Chippewa Valley (WQOW) – Drug addiction not only impacts the abuser, but also the community.
“In Chippewa, Rusk, Barron, Dunn, Eau Claire, we’re seeing a methamphetamine epidemic,” said Interim Director of Chippewa Human Services Tim Easker.
In 2015, only 15 kids were in placement in Chippewa County. Now, three years later that number has multiplied by 12.
“We are now over the 180 mark, so what that’s doing is that’s placing a tremendous burden on our system,” Easker said. “Not only financially as we’re trending towards $600,000 over budget.”
All the problems lead back to meth.
“We look across the state and it’s 80 percent of the children in foster care are there as a result of their parents abusing some sort of drug. It just so happens in this community it’s methamphetamine,” Easker said.
Parents who use meth can’t take care of their kids, but someone has to. That’s where social workers come in.
“You’re seeing the kids but aren’t able to spend an intensive amount of time, or as much time with them as you would like to help them overcome, and really identify the needs that they have to get them in touch with the appropriate providers and resources to minimize the impact and trauma that’s had on them from being removed and placed in foster care,” said social worker Nicholas Stabenow-Schneider.
“I see the burden on the case workers. I see the turnover, the trauma they experience. We talk about the children, but there’s also that secondary trauma which workers experience every day,” Easker said. “People aren’t always happy to see the department of human services coming up to their door knocking on it and taking their children away, and this is not a favorite activity for the workers.”
The case load is heavy, the job is stressful. So, case workers aren’t sticking around
“It’s $54,000 for every child protective services worker that we have to replace,” Easker said. “There’s a cost associated with turnover. It’s not that we want people to go because there’s another person standing in line that we want to hire. It takes over a year to learn how to walk at this job. They’re running after two years, and hopefully they’re not running out the door.”
The ones who do stick around are now part of a larger movement involving law enforcement, case workers, health professionals and families all across Wisconsin searching for solutions.
“There is hope, I think, in this epidemic and it stems from multiple community members and a way of challenging all of our own thinking and how we address the meth and drug epidemic,” said Stabenow-Schneider. “Looking at these individuals as people and not as addicts and recognizing that it’s just not about using and not using.”