Overdose Awareness Day highlights children affected by addiction - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Overdose Awareness Day highlights children affected by addiction

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Thursday marks International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event designed to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction. 

So far in 2017, La Crosse County has suffered 20 overdose deaths, however none of those were related to heroin. Last year, the county saw seven heroin overdoses. 

The county says a lot of positive work has been done over the past several years, including collaborations like the Heroin Task Force and resources in the community such as Coulee Council on Addictions, the AIDS Resource Center, the availability of Narcan and Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System.

"It's a good step in the right direction, but we still have more work to do," County Health Educator Al Bliss, said. "It's encouraging because it appears as if our multi-faceted approach is working."

More than 70 percent of child protective services cases involve family members with substance abuse problems. 

"We really look at substance abuse disorders as a family disease," Cheryl Hancock, executive director at Coulee Council on Addictions, said. "So when the individual member seeks recovery, so does the family. When they recover, so does the family."

More often than not, the burden of removing children from dangerous situations rests in the hands of first responders on the scene of an overdose.

"We try to take the kids and isolate them as best we can from the trauma," Kent Stein, operations manager at Tri-State Ambulance, said. "These are experiences that we don't want people remembering and we try to take care of the kids as best we can."

While every case is different, Stein admits first responders are always sensitive to the wide variety of emotions children can display as a result of such a traumatic incident.

"They don't fully comprehend what's happening," he said. "They don't really understand they just know mom and dad aren't talking back to them and not acting normal."

In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day, many people will wear silver and purple colored clothing to show support. The two colors can signify the loss of someone cherished or demonstrate support to those bearing the burden of grief."

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