Beyond Behaviors: Understanding and Supporting the Addiction Needs of the Community
“Addiction is a complicated issue because we don’t come across addiction until people are in a bad state with it. It’s not like you start your addiction and somebody is like, “hey it seems like you are getting addicted”. It’s usually your life deteriorates to a certain point or you get in trouble because of addiction.”
Those words come from Mike Frisch (Lieutenant from the Appleton Police Department), who has had 22 years of experience understanding addiction, the cause and effect. He currently is a School Resource Officer Unit Coordinator where he oversees 12 officers at schools in the area. Lt. Frisch is also the liaison for the homeless shelter, COTS, and has been on the board for Apricity for 20 years and the chairperson for approximately 12 years. Additionally, he helps coordinate the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). With his stellar years of experience, and the extensive list of incidences he has been involved with, he has been gracious to help Salvation Army-Fox Cities get the word out about addiction.
In Lt. Frisch’s experience, many addictions are co-occurring, and Mental Health is the underlying issue. In other words, the addiction/substance is masking the Mental Health issues individuals might have going on. So, you can understand when he says that “Addiction is a complex issue, you treat alcohol issue to understand what the mental health issue is.” Lt. Frisch continues, “If you don’t get the Mental Health issue under control, they will most likely go back to the addiction issue. Therefore, you have to treat both.”
Overseeing 12 schools in the area, what do you see in the youth regarding addiction?
Youth are suffering from various types of Mental Health issues like depression, bipolar, anxiety, etc., and a number of them try to deal with that by ingesting various chemicals whether it be prescribed medications or illegal substances that they get, and then they get addicted to that.
So how do we tackle that problem?
You work with the schools. The School District has connections to community partners that we get the families and kids connected to such as our county human services department for those families that can’t afford private resources. Or, maybe they don’t have insurance and if they do, we tackle where and how long they can go somewhere. It’s not as simple as you have an addiction, go get help. It can be very daunting. If you can imagine somebody suffering from a Mental Health issue and then an Addiction Issue on top of that.
How easy is it to get help without money?
If one doesn’t have money to help with recovery, it makes it harder to cope. That’s why we turn to our partners in the community: Apricity, options treatment center, NAMI, Outagamie County Human Resources, Theda Care outpatient programming, Catalpa Health, and the School District. We can pave the road for them to get there through the different resources and partnerships that we have. We will help find out if they need medical or financial assistance. The roadblock I see is that people don’t always know how to make connections to these resources. They have questions such as: How do I find them? How do I get an appointment?, How do I get my insurance for them? Life is busy enough, throw in Addiction Issues and how to navigate the system is HARD. It takes cooperation from different units to say, yes, we can help with this.
Outside of that, we help reconnect individuals to their family. Many of these folks, especially when they are in adulthood, their families have tried for a decade or more to get them on the right path and it hasn’t worked so they had to separate themselves from them. So, a huge part of the help is to help get the families back together.
People out there are one bad thing happening from losing everything. Add Mental Health or Addiction Issues on top of that, you lose a job – then, you don’t have any savings to help support your family, and within a week you are out of your home.
What do you want people to know when they ask the questions, “Why can’t you just quit”?
It’s not as easy as some people might think it can be. It can take a lot of resources and money. If you don’t have that, it is hard to get the help that you need. When you have addiction, and if you have kids and you are trying to pay for their needs, maybe a job that you are trying to keep, and bills you aren’t paying. If you have a criminal conviction, trying to get a job is hard.
What kind of drugs are you seeing with the youth at the schools in the area?
We have seen that underage drinking and Tabaco use has decreased for several years. We do see pharmaceutical products being abused. Kids are having parties and selling them. Marijuana is a big issue. Any drug you can think of you can get. We are seeing more Methofedomine than we have been in the past. Kids get creative and it is harder to detect. We are seeing a large use of “Vaping” devices. We know nicotine is highly addictive and we are also seeing students having the “Vaping-pods’ with THC in them, which can lead to addiction issues and masking of other issues going on.
At what age are you seeing kids starting drugs or alcohol?
6th graders through senior in high school are dabbing into this. So, you are talking about 13 and 14 year old brains, in the midst of some of the most important development years, being distorted because of this stuff. That’s an issue.
Do you find adult addiction is different from youth addiction?
No, adult addiction and youth addiction is similar. It appears more prevalent as people get older. There is a larger sample size for people to recognize what is going on. With juveniles and addiction, you may not know about it until they are getting into trouble. Moreover, when you are in the juvenile system at an early age, you are statistically more likely to go into the adult system, which can exacerbate chronic addiction issues. It’s harder to detect the youth addiction, and when you do detect it, you try to plug them into different services to try to counter what you know is going to happen down the road.
What would you like the community to know about addiction?
There is a huge stigma with addiction. Addiction is a medical issue and not just a personal issue. People don’t choose to be addicted. We have a long way to go but we are starting. We need to have a little bit of empathy of what addicts have gone through in their life and what they are going through – take a look at the kid as a whole (family life, trauma in history). They still need to be held accountable, but understanding the big picture helps plug them with the right resources.