GRAND CHUTE (WLUK) — Across the country, heroin use is increasing, and so are heroin-related overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Here in Wisconsin some of those numbers are on the decline but the battle against heroin continues.
Over the past few years, a group called Rise Together has been working hard to make sure teens understand the risks of heroin use and other illegal substances.
“And we’ve been doing that through a school speaking initiative. Since we got started in September of 2013, we’ve partnered with 150 schools,” said Rise Together co-founder Anthony Alvarado.
Rise Together co-founder Anthony Alvarado says his team has shared its message with more than 120,000 people.
“[We’re] doing it in a way that tells, not only our personal stories, but allows them to relate to the conversation,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado and some of his other group members are recovering drug addicts.
“What they’ve told us is, they find us relatable. They really look at us as their peers or they idolize us for the more positive aspects of our life,” he said.
Earlier this year, Rise Together partnered with another group called Young People in Recovery.
Since the partnership, both groups have continued to spread their message and one group member even met with President Obama.
“It happened at the end of March and our CEO, Justin Luke Riley, met with president Obama during a summit that specifically talked about addiction and prescription drugs and there was some really awesome conversation that was happening, not only between Justin and President Obama but also as a team, as the panel discussed how they’re going to address the addiction epidemic,” he said.
When it comes to heroin use in the state, the Justice Department created a map.
Within Northeast Wisconsin Outagamie, Brown, Fond du Lac, and Sheboygan counties had the highest amount of heroin cases –that’s 30 or more — processed by the State Crime Lab in 2015.
However, when you compare 2014 to 2015, Fond du Lac is the only county that had an increase in heroin cases sent to the crime lab.
Here’s what we know when we include every county in the state.
In 2013 the state processed 1,061 heroin cases.
In 2014, 1,133 cases and last year, the State processed 848 heroin cases.
Just because most of the heroin cases across the state are on the decline, it doesn’t mean the drug is going away and Alvarado says prevention is key.
“We have a pretty high goal to speak at 100 schools throughout the next year in Wisconsin so we definitely want to accomplish that. Part of it is just getting awareness about why is it effective,” he said.