The opioid epidemic hits hard in Vilas County Submitted: 10/26/2017
Phylicia Ashley
Phylicia Ashley

The opioid epidemic hits hard in Vilas County
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Opioids in Northern Wisconsin created problems some areas never saw until the epidemic crept in about ten years ago. 

The Vilas County Tribal Concerns Committee met Thursday to take on the national epidemic that's costing their community money and lives. 

People in Vilas County said they want to stop the opioid epidemic from the top down.  

At Thursday's meeting in Lac du Flambeau leaders said they want to start with prevention and possibly join other counties in suing pharmaceutical companies.  

They feel the companies are responsible for ripping their town apart.

"We need to cut the head off the snake. We've been nipping at its tail for years," said Lac du Flambeau town board member Rob Hanson.

Hanson grew up in Northern Wisconsin.

He said when opioids made their way into his neighborhood about ten years ago it started deteriorating the area.

 "I was shocked I didn't think those kind of things happened up here now it's flipped. Vilas County is number two for opioid use in the state," said Hanson. 

Vilas County Sheriff Joe Fath sees how far people will go to get drugs. 

"Vilas County is no different than Milwaukee, or Madison or anywhere else. Most recently all our crimes people commit, they're trying to [support their] drug addiction," said Fath. 

Board members came to the meeting ready with notes and facts from the state's response to the opioid crisis. 

It reports Vilas County is the 6th highest in the state for opioid related deaths.

The committee wants to get off the top of this list. It's starting by aiming for pharmaceutical companies. 

"Once you have the crisis, the cost of trying to fix that crisis is insurmountable," said Vilas County resident Bob Kovar. 
As a lawyer Hanson will take the lead on starting a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid crisis.

"It's time for pharma's to pay their share of the cost and stop what they're doing," said Hanson.
Fath also believes the pharmaceutical companies played a role in the addiction issues in Vilas County. 

"It's been kind of accepted by the medical community that they kind of helped create the opioid problem," said Fath. 

Hanson wants to stop the supply.

 That would help the more than 400 drug related cases that the Lac du Flambeau Tribal Police see each year.

"So far nobody has been able to stop the guy with the flame thrower," said Hanson. 

The group will keep moving forward to take steps to fight the Opioid epidemic.

 Making pharmaceutical companies pay to repair the damage the committee thinks the companies created, might be their first step. 

The Tribal Concerns Committee has a lot of ideas to make changes of their own.  

It's considering speaking to lawmakers in Madison. 

The committee says this problem won't go away anytime soon. 

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com


Play Video

MERRILL - A member of the Merrill School Forest Program received special recognition on Friday. Director Russell Noland earned a LEAF award from Wisconsin's School Forest Program.

Students, parents, and other community members came together to witness the award presentation.

The award honors people that excel in leading learning experiences and activities in forestry.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Sixty-two-year-old Kenneth Welsh lasted just eight days as a free man before being arrested in Oneida County again.

Welsh is now in Oneida County Jail, accused of making terrorist threats.

Those threats put hospitals in Rhinelander and Tomahawk on lockdown on Thursday.

Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman said Welsh made the threats to a hospice company after they withdrew service from his terminally-ill wife.

+ Read More

MADISON - Researchers examining forests in northern Wisconsin say Native American reservations have older trees and better plant diversity and tree regeneration than surrounding state or national forests.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that Dartmouth College and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers recently published their findings in an issue of the Ecology and Society journal. Researchers studied forests on four Native American reservations.

+ Read More

Play Video

MINOCQUA - People drew designs and blood at a Minocqua tattoo parlor Friday. Owners of Haven Ink Tattoos helped clear up some tattoo myths while helping others in their community with a blood drive.
"Clients have been showing us tattoos they want while donating," said Haven Ink Tattoos co- owner and artist Megan Hunt.
A simple prick of a needle goes a long way at Haven Ink Tattoos in Minocqua.
"There are a lot of myths that exist and it goes back to old stimulations as far as donating blood," said Haven Ink Tattoos co- owner and artist Dani Bauer.
"[You can] participate in a good cause and get a tattoo after so you get two memories in a day," said blood donor Tanner Lillie. 

People get a permanent mark while making one on someone's life.
Hunt and Bauer teamed up with Talitha Uhrmann from The Community Blood Center to bring a blood bank to the shop. Everyone who donated blood got 20 percent off a tattoo.
Every person that donated blood can save three lives including the one in seven people hospitalized that will need a blood transfusion.

+ Read More

Play Video

MERRILL - A Northwoods group that supports victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault took the time to thank those whose support makes the program possible. HAVEN (Household Abuse Victims Emergency Network) hosted an open house on Friday in Merrill. 

The open house was held in part to celebrate the program's 35th anniversary. It also allowed people who have supported HAVEN over the years to get a tour of the facility and get to know the employees there. 

+ Read More

ONEIDA COUNTY - A wild deer in Oneida County tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

The DNR says a deer found in Crescent Township had CWD. 

+ Read More

Play Video

CRANDON - With wide stretches of crusty white snow in all directions, the Crandon High School baseball and softball fields stand out as two big brown blobs; beautiful in the eyes of Josh Jaeger.

"It makes it look like I'm a genius, that I know exactly how to do all these chemistry experiments to melt snow faster and it's simply just a trick that I stumbled upon." Jaeger said.

The first-year activities director walked around the fields Friday just two days after it was covered in "deep drifts," as Jaeger described it.

+ Read More
+ More General News

Click Here