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Every spiral gets start somewhere

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J.B. Van Hollen and Ed Wall

Next week marks National Prevention Week. As your attorney general and secretary of corrections, we’re challenging and encouraging residents across Wisconsin to step forward and share a substance abuse prevention message with families, in their communities. According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Prevention Week is intended to serve as an annual health observance, dedicated to increasing public awareness of substance abuse and mental health issues. It’s also coincides with the end of the school year and the start of summer when young people, as part of recreational activities, may be exposed to and abuse drugs.

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As part of the Department of Justice’s heroin prevention public awareness campaign, The Fly Effect, the DOJ and the Department of Corrections have partnered to educate Wisconsin students about the effects of opiate abuse.

On April 23, three women from the DOC’s minimum security Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center in Union Grove visited Monticello Middle School to share with 6th, 7th and 8th grade students their experiences with drug abuse. Raquel, Jessica and Megan, who participate in the center’s Earned Release Program, shared with students how they started abusing drugs at a young age, then transitioned into harder drugs, such as heroin and crack cocaine. Throughout the hour-long program, the women shared the consequences of their actions with the hope of preventing others from experimenting with drugs.

As attorney general, I know the spiral of addiction can start at a young age, sometimes with prescription drugs that teens mistakenly consider “safer” than illicit drugs. It’s critically important we educate ourselves, set a positive example and talk to our kids about the life-changing effects of substance abuse.

As DOC secretary, I regularly visit our correctional facilities statewide and see individuals incarcerated, in part, as a result of the devastating effect substance abuse has had on their lives. Substance abuse can have a truly dangerous impact, and it’s vital that we educate the public about its dangers so we can help change lives for the better.

Monticello school staff later discussed the visit with students and offered the following:

“Personally, I think it was beyond beneficial for all students and staff that I talked to … The kids had a lot of great questions and were very engaged in the conversation … The girls did a great job and here in my room, we were blown away. I can really not speak highly enough about it.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the 2013 survey of more than 41,000 students nationwide showed that after marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the top drugs abused by 12th graders in the past year.

Additionally, one in 15 people who take nonmedical prescription pain killers will try heroin within ten years, according to the Institute.

If you’re interested in learning more about the joint DOJ-DOC program, or to arrange a visit to a local school, contact the DOJ’s communications officer at 608-266-1221 or the DOC’s public information officer at 608-240-5060.

Since the DOJ launched The Fly Effect prevention campaign in late September, many local law enforcement agencies, in cooperation with other local stakeholders, have held public awareness events to educate their communities about the effects of heroin. Everyone can share in the fight against heroin and opiate abuse. Monitor the prescription drugs kept at home, dispose of them properly to prevent diversion and misuse, and engage in this critical, statewide prevention conversation. Every spiral has its start. Visit www.theflyeffect.com or www.doj.state.wi.us to learn more.

J.B. Van Hollen is Wisconsin’s attorney general and Ed Wall is the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

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