Recently there have been many conversations about the impact of drug addiction in our community. It is healthy for our community to voice opinions, share ideas, seek solutions and work together to build a healthier place to live.

The drug issue facing Manitowoc County is not one we face alone, many communities across the nation share this struggle. The crisis we face is not solely based on one person or one system, but various system and community issues. We can define these issues using the three A’s: Availability, Accessibility, and Attitude.

First, we battle a systems issue. In 1996, the American Pain Society recommended adding pain as the fifth Vital Sign to be used in diagnosing a patient. That same year, Purdue Pharma released the drug OxyContin, which was said to be non-addictive. This started a cultural shift in the way physicians treat pain and how Americans view pain. In 2001 the Joint Commission issued pain standards which became part of a medical facility’s performance review. Prescription drugs flooded the market.

Along with availability came the accessibility of drugs. Our community faced a surplus of prescription medications being available both by prescription as well as on the street. In time, programs and procedures were put into place decreasing the accessibility of legally-obtained prescription medications. With that decrease, drug dealers moved into the area selling heroin and fentanyl at more affordable prices to meet the users “need.”

Last, we experienced a change in attitude. Avoiding pain and finding a quick fix has become acceptable in today’s society. Many people use pills without trying alternative methods of pain prevention or reduction. In this society, there is a pill for everything.

As a community, we need to work together to create a healthy place and a supportive environment for all in our community to live. We need to promote businesses who provide and support workplace wellness programs, offer support to those who are recovering, and have empathy for all the different employees at their place of work.

To make this possible, we need the voice of the community! There is always space at our table for more conversation. Join Healthiest Manitowoc County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition at our meetings, the second Thursday of every month, from 8-9am at the Manitowoc Police Department in the lower level meeting room. All coalition meetings are open to the community, we hope to see you there!