State representatives, tribal leaders join forces in Opioid Consortium
By Jared Raney
A group of 18 organizations, now called the North Central Region Opioid Consortium, has begun a journey to combat opioid abuse.
Representative John Nygren was joined by Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades and Brooks BigJohn, a Lac du Flambeau Tribal Council member at the Consortium kick-off event June 19.
Nygren told the touching story of his family’s brush with heroine addiction, and BigJohn spoke on the tragedies of the all too frequent opioid abuse among tribal communities, as well as the challenges they face.
Attendants from various groups in the five county, three tribe Consortium region listened to the commitment of Consortium leaders.
But Bob Kovar, manager of Tribal services with the Marshfield Clinic Center, who was a key player in the organization of the Consortium, said the challenge is just getting started.
“There’s a real readiness for dealing with the opiate issue,” Kovar said. “There’s a continuum of prevention, intervention, treatment. And typically the groups that work on those things are separate, they don’t work together. And I think that’s one of the problems.”
It’s a problem that the Consortium is aiming to fix. Though focused on the treatment end of the spectrum, the organizations involved in the effort run the gamut, from law enforcement, to education and rehabilitation.
“I think it’s going to be kind of interesting to bring everybody together, so that everyone’s perspective is at the table,” Kovar said.
The grant is a $688,000 Department of Health Service grant, renewable up to five years, amounting to a whopping $3.4 million. A large portion of the first round of grant money will go toward expanding the Womens’ Outreach Grant, held by the Human Service Center here in Rhinelander.
In addition, the first round of cash will be dedicated to training and management of the Consortium. Though the money will be coming in soon, Kovar said they are still really in the stages of planning and preparation.
“Taking this holistic approach, laying out this healing circle—through our law enforcement, and our prevention, our rehab, our aftercare. Treatment, education and jobs. And most importantly, our culture,” said BigJohn during his speech. “I think when we interweave all those aspects together, we have what’s called a healing circle. And we will be able to make a difference in our members’ lives, and hopefully create a better community.”