DANE COUNTY (WKOW) -- The disturbing jump in heroin overdoses in our area has Dane County and Madison authorities working together on a strategy to stop it.
They're starting by targeting prescription drugs.
"This is a problem that didn't develop overnight. It's not going to end overnight," said Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi.
He joined Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, health professionals and law enforcement to tackle heroin addiction.
They say the key is actually prescription drugs.
"We do know the high-level opiates are gateways into the heroin addiction market," said Dane Co. Sheriff Dave Mahoney.
That's because heroin has similar effects but is much cheaper.
County officials say poisoning deaths killed more people last year than car crashes. Two-thirds of those were drug overdoses.
One thing they're doing is adding more drop boxes where people can get rid of old prescription drugs.
Safe Communities has collected more than 11 tons of drugs since the program started in 2007. The Madison West District Police Department is one of six new locations MedDrop boxes are expanding to.
"If we can get all of these opiates out of the marketplace, we'll make a significant step forward in terms of breaking the chain that leads to heroin addiction," Soglin said.
Safe Communities is also creating a health care task force to talk about prescription drug dosing.
"We don't have very clear prescribing guidelines for our physicians," said Dr. Geoffrey Priest, Meriter's chief medical officer. "If we standardize that across all systems in terms of managing non-cancer related pain, I think that would help."
Dr. Priest said with stronger drugs on the market, physicians have had to adjust their prescribing habits significantly in the past decade.
"Patients are getting on more powerful medication with larger supply for longer periods of time probably than physicians intend," he said.
MedDrop boxes are currently located at police departments in Fitchburg, Madison East District, Middleton and Sun Prairie.
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