Superior council OKs drug diversion marketing campaign

The Wisconsin Department of Justice will reimburse the city to advertise its Pathways to Hope program to reach those struggling with addiction.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — The city was one of five communities across the state selected by the Wisconsin Department of Justice to receive a marketing grant to promote the Superior Police Department’s drug diversion program, Pathways to Hope.

The Superior City Council on Tuesday, May 2, approved waiving the bid process to allow the local law enforcement agency to participate in the advertising campaign developed by the DOJ.

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Developed by Mirrorless Productions LLC of Oshkosh, the campaign will be tailored to the Pathways to Hope program and targeted to a Twin Ports audience. The city will receive $25,550 as a reimbursement from the DOJ to tailor the campaign to Superior and buy traditional and social media advertising.

First and foremost, Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander said he hopes the marketing campaign will create community awareness because the program has greater capacity than is being used right now. He hopes by getting the word out about Pathways to Hope, it will generate more interest in using the program that was designed to help people overcome addiction. Whether it’s a person who feels hopeless about their addiction or family and friends of someone struggling with addiction, the chief said the goal is to help educate people about the options available in Superior.

Superior was one of three sites funded by the DOJ to start a drug diversion program in 2018, which continues to be funded with help from the department.


“We seem to have a good program and a good model in place,” Alexander said. “For the last few years, they’ve been using us as they are expanding sites. Those sites usually come to Superior for the most part and replicate what we’re doing because it seems to be an effective model that’s working well.”

Superior is one of the smaller communities in the state to have a program like this, he said.

Pathways to Hope allows those facing arrest to seek help to overcome chemical dependency rather than face the criminal justice system.

One of the strengths of Superior’s Pathways to Hope program stemmed from a truly “Superior idea,” Alexander said. When the state was soliciting ideas for the program, he said officials looked for pre-booking or pre-arrest drug diversion programs. That meant someone had to commit a crime the police were willing to divert to put the individual through rehabilitation rather than processing them through the criminal justice system.

The “Superior idea” was to talk to the state about why someone had to commit a crime before they could get help, the chief said. In developing Pathways to Hope, Superior created a self-referral process that allows individuals to seek help without committing crimes first, which the state allowed under the grant that supports the program.

“About 65% of our participants are self-referrals … I think that’s one of the big benefits of our program," Alexander said. "They can come to our police department and say ‘Hey, I’m addicted, and I want to get help.’ They could bring us drugs and paraphernalia, and we would dispose of it.”

Since the program launched in 2018, about 100 people have taken advantage of the program, he said. Of those, he said 25 to 30 people are active in the program or have successfully completed it.

“Even a very small number has an impact on overall victimization in our community,” Alexander said. “I think it really does have an impact on quality of life and overall exposure to crime.”


The city’s program works with the help of community partners liked the University of Wisconsin-Superior, which evaluates and quantifies the program, and the Lake Superior Community Health Center, which does initial assessments to determine the level of care needed.

The program offers a broad range of care whether participants need intensive outpatient treatment, medication to help with physical symptoms or inpatient care if a greater level of care is needed, the chief said. Entry into the program also looks at other issues beyond addiction, such as mental health, medical care, dental health and homelessness. Furthermore, participants receive aftercare to help them succeed.

“Just because you relapse, it doesn’t mean we kick you to the curb and you’re done,” Alexander said. “It recognizes that there can be road bumps and … if they are still genuinely dedicated and progressing in the right direction, they aren’t going to get kicked out of the program.”

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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