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Summit Set for June as Heroin Deaths Spike in Milwaukee County


There’s been a dramatic increase in the number of heroin deaths in Milwaukee County. The Medical Examiner reports 67 people died of overdoses in 2013, compared to 50 the year before.

Several surrounding counties have held summits in an effort to tackle the problem. A huge regional gathering will be held in Milwaukee later this spring.

Milwaukee Common Council President Michael Murphy has spent the past few months organizing the summit. It will be held June 4 at Marquette University.

Murphy calls the impact of heroin on the community devastating. He’s spoken with a number of parents who’ve lost their children. In many cases, the addiction started with opiates and progressed to heroin. Murphy says young people especially, think they’re invincible.

“After they’re done using the opiates and they become very expensive, they move to heroin because it’s incredibly cheap right now, letting them know if that’s the course of action they’re going to take, it isn’t too far off they’re going to be one of these statistics,” Murphy says.

Murphy expects a couple hundred people to attend the gathering.

“We’re inviting a lot of the providers within the five county region. We’re inviting a number of law enforcement officers, I’ve extended an invitation to the head of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the U.S. Attorney’s office,” Murphy says.

Murphy says the featured speaker at the summit will be state Rep. John Nygren of Marinette. His daughter has been battling heroin addiction and he authored several bills recently signed into law to combat the problem.

Murphy hopes to accomplish several goals from the summit. One is getting people into treatment.

“We certainly want to improve the education in our community in helping citizens and their families find out resources if somebody in their family is addicted to drugs or heroin. Where do they go? Who do they need to contact, and going to what treatment centers,” Murphy says.

Murphy says those attending the summit will also discuss a plan for greater coordination of law enforcement in the region.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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