LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- Locals gathered at Viterbo University's Reinhart Center Wednesday to discuss the problem of heroin in the La Crosse area.
Heroin use is on the rise nationally, according to Viterbo criminal justice professor A.J. Myer. He said the problem is also growing in La Crosse.
Among those in the room for the discussion was Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen.
He said he believes part of his role is to promote awareness about the heroin problem.
Chilsen said he will "bring the (Onalaska) city council up to speed" and also advocate to state lawmakers.
The mayor added among the top priorities to combat the growing issue should be promoting anti-drug education in schools.
Chilsen said he's willing to go to schools himself to speak with children about the risks of heroin abuse.
"We have to show them it's a better life not using than using," Chilsen said.
Myer's presentation also indicated that the average age of heroin users is dropping.
Myer also said the women are using heroin more frequently.
Also in the room Wednesday was La Crosse county board chair Tara Johnson.
She said the board needs to look "up stream" and determine why heroin was becoming such a problem.
"It's expensive for our community to have the number of heroin addicts that we do," Johnson said.
"It's the cost of care for treatment in the hospitals, the cost of care for families who are affected by it, there's the loss of productivity for those people who aren't working and aren't being productive at their jobs," she said.
Johnson said she believes priority number one at the county level should be establishing a coalition of "community leaders" to examine the problem of heroin abuse.
Johnson said such a coalition could conduct a study into why heroin abuse is on the rise in the hope of successfully finding ways to combat it.
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