Experts and students address Fox Cities drug crime: high time for a change

Although some are concerned by a drug-related death in the Appleton Road Kwik Trip in Menasha, authorities suggest that the drug case was an anomaly and not endemic to the Fox Cities area. • photo by Debra Ruff

A 25-year-old woman was found dead in the restroom at the Menasha Kwik Trip on Appleton Road due to a heroin overdose Sept. 29, according to a Post-Crescent report.

Some are left to wonder if there is a drug problem in the area that they should be concerned about.

However, there are others who do not find this information particularly alarming, and attribute this to living in today’s culture.

“This was an isolated incident; it’s not like there are dealers waiting in the bushes with heroin juice-pouches trying to get your kids addicted. Drugs are everywhere, but not here in the Fox Cities more so than anywhere else,” Rafe School, a sophomore at UW-Fox Valley, said.

Community Liaison Specialist in the town of Menasha John Wallschlaeger agrees that an increase in drug crime is not a concern in relation to other types of crime for citizens in the area. He cites information provided in the 2015 Menasha annual police report as evidence.

“The media plays upon certain instances [such as the recent drug overdose at the Kwik Trip on Appleton Road],” Wallschlaeger said. “Menasha police’s annual report for 2015 shows a decrease in crime in this area. This is not a common occurrence in the area.”

Arrests for drug crimes are a source of debate with varied opinions regarding how these sorts of crimes should be handled. Drug crimes are often committed because of the perpetrator’s addiction, which drives criminal activity.

Many feel that incarceration is not the answer to solving the main problem, which is addiction.

Paige Steele, a sophomore at UW-Fox, has mixed opinions regarding drug crimes and how they should be prosecuted within the court system. While she feels that these are indeed crimes and need to be prosecuted as such, she also feels that there are different tiers regarding these crimes, and specific situations should be considered when a sentence or penalty is imposed on an offender.

“It really depends on what [drug offenders] do. If they are a dealer, they should be prosecuted more harshly than [an] addict because the dealer probably won’t stop selling, and that’s the only way to get them to stop [selling drugs]. The addict could stop if they had access to treatment,” Steele said.

Area police have a different perspective on drug offenders due to the constraints of their profession in how they handle criminal drug activity.

“We are only responsible for apprehending individuals who commit these [drug] crimes. Once they are in custody, it is up to the courts to decide the next step,” Wallschlaeger said.

Drugs come into the Fox Cities in numerous ways. Mostly, drugs such as heroin or methamphetamines are transported from larger cities such as Chicago or Milwaukee. It is often difficult to locate the precise area of their destination.

“Unless the shipment is tracked by a federal department, it is often difficult to determine the origin of most of the drugs that come into the area,” Wallschlaeger said.

Drugs of abuse in the Fox Cities are varied, from marijuana to crack, heroin, methamphetamines and illegal use or sale of prescription pills such as opiates and Adderall. Most people know someone who uses some type of drug, including alcohol.

“Lots of people drink in this area or smoke [marijuana]. I think everyone knows someone who does that. It would be abnormal not to,” School said.

Tanya Brocher is a heroin addict who is working hard at her recovery.

She holds a full-time job at Dynamic Drinkware located in Oshkosh. Brocher knows firsthand how drug use can change a person’s perspective on criminal activities.

“Drugs have caused me do things I never thought I would do. I have lost everything because of them time and time again. I never thought I would become the person I did while I was using,” Brocher said.

Tanya Boetcher, a recovering heroin addict, works her shift at Dynamic Drinkware. • photo by Debra Ruff

Often, addicts do not have access to the treatment options they may require in this area due to unstable financial resources, lack of information or other problems like transportation issues. This makes attending meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous or continuing services such as counseling or drug alternative therapy after discharge from in-hospital treatment difficult. Because addiction is often a taboo subject within society, those who have a problem with drugs or alcohol may not seek out help due to the stigma attached to drug addiction.

“Rich white people make judgments about [drug addiction]. Often it’s stuff they’ve never actually dealt with and have little insight into,” School said.

There are some excellent resources available for addicts seeking treatment. One of these is Valley Health Services, located in Menasha, which provides treatment and options to those who struggle with opiate addiction.

This treatment center offers addicts counseling and drug therapy to use short term in lieu of the drug(s) they have been abusing. Doctors at the clinic prescribe opiate substitutes under strict supervision and criteria to patients.

Agonist drugs, which chemically resemble the drug the addict is addicted to, or antagonist drugs, which stop the effect of the addicts desired drug are given to help curb withdrawal symptoms and drug-seeking behavior and the criminal activity that often accompanies it.

While these therapies can be controversial, they do have a beneficial effect on some addict’s lives as proven by Brocher, who uses the drug Vivitrol to keep her opiate cravings under control.

“I can focus more on the things that matter in my life now like my job and my kids. I don’t have to suffer from the terrible withdrawals that opiates cause [or] spend all my time thinking about using [heroin],” Brocher said.

Another valuable option for those who have been charged with drug crimes is treatment court, which is offered in several counties in Wisconsin. These courts hold addicts accountable for their behavior by requiring them to get drug tested often and being actively involved in therapy or counseling for their addictions. There are certain criteria addicts must meet before they can be a part of this process, and some are left without this option due to the amount of time they will be under court supervision. If someone charged with a drug crime is a violent offender or has a lack of prior drug abuse history or treatment, he or she may not meet treatment court eligibility criteria as posted on Outagamie County’s website.

To ensure safety in the community regarding drug use and drug-related crimes, many feel the need to offer more affordable and accessible options to those who struggle with addiction. It is beneficial to everyone in the Fox Cities that those who battle addiction and want help have access to treatment options.

“Make [drug abuse] okay to talk about. It’s not so scary to everyone if it’s not unknown, and [it should be] addressed without embarrassment,” School said.

Other students at UW-Fox agree with the idea of being a source of support to addicts.

“Be more supportive. Stop being so negative about drug use. Be a friend,” Steele said.

Those suffering from the disease of addiction can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP.