Officials trying out new method to fight heroin addiction
KENOSHA COUNTY -- By now, you have heard about the growing heroin problem in America -- and there is no better place to see the damage the drug can cause than county jails. Officials in Kenosha County have introduced a new type of treatment. It is called "vivitrol" and it helps addicts kick the habit.
The doors at the Kenosha County Jail are secure enough to keep those arrested inside. But there is a different kind of door that keeps bringing them back.
"How do we stop the revolving door of people who are having drug problems?" asked Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser.
Danielle Wetley was never in trouble before she turned 29 years old. Then, someone introduced her to heroin.
"I lost my last apartment. I lost a really nice car, my stability, with having my kids all the time," Wetley said.
Wetley's habit would eventually cost more than her house and apartment. It would cost thousands of dollars -- as she ended up so addicted she would shoot up four to eight times each day. Soon, a woman who was never in jail before was arrested over and over again, committing crimes to get money for the drug.
"It's crazy actually. You're constantly thnking about it. If you don't have it, you get sick," Wetley said.
Wetley was arrested again in January. At the time, withdrawal in the Kenosha County Jail made her so sick she was delirious for 13 days.
These before and after photos show the real affects of heroin abuse:
It just so happens the timing was right. Kenosha County started a pilot program with an anti-heroin drug. Wetley is one of the first to receive Vivitrol in the program. For support, Wetley lives and goes through counseling at the Oxford House shelter.
"Almost weekly, between myself and other people we know, we are hearing about deaths. People are dying from this -- and it's devastating," Wetley said. "These are young people. These are moms. These are daughters. These are fathers."
Kenosha County officials say they think it will be worth the $300,000 investment to start the program.
"When you lock people up, it's not inexpensive," said County Executive Kreuser. "And when you can find a way to look for efficiencies, the sheriff and I talk about how we can be more efficient with taxpayer dollars. And sometimes, you try to stop the repeat customers. And if you can stop that revolving door, then I think we're doing our jobs."
Wetley just took her third Vivitrol shot in a six-month plan to stop her heroin addiction -- and to perhaps open the door to permanent freedom.
Officials in Kenosha County will review this program to see how well it is working, and determine whether it is a program that should be long-term.