recovering addict and Chair of the Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs of Abuse (AODA), the answer is complicated for families seeking help.
“Meanwhile, their loved one, themselves whoever- that addiction is still powerful and moving in the background and it doesn’t stop because they don’t have the answer yet,” Byler said.
Shelley Faul experienced that heartache seeing her son, David suffer with his addiction for years. But now, she’s a voice hoping to bring change. The core of this mother’s fight – bringing to the forefront the need for inpatient treatment options.
“I don’t want anybody to be faced with the problem of trying to get addiction help immediately, effective help and be turned away,” said Faul.
The drug abuse committee includes up of community members like Shelley and Betsy as well as the Chief of Police and local health officials. Their goal- to raise awareness and address the needs of those suffering with addictions rather than treating them like criminals.
“The idea would be that somebody could walk into the police station, turn in their drugs if they had any, not get charged and they would be escorted to treatment,” Byler said.”We as a committee are starting down a trail that is very large in terms of trying to figure out how to make this happen.”
For addicts, Byler says taking that step to seek help is the most important but often the hardest.
“Because they can’t imagine life any other way. When you’re talking about drugs like Heroin or Meth, it’s not just one thing that keeps you using. It’s that you destroy your life, your finances, your relationships and then, your dope sick,” said Byler.
Imagine having the flu times a thousand – that’s how she describes it.
“They have to fight against that and we have no detox that’s going to take care of them,” said Byler. “The jail ends up being the detox center.”
She says they know how hard it is and it doesn’t seem possible. For that reason, getting help needs to be much easier.
“There needs to be a choice for people who want to get help, who want to stay clean, and until we have that, I don’t know how much good we’re going to be able to do,” said Byler.
For now, she says the best way of fighting is prevention and that starts at home.
“Madison is not going to come rescue us and the police can’t rescue us, we have to do it,” added Byler.
That’s the hope of an upcoming town hall meeting the committee has put together for later this month.
“What I want is a conversation. I want people to recognize to know that yeah it’s here in our town, in our county, in the place that we call home. It’s in our high schools with kids you’d never expect,” said Byler.
For Shelley, it took a long time to come to terms with her son’s addiction.
“A lot of people just don’t understand that this is a disease. This is an addiction,” said Faul.
She knows her battle is far from over.
“It’s a long road, but its a challenge I’m willing to take,” Faul added.
The next stop on her journey: Madison. She’ll be headed down there for Superior Days to discuss the issue of increasing the MA reimbursement rates for treatment.
“If we can get the state of Wisconsin to increase those reimbursement rates for MA, it may enable more people to receive those resources,” said Faul.
She says she will continue to be as active as she can in the community.
“The more active I am the more I am approached by people who are looking for answers,” Faul added.
As for her son, this mother will always have high hopes.
“Once your an addict, your always an addict, but you can be a recovering addict and you can be healthy and happy and be a productive person in our community,” said Faul. “I pray for that and I know he does too.”
We reached out to a few state and federal legislators to see how they combating this issue. This is what U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin said in a statement to Eyewitness News:
“I’ve heard from local officials, law enforcement and healthcare providers in Superior about our need for a stronger response to the opioid epidemic and additional inpatient treatment options here. That is why I led the fight for $1 billion in additional investments for state opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery efforts and why I am pushing Wisconsin leaders to act immediately and put these investments to work.”