Forum to take on heroin, other drugs
With multiple recent overdose deaths in the Twin Cities area, including at least a dozen in the Hudson area over the past few years, New Richmond Police Chief Mark Samelstad is mobilizing forces in his fight against the deadly drug.
Though the New Richmond Police Department coordinates efforts with surrounding law enforcement agencies as part of the St. Croix Valley Drug Task Force, Samelstad wants to go a step further by educating the community and equipping residents to protect themselves before the menace of drug addiction ever takes hold.
Inspired by an event held last July in Hudson, Samelstad has organized a public forum on Thursday, Feb. 20, in an effort to address the broad issue of illegal drugs and prescription drug abuse. Organizers of the Hudson event hoped for about 100 attendees, and more than 500 people showed up. Samelstad booked the New Richmond High School auditorium for his event, which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
“I don’t want to focus just on heroin. I want to do a little more than what Hudson did,” Samelstad said. “It’s an educational thing, too. With the schools we want to give parents resources on where to go to get help. It’s more than just a law enforcement thing.”
Law enforcement officials scheduled to speak at the forum include Detective Veronica Koehler with the New Richmond Police Department, Investigator James Mikla with the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office and Darren Hynek with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation.
While law enforcement is commonly used to battle the drug epidemic, Samelstad knows that education and public health resources are also required.
“To solve the overall problem, everybody has got to work together and communicate,” Samelstad said.
Multiple health officials will also take the stage at next Thursday’s drug forum, including an emergency room doctor from Westfields Hospital and AODA Counselor Sara Sedahl with St. Croix County. New Richmond High School Principal Tom Wissink will speak about the issue from an education standpoint, and St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Edward Vlack will share information about his drug court program that helps addicts get clean and live productive lives.
Perhaps the most poignant talks will come from area people dealing with hardship and tragedy as a result of heroin and other drug abuse.
Jodi Skoog, Roger Drewiske, Phil Drewiske, Greg Berg and Karen Hale have all faced difficult circumstances. Skoog, Roger Drewiske and Berg are family members of addicts. Phil Drewiske, a former addict, will share his personal story about losing a friend, and Hale will speak about how addiction took the life of her daughter.
With all the speakers sharing their stories, information and resources, it is Samelstad’s hope that people begin to help each other so that law enforcement isn’t as necessary.
“It’s a society problem, and law enforcement is not going to solve the problems of society by itself,” Samelstad said. “We want to arrest the dealers, but we also want to provide assistance to the people that are using the drugs.”
PUBLIC FORUM SET FOR FEB. 20
The New Richmond Police Department, the New Richmond School District and the New Richmond Area Community Foundation are sponsoring a public forum in an effort to address the issue of illegal drugs and prescription drug abuse.
When: 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 20
Where: New Richmond High School auditorium
— Karen Hale, mother of girl who died from heroin overdose
— Phil Drewiske, recovering heroin addict who lost a friend
— Jodi Skoog, Roger Drewiske and Greg Berg, family members affected by addiction
— A Westfields Hospital ER doctor
— New Richmond High School Principal Tom Wissink
— St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Edward Vlack
— NRPD Detective Veronica Koehler
— St. Croix County Investigator James Mikla
— St. Croix County AODA Counselor Sara Sedahl
— Darren Hynek, Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation