Protecting those caught up in the deadly drug cycle

CREATED Feb 18, 2014 - UPDATED: Feb 19, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Law enforcement leaders across Waukesha County aren't messing around when it comes to cracking down on heroin. 

Ryan Brehmer is an officer with the Village of Eagle Police Department.  When referring to heroin, he says, "It is absolutely the number one issue that leads to a lot of other issues." 

In Waukesha County, heroin-related deaths tripled from 2011 to 2012.  

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel says, "The problem is once you snort heroin, within about 6 months you will be an intravenous user."

That's where another piece of the puzzle comes in.  If people are going to shoot up, how do you keep them alive?  TMJ4's I-Team visited the Milwaukee headquarters for Prevention Services.  The organization recently expanded to include Waukesha County, and gives users a chance to exchange clean needles for dirties.

Director Scott Stokes explains, "We provide sterile injection equipment to injection drug users in an effort to prevent HIV and Hepatitis C." 
Stokes is a former user, and says the eventual hope for addicts is to get clean, but in the meantime he says, "We're the harm reduction piece of it.  We're working with the actual drug users, and our goal is to keep them alive, so they can find some help and get into treatment." 

In addition to clean needles, Prevention Services also supplies users with Noloxone, or Narcan, to use in the case of an overdose.

Stokes says, "We call it pure saves."  He adds, "It's fatal opiate overdose prevention.  What we do is we train participants." 

Stokes is in favor of putting Narcan in the hands of police officers as well, since they are often the first responders on an overdose scene.

"It might take several more minutes for paramedics to get there, and the longer that they're down, not breathing, the more chance some kind of brain injury can occur," he warns.

Currently, some EMS and fire departments across the state do carry Narcan on their trucks.  State Representative John Nigren is working on a bill making it legal for all first responders to use Narcan on the scene of a heroin overdose.