Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) came together in Brown County Friday to talk to local community leaders about the drug abuse problem facing Northeast Wisconsin.
The discussion at the Weyers-Hilliard branch of the Brown County Public Library focused on opioids and heroin, and the staggering numbers showing an increase in addiction in the area over the past few years.
"It's really devastating communities," Baldwin said.
While Baldwin and Nygren talked briefly about legislation they've helped pass or push, the bulk of the round table talk involved members of the community sharing ideas and concerns with the legislators. Key players from healthcare providers, law enforcement, and recovery agencies all shared their thoughts with the legislators.
One of those key players was Douglas Darby, co-founder of the recovery advocacy group Rise Together. In long-term recovery himself, he expected to share his ideas of how to help curb the problem with lawmakers.
What he didn't expect was to see Lt. Matt Ronk of the Brown County Drug Task Force.
"First time I've seen him since about six years ago when he kicked in my door and I was arrested for robbing the Walgreens pharmacy right over my back shoulder," said Darby, standing outside the Weyers-Hilliard Library.
Lt. Ronk, also a part of the round table, said he arrested Darby three times throughout his battle with drugs. He hadn't seen him since his last arrest, before he began his road to recovery.
"It's really heartwarming to see his recovery and I know it hasn't been easy for him," said Lt. Ronk.
Now, the two are working toward a common goal of fighting opioid and heroin abuse, as well as other forms of substance abuse, in our area.
"It's time as a community, we understood the issue, we acknowledge the issue, and we stop shaming the people in the issue," said Darby.
The round table participants discussed a variety of challenges and possible solutions to the drug problem, but all agreed it will take a lot of work to solve.