Members of the Milwaukee community gathered on the third floor of City Hall on the morning of May 12th, with questions and concerns for the task force about those who struggle with heroin, opioid and cocaine addiction.
The City-County heroin, opioid and cocaine task force addressed grants and federal funding for recovery programs and rehabilitation centers. Some include: The Wisconsin Partnership Program Community Impact Grant, SAMHSA and The Community Opioid Prevention Effort (COPE).
Each program has contributed to the start of an end to the addiction epidemic in the Milwaukee Community. Task Force chair, Bevan Baker, expressed a deep gratitude to all programs for spreading awareness of the effects of addiction and actively working with residents either through medical or mental care or, employment and shelter needs.
Patricia Gutierrez was asked to give a presentation to the task force about cocaine and other narcotics that are most commonly used by addicts. Gutierrez gave an overview of the effects of each narcotic and what leads addicts to overdose.
Cocaine stimulates the nervous system; the drug can be snorted, smoked or injected to release natural chemicals of dopamine in the brain. Gutierrez said the high effect of cocaine can wear off within a few minutes to an hour leaving consumers wanting a greater high. A greater tolerance can lead to greater doses. A leading cause of death in overdosing is heart attacks due to high heart rates.
Gutierrez is the director of Impact, an alcohol and drug abuse service center. Gutierrez and her staff have seen addicts come in with serious withdrawal symptoms including extreme sadness, anxiety and nausea.
“We see people come in who have picked through their skin until it bleeds,” said Gutierrez.
Impact provides help with employment and shelter for addicts. According to Gutierrez, Impact specifies in 18-59-year-olds and pregnant women. But anyone who volunteers to walk through the door is never denied help.
The chair of the task force, Bevan Baker, expressed deep gratitude for Gutierrez’s presentation and efforts in healing the Milwaukee community from addiction.
After the presentation Baker announced from 2011 to April of 2017 there has been 104 deaths caused by cocaine and 83 percent lived in the Milwaukee area. Baker said 32 percent were female and 70 percent were Black or African American.
Baker said addicts are using “…cocaine as a pause or an on ramp until something stronger comes.”
Baker also states that drugs are an “…epidemic that must be treated.”
A problem Baker sees when looking at treatment provided in the Milwaukee community are lack of counselors. Baker proposes that overdose survivors be connected to treatment options.
Milwaukee County Supervisor, Peggy West and Raphael, are the cofounders of the MKE Heroin Diaries- an outlet where users and supporters come together to discuss their experiences and their journey to recovery.
Raphael spoke to the task force during public comments about their efforts while wearing a MKE Heroin Diaries t-shirt. He emphasized his support for those individuals who want to remain anonymous and recover on their own terms.
MKE Heroin Diaries is a different form of counseling where the community engages with each other for the common goal of spreading awareness and prevention of drug deaths in Milwaukee.
Peggy West asked the task force to make opioids, cocaine and heroin users a public health emergency. West feels the public should be educated on the seriousness of drugs and their aftermath so they can be protected.