I-Team: Why hasn't Sheboygan County seen spike in opioid overdoses?

Posted at 10:54 PM, Feb 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-28 23:58:18-05

MILWAUKEE -- The opioid epidemic is growing in most of our area, but one county has not seen an increase in overdose deaths.

Julia Fello dug into the numbers and discovered that that county is dealing with a different but equally dangerous problem.

Forget thinking it is just Milwaukee County that has a startling number of people dying from drug overdoses. It is on the rise almost everywhere, tearing communities apart.

John Pageo still agonizes over the last phone call with his son Colby.

"'I miss you and love you,' and he was like, 'I love you too,'" explained John Pageo.

Raised in Brookfield, he felt his son had the world at his fingertips. He tells us Colby fell down the path of addiction, after using prescription painkillers to treat painful gallstones.

"Painkillers and alcohol. When he drink[s] he drink[s] heavy," said Pageo.

Colby died in Milwaukee January 2, from a suspected heroin overdose. He was 23 years old.

"How do we stop this from happening?" asked reporter Julia Fello. "You cant, you can't," replied Pageo.

The numbers show so far, he's right. From 2013-2015, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 630 people in Milwaukee County have been killed by prescription painkillers or heroin overdoses.

That's about 21 deaths for every 100,000 people.

From this perspective, you can quickly see Kenosha County is catching up, with about 20 deaths per 100,000 people.

Sheriff David Beth tells TODAY'S TMJ4 he has considered ordering his deputies to stop arresting addicts, because jail is not enough anymore to get them to quit.

"At least in Kenosha, and say we need to help these people rather than arrest them," said Sheriff David Beth, Kenosha County Sheriff's Office.

"Lots of people are dying from this cause, this is a preventable cause of death," said Sara Schreiber, Toxicologist for the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office.

The only county not to spike in five years is Sheboygan. A sergeant with the drug task force tells us he finally pinpointed it may be due to another deadly problem.

"Because of the risk of overdose, people have made the decision to switch to other drugs, particularly, meth," said Sgt. Kurt Zempel, Kenosha Police.

"So that's another issue?" asked reporter Julia Fello. "Certainly," replied Sgt. Zempel.

John Pageo says his message to other parents is to be aware of the signs of drug and alcohol addiction and take action. Something he wishes he would have done before his son died.

"I feel him in me and I live every day with him and he live with me," said Pageo.

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