Chippewa County leadership gathered Tuesday morning to announce the formation of a core team in the county-wide campaign against the area’s methamphetamine epidemic.
The group is the head of a series of working groups which were announced in early 2019 and will be working in different areas of the community to organize grassroots efforts combating meth addiction and its impacts in the community.
At a media conference at the Korger Chestnut School, the group emphasized the need for a wide community involvement to work against equally wide effects of the increased drug abuse.
They are planning to be meeting monthly, and anyone interested in volunteering in the wider effort can find more information at takeastandagainstmeth.org.
Heidi Eliopoulos, Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District superintendent and chair of the group, highlighted the costs to families and to Chippewa County.
“We in Chippewa County have a problem,” Eliopoulos said. “The problem is meth and the problem is growing.”
The increase has been rapid over the last several years, with hundreds of felony meth cases moving through the county’s court systems, and the numbers of children being removed from homes has likewise increased.
According to data published by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in 2017, there was an estimated annual economic cost of $424 million due to methamphetamine use in the state, including the cost of healthcare and lost productivity.
Eliopoulos said the issue was affecting not just the government and other organizations, but the welfare of citizens, their children and the community at large.
“Our reality is that there is a complex web of consequences,” Eliopoulos said. “Left unchecked the growing use of meth will significantly reduce the quality of life.”
In January, the county announced the effort would be led by the RR Consulting Group, organizational consultants based out of Madison that have worked with groups such as Eau Claire County, the UW-Extension and Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
The consultants are there to help the community form groups and harness the smaller groups around the county to create and execute projects to fight meth addiction.
The core group at Tuesday’s announcement was composed of the consultants along with members of Chippewa County administration, school district administration, the county court system and law enforcement.
That group will in turn organize groups of like-minded people from different parts of the Chippewa County community, like those involved in business or education.
Those groups — around seven of them — will study the methamphetamine problem in the county and come up with projects they feel could reach small solutions to parts of the wider issue.
The costs for the ongoing efforts are split between private donations and fundraising, and the county paying around $20,000 from the administrations contracted services budget.
Randy Scholz, Chippewa County administrator, said he was excited to see the process starting and getting the wider community involved after months of planning.
“Now we’re expanding it out and we’re ready to get it out in the community,” Scholz said.