Weather Forecast


Politicians, community members discuss heroin problem in Hudson

Wisconsin State Rep. Dean Knudson, left, with State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, center, and State Rep. John Nygren were part of a panel Monday night that discussed the problem heroin is causing in the Hudson area and across the state. Knudson and Harsdorf both lent their endorsement to a bill proposed by Nygren to address heroin and opiate addiction and overdoses. (Hudson Star Observer photo by Meg Heaton)1 / 5
Phil Drewiske spoke at Monday’s listening session about the impact of heroin on the community. A recovering addict who spent time in prison, Drewiske said he would like to see more resources available to provide treatment for addicts and more support for them following treatment to help them maintain their sobriety. He said his parents, seated to his left, have been a big part of his recovery but he is concerned for those who don’t have families to help them. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Meg Heaton)2 / 5
Judge Edward Vlack, center, presides over St. Croix County’s drug court. The court works with adults facing felony convictions for drug-related offenses to build a partnership between the criminal justice system and the drug and alcohol treatment community. To Vlack’s left is Peter Van Dusartz of Programs for Change, the Hudson Hospital out-patient treatment program, and Amber Perry, right, St. Croix County Drug Court Coordinator. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Meg Heaton)3 / 5
Kelly Nelson Hoyos is the new AODA (alcohol and other drugs abuse) prevention coordinator for the Hudson School District. The district will be adding a “student concern form” on the website where students can post their concerns about peers who may be abusing drugs or having other problems. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Meg Heaton)4 / 5
Around 75 people turned out to discuss the problem of heroin and other drugs in the Hudson area on Monday night. The panel included state representatives, law enforcement, a treatment specialist, a prosecutor and a drug court judge. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Meg Heaton)5 / 5

A listening session scheduled to run an hour, was still going strong after two hours Monday night at Hudson High School.

The topic was the problem of drugs in the Hudson area. The session was organized by State Rep. Dean Knudson of Hudson and brought together state legislators, law enforcement and court representatives as well as treatment professionals to discuss the issue.

The panel included State Rep. John Nygren whose daughter is a recovering heroin addict. Nygren authored a series of bills that were co-sponsored by Knudson and State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf.

The bills which have passed the assembly include a Good Samaritan law that gives limited immunity to those who call 911 to report overdoses, require EMTs to carry NarCan, a substance that, when administered promptly to anyone suffering a heroin overdose, can save lives, the requirement of photo identification to be able to pick up a narcotic prescription and the addition of narcotic medications to the Clean Sweep program.

The legislators say the assembly is also looking at improving drug and alcohol treatment options in underserved rural areas that would include St. Croix County.

Harsdorf reminded an audience of about 75 that there had been some seven deaths related to drug overdoses in the Hudson area in 2013. That fact was not news to many in the audience, some who had participated in the Heroin in Hudson community forum held in July and others whose children have been among the dead.

A special agent from the Dept. of Justice said that while they have seen the use of heroin go through cycles, what is alarming this go-round is the age of those who start using is much younger than in years past.

He referred people to the DOJ website for links to the “Fly Effect” campaign which specifically addresses heroin use by young people along with other resources. A parent in the audience who lost her son to the drug said she had seen the campaign spots on the website and found them impactful.

St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts reported that while the area has seen too many deaths as a result of heroin, countywide his department had 1,100 new drug cases in 2013 with only 35 related to heroin.

Assistant District Attorney Amber Hahn handles most of drug prosecutions in the county. She said that her job is “far behind the starting line” when it comes to the problem of drugs in the community. “Parents, the schools and community involvement like this is what will ultimately make the difference when it comes to this problem and each of you can make a difference.”

Questions from the audience ranged from concerns about the lack of treatment options within the county to support for addicts in recovery and the overall lack of funding in Wisconsin as compared to Minnesota for those who have no insurance or who cannot afford treatment.

Knudson noted that the nation’s Affordable Care Act requires insurance carriers to provide mental health and addiction treatment but he noted that those relying on Medicaid will continue to face funding challenges in Wisconsin.

There was also discussion about more education and prevention programs in schools and efforts being made through the St. Croix County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition to bring communities together to prevent substance abuse locally. For more information about the coalition contact Sara Sedahl, LSAC, St. Croix County Health & Human Services at (715)246-8209 or

<strong>Take action:</strong>

Check out the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice’s heroin awareness campaign, “The Fly Effect” at

Contact Kelly Hoyos, AODA coordinator for the Hudson School District at (715)377-3711 or at

For information about the St. Croix County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition contact Sara Sedahl, LSAC, St. Croix County Health &amp; Human Services at (715)246-8209 or

To learn about the St. Croix County Drug Court Program go to

Parents seeking help can go to (855)DRUGFREE,

Outpatient alcohol and substance abuse treatment is available locally at Hudson Hospital’s Programs for Change by calling (715) 531-6752.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604