Overdose fatalities increase in Winnebago County area

The event “Understanding Addiction: Breaking Stigma, Transforming Community” will present statistics on groups most vulnerable to substance use in Winnebago County from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Oct. 4 at the Howard in Oshkosh.

The event will be hosted by the Winnebago County Drug and Alcohol Coalition and will include helpful resources to prevent substance use.

WCDAC Coalition Coordinator Stephanie Gyldenvand said UWO students and staff participated in several community conversations earlier this year.

“Businesses, employers, faith communities, medical professionals, nonprofit organizations, service agencies, schools, parents, persons in recovery, media, law enforcement, treatment or recovery services are some of the areas of our community that participated in community conversations where they all want to work together on effective strategies,” Gyldenvand said.

Gyldenvand said the major goal of the event is to share themes from the community conversations.

“Substance use impacts all of us and it takes a full community response to address challenges from prevention to access to treatment and recovery services,” Gyldenvand said. “Our hope is that this event will drive community-wide action toward effective solutions.”

Captain of University Police Christopher Tarmann said he will present research at the event. Tarmann said he interviewed people in recovery as well as family members impacted by substance use in order to conduct research in Winnebago County and present a video at the event.

“I interviewed a girl that was arrested here at UW Oshkosh and the police officer that arrested her,” Tarmann said. “And she’s been in recovery for a number of years and has a really good success story.”

Tarmann said from his interview with the student he found that the most effective push to recovery for her was drug court in Winnebago County.

“That held her accountable and then the 12-step program and solutions recovery is what she talks about a lot,” Tarmann said. “So being connected to people in a program that hold you accountable and having a process of things that you can follow when you’re trying to stop using drugs was very important to her.”

Tarmann said based on his interviews, he noticed all drugs make an impact.

“The story almost always begins with alcohol or marijuana, or typically both, and then it transitions to other drugs,” Tarmann said. “So I think everybody I interviewed has used heroin or has some sort of aspect of heroin, or has used opioids, or used prescription drugs or meth.”
Tarmann said the University Police and WCDAC will go over the overdose fatality review at the event.

“So basically if a fatality occurs in our community, let’s review it and figure out what gaps there were in that person’s life where we could have proactively stopped them from dying,” Tarmann said. “So there was actually a model being created out of Milwaukee. So we put in for a grant that got us approved to be a part of that.”

Tarmann said they were able to qualify for the grant because of the number of overdose fatalities in the county which were 34 in 2017 and 28 in 2014.
“We’re averaging 30 for the last four years per year,” Tarmann said. “That’s a lot of people in Winnebago county that we’re losing.”

Tarmann said the University has a lot of alcohol and marijuana use, but they are involved with the WCDAC in order to prevent a larger problem from occurring on campus with hard drugs.

“There’s some prescription stuff and the heavy, heavy stuff we don’t have a huge problem with,” Tarmann said.
Tarmann said he hopes the event spreads awareness of programs in the county that help those struggling with substance use, such as Apricity, a program that provides work and living opportunities for those struggling with substance use.

UWO freshman Trinaty Caldwell said she doesn’t have personal connections on campus with substance use disorder, but she’s had some college friends struggle with it.

“I think if you want [drugs] you can find it on campus,” Caldwell said. “For some people it could be a problem, especially with the environment. It’s kind of like high-stress and it’s easier to party than stay at home.”

Gyldenvand said she hopes residents, organizations and agencies impacted by substance use and those that have the ability to address it with community-based strategies will attend the event.

“Our coalition will be holding events across Winnebago County to share the findings of the community conversations, strategies that can prevent substance use and increase access to treatment and recovery and share how you can get involved with the work of the Winnebago County Drug and Alcohol Coalition,” Gyldenvand said.