Tribune editorial board: Bipartisan support helps those who fight substance-use disorder

Tribune editorial board: Bipartisan support helps those who fight substance-use disorder

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The photo atop Page 1 of Wednesday’s La Crosse Tribune truly said it all.

There’s Gov. Tony Evers at La Crosse’s Coulee Recovery Center, and he’s hugging Cheryl Hancock, executive director of the Coulee Council on Addictions.

You know Cheryl. She’s a respected community servant who led development of the new recovery center with her dedicated board and staff. She’s a longtime Holmen School Board member. You may not know that she’s a recent inductee to the state’s Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

She’s also a mother who lost her daughter to substance-abuse disorder.

So when the governor came to La Crosse to sign legislation to help people recover from substance-abuse disorder, he signed it at the Coulee Recovery Center in the room named for Cheryl’s daughter, Jess Lichtie.

The new center is a sign of hope in our community.

Community leaders and health care officials rallied to support development of the new center at 933 Ferry St. after some neighbors objected.

Just like recovery, it hasn’t been perfect.

But the new, larger facility has a spirit of hope. It accommodates far more people and groups, and it provides far more services to people in need.

In the first year, visits to the drop-in center doubled. And the number of support group meetings that are held regularly each month went from 52 at the other building to 120 at the new location.

More people are being helped. More services — meditation, yoga, refuge recovery — are being offered.

More community members are offering to conduct craft and other programs at the new center who weren’t comfortable assisting at the former, cramped location on West Avenue.

Evers signed four bills designed to help those with addictions — bills backed by Democrats (Jill Billings of La Crosse) and Republicans (John Nygren of Marinette) and started with listening sessions under previous Gov. Scott Walker.

The problem of addiction isn’t partisan. It affects all professions, income levels, genders.

That’s why the legislation and places like Coulee Recovery Center are so important.

“It’s so wonderful that the governor came here to our corner of Wisconsin, because so much good work has been done here locally by the Alliance to Heal, by the Coulee Recovery Center, by our hospitals, by Gundersen and Mayo,” Billings said.

Simply put, the legislation will save lives by making it easier for officials to more quickly help and support people who are in desperate need.

For instance, Hancock says the early-intervention peer-recovery coaches, who have been through the struggles of addiction themselves, “make a difference in this community each and every day.”

The new center provides hope for people who are struggling. The Good Bean Café will open there soon, thanks to a $70,000 grant from the La Crosse Community Foundation to the Coulee Council on Addictions and the Vernon Area Rehabilitation Center. The coffee shop will provide an opportunity for people recovering from substance-use disorder to work and build job skills (and grab a mug of coffee).

And the new legislation provides hope that the political parties of our state — who have struggled with too much gridlock — can set aside ego and ideology long enough to do the right thing for the people of Wisconsin.


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