Stories about drug abuse, addiction and paraphernalia were on the front pages of the La Crosse Tribune last week, but that doesn’t mean all the news was bad.
And as with many success stories in our region, a great achievement involved partnership.
Coulee Council on Addictions announced it will open a new $2.9 million facility during its 50th anniversary next year on land it will lease from Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare.
The new 13,000-square-foot center on Ferry Street between Ninth and 10th streets will be more than twice the size of the cramped, inadequate building that sits across West Avenue from Walgreens, a couple of blocks down from Mayo.
The space will be more modern and more inviting, with a private area for counseling services, more room for education and support, a neighborhood pantry and space for other nonprofits organizations to use.
And, the new building will have a new name — The Coulee Recovery Center.
It’s a place to get well, not to feel a stigma.
The agency, which is still raising money for the project, provides confidential help to individuals and families affected by addiction and leads the community in prevention, education and awareness.
Last year, it helped almost 700 people in crisis situations while responding to 491 crisis calls.
During the announcement about The Coulee Recovery Center, Mayo-Franciscan regional administration Chairman Joe Kruse talked about how “addiction affects mind, body and spirit.”
He said Mayo-Franciscan “is focused on health care and meeting the needs of the community, and we know how addiction affects the health of the community.”
There are plenty of signs in our community that the problem is not going away.
La Crosse County is on record pace for prosecuting felony cases during 2017 — and a third of those involve drug crimes.
During the first half of 2017, the La Crosse County District Attorney’s Office filed 641 felony cases, up 41 percent from the same period the year before.
As La Crosse County Attorney Tim Gruenke told the Tribune: “Drug cases are driving the numbers.”
That means the eight prosecutors in the district attorney’s office will have less time to work on investigations and assist crime victims and witnesses.
That’s why it’s so puzzling that a South Side La Crosse gas station is selling what it calls a brown-bag special — in effect, a drug pipe and scrubber.
A Tribune reporter caught wind of it and discussed it with La Crosse police. Then, a Tribune editor went to the store to ask for the $5 brown-bag special. A cashier filled a small paper bag with a copper scrubber and a glass tube with the components of a ballpoint pen that wouldn’t even write when assembled.
La Crosse police Capt. Jason Melby told the Tribune afterward: “There’s no logical reason to sell these items together other than the obvious — drug consumption.”
And, it’s perfectly legal.
Addiction is a growing challenge to our community — a that requires significant resources.
Thank goodness we’ve got strong partnerships, generous donors and valued professionals who are working hard to put a dent in the drug problem.