Walworth County district attorney to focus on combating heroin 'epidemic'
ELKHORN — Walworth County District Attorney Dan Necci hopes former heroin addicts can convince youth about the dangers of the drug.
“More important than hearing from me or somebody from the sheriff's office is hearing that story, especially to our young people,” Necci said.
Heroin, a drug growing in popularity at a local, state and national level, affects people of all ages and backgrounds, and needs to be addressed, Necci said.
As part of a multiprong, anti-heroin initiative he has planned for 2014, Necci wants to educate the community about heroin's effects on the county.
Necci has already been reaching out to the community and plans to continue to do so with law enforcement.
On Monday, he spoke to the Delavan Rotary Club, where he jokingly said he “scared the pants off them” about heroin in their communities.
“You're not looking down your alleys and seeing heroin addicts, there is this whole sub-culture that is going on that the average person isn't aware,” Necci said.
“It's our job to get out there and educate the public as to what is going on and hopefully educate young people as this is not something to be trifled with.”
In addition to working working with law enforcement and educating the community, Necci plans to:
-- Continue the county's partnerships with treatment organizations within the community.
-- Recommend tougher sentences for heroin dealers.
-- Help develop a new drug court.
The county was awarded a $157,609 recurring grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice to fund a drug treatment court for heroin users.
Necci called heroin an epidemic. He said making it the No. 1 priority in 2014 for law enforcement, prosecutors and community members would be a step toward helping addicts and taking dealers off the streets.
“The amount of lives I have seen destroyed by it already in a year in this position is tremendous,” Necci said.
The number of samples of suspected heroin submitted from Walworth County to the state's crime lab has increased 80 percent between 2009 and 2012, Necci said.
“If we don't do it now, we're going to be in some real trouble,” Necci said.
The effort to create a drug court is being led by Judge David Reddy, who would oversee it.
The start date along with other details about how the drug court would operate will be discussed Friday at a County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee meeting, said Katie Behl, treatment court coordinator.
The idea is to have it operate much like the OWI Court that began in October 2011.
Initially, it will focus on people charged with possessing opiates and heroin and possibly extend to people involved with other drugs, Behl said.
The goal of court treatment programs is to reduce recidivism.
Defendants in OWI Court fulfill their sentence while detoxing. In return, they learn how to leave their destructive lifestyles behind and start fresh through bi-weekly meetings, random drug and alcohol testing and individual counseling, Behl said. The hope is they get tools and coping mechanisms to keep them out of the legal system.