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Muskego parents just can't live with heroin problem

Group engages school officials to deal with the issue

Aug. 12, 2013

Muskego — When roughly 40 people packed last week's Muskego-Norway School Board meeting with painful stories of children and a brother who were lost to heroin, they wanted to make school officials aware of a problem.

When they return in about two weeks, as they have vowed, they intend to offer suggestions about how they might help the schools keep kids away from drugs, and hope the board will welcome their input.

"We're hoping they use us, please," Muskego resident Linda Lenz, a leader of the group, said following the Aug. 5 meeting.

Lenz was among the mothers and former students who told firsthand stories about heroin use in the Muskego schools and its impact locally. Their message was that they are available to do anything — fundraising for staff or equipment or speaking in the schools — to keep children away from drugs, especially heroin.

Fatal attraction

Their message was clear: Drug use can have fatal consequences, and it has locally.

Lenz lost her 23-year-old son to drugs in February. His drug connection was a boy that he met at Muskego High School, she said, although his addiction didn't start there.

A 2007 Muskego High School graduate who wanted to be identified only as Rich said told board members that his older brother died at age 23 after getting in with the wrong crowd. Already on prescription medication for a back injury, he was lured by drugs more deadly.

"I can honestly say I know it's in the schools," Rich said.

Megan Murphy, a 2009 Muskego High School graduate, said she started on Vicodin at age 17.

"That shoots you right up to heroin," she said, adding that it is terribly seductive even for young people who should know better.

"I have been to 12 funerals since I was 16 years old, and 11 were from heroin overdoses," Murphy said.

One misstep is all it takes, she said.

"Once you take that drug, something in your brain goes off" and the craving becomes overwhelming, she said. Even so, she announced that she has been drug-free for a year.

Dawn Brushwood said she doesn't want her son in the Muskego schools to face such deadly threats.

"I would like my son to live," she said.

Close to tears, Jennifer Reidy told how her daughter started drugs at Muskego High School. She died three years ago.

"She had a lot to offer" before her life was cut short, Reidy said. "Please listen to all the voices who are telling you."

During the meeting, School Board President Jim Schaefer told the group, "Certainly, we've heard you."

After the Aug. 5 meeting, he said he and the board will welcome partnering with the residents.

Drug infiltration

Lenz said a Muskego police officer told her the drug problem in Muskego is bigger than anyone can imagine. It isn't that there are so many deaths or arrests, she was told — it's that so many youth are hooked.

Lt. David Constantineau, who is in charge of the Muskego Police Department's drug-fighting efforts, responded, "Heroin is out of control and is a big problem. That's accurate. ... It's insidious the way it finds its way in."

He confirmed that kids just wanting to experiment are metaphorically walking blindfolded toward a cliff — even those who tried heroin just once. He has seen it happen, and their family background isn't the issue.

"These are good kids who have never been in any trouble from good families," Constantineau said.

Even so, Constantineau doubted that Muskego has a worse problem than other area communities.

Keeping drugs out of schools is tough. Even if schools performed searches every day, it wouldn't stop the flow, he said.

"They do that in prisons and drugs still get in," Constantineau said.

Effective enforcement

Police do have drug dogs search the high and middle schools twice a year, he said.

Some claimed last week that drug dogs cannot sniff out heroin or other hard drugs, but Constantineau called that assertion "inaccurate." Drug dogs can detect heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and all the derivatives, plus marijuana, he said.

Police haven't made any arrests for heroin at the high school last year, he said. But they have made plenty of arrests outside of schools of people in their late teens and into their 40s, he said.

The schools are very-pro law-enforcement when it comes to drugs, he said, and police follow up aggressively on every lead.

When police make an arrest, Constantineau said, "We try to work our way up the food chain to get the dealers," but that usually has to be done by the metro drug squad that can cross jurisdictional lines.

What needs to happen is for students to report kids with pills or needles, he said.

"We need people to step up and say I don't want that in my school," Constantineau said.

FYI

According to the Waukesha County Medical Examiners Office and law enforcement officials:

· Last year, 20 people died of heroin overdoses, the majority in their 20s and 30s. That is a record and significantly higher than the six or seven deaths from heroin that has been the rule.

·One of those deaths last year was in Muskego and two were in New Berlin. Otherwise, they were scattered all over Waukesha County, with a few more in the city of Waukesha.

·Part of the reason for so many more heroin deaths is that heroin is now cheaper than prescription drugs.

· The total number of overdoses from all drugs is way up in Waukesha County. Last year, 52 died of drug overdoses compared with 17 in 2004.

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