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LCO, Sawyer County See Sharp Uptick in Synthetic Drug Use

Updated: 03/20/2014 10:36 PM
Created: 03/20/2014 9:38 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson

It was clear by the packed convention center, synthetic drugs have had quite the impact on the Lac Courte Oreilles community.

Thursday, the tribe hosted a public forum to discuss the growing problem.

In January, the Indian Child Welfare program went to the tribal council with some serious numbers.

"There was an incredible spike in family placements, where we had to take children out of the home, in fact it was a 200% increase from a year ago," said Dianne Sullivan, the tribe's Prevention and Education Coordinator.

Through family reports, Sullivan said they learned the drugs that were primarily involved in those placements were synthetics.

LCO Chairman Mic Isham says the council quickly realized synthetics are the number one issue facing the tribe at the moment.

"So we directed the planning department to refocus their efforts, that they do for grant writing, refocus them on things that can address this issue," he said.

Isham said those efforts could include more Boys and Girls Club programs, adding social workers, or detox services in their clinics.

The chairman also said the issue goes far beyond LCO.

"For whatever reason, we've just received this influx of the synthetics drugs," said Sawyer County Sheriff Mark Kelsey.

Kelsey said it wasn't until a year ago they started seeing synthetic drug use. Because the issue is fairly new, he says the jail hasn't felt the burden yet, but the social workers and families are taking a hit.

"We've had a number of deaths and a lot of overdoses, and obviously by the forum...it has had a substantial affect on our community," said Kelsey.

The sheriff says they are working closing with LCO leaders and tribal police to come up with the best solution.

Isham recently appointed the LCO Drug Task Force. The force is made up of social workers, health care workers, law enforcement, and other departments.

Isham also said they hope to come up with ordinances to be enforced on the reservation that would help combat the sale and use of synthetics.

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