Nygren, Sidener Dramatize Opioid Problem
Daughter of GOP legislator and former Democratic leader’s problems call for state response.
Addiction is a cruel illness. And it knows no boundaries.
That fact has never been more evident in Wisconsin, where one prominent Republican legislator’s daughter and one former state Democratic Party executive director have been in the news relating to apparent overdose deaths.
Cassandra Nygren, daughter of Republican State Rep. John Nygren, is facing first-degree reckless homicide charges and more relating to an apparent overdose death of a woman and her unborn child in Brown County.
Tragically, this is not the first time Cassandra Nygren has had legal issues relating to drugs, despite efforts at sobriety.
According to online court records, Cassandra Nygren went to prison for a 2009 narcotic drugs case and was on probation and served jail time for a 2014 narcotic drugs case.
It is often through personal suffering that people affected are motivated to spark change, and that is evident through what Cassandra Nygren’s father has done. Since 2013, John Nygren has sponsored at least 30 bills relating to drug addiction.
In other news, the home of former state Democratic Party Executive Director Jason Sidener was searched by law enforcement after a woman died from another apparent drug overdose last month.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the search warrant indicates Sidener took the woman to the hospital after she was “breathing really weird.” The woman was dead upon arrival.
The investigation is ongoing, and no arrests or charges have been filed in the case.
Drug overdose deaths, especially relating to heroin, are a major problem in Wisconsin. Between 2010 and 2012, 1,381 people died of opioid-related overdoses. That number rose to 1,524 between 2013 and 2015 in Wisconsin.
So, what do we do as a society? How do we make our communities safe? With the understanding that there will always be drug issues to a certain extent, how do we prevent them from occurring as best we can?
While punishment and incarceration may be necessary for some, we cannot imprison our way out of the problem of addiction. It hasn’t worked. We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.
Countless people with addiction fill our state’s jails and prisons.
Our nation incarcerates more people per capita than any other country on Earth. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, we incarcerate 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
From 1970 to 2005, the prison population in the United States rose by a staggering 700 percent. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance analysis found that between 1995 and 2015, Wisconsin’s per capita incarceration rate nearly doubled.
Addiction is a disease of the brain and body. It is not a moral failing.
Addicts are not, on the whole, bad people. The most prominent, largest association of doctors in the United States, the American Medical Association, classifies addiction as a disease.
Rather than ridiculing and chastising addicts who make mistakes or bad decisions, we ought to be encouraging them in their recovery. Alcohol and drug treatment is, by far, the best means to treat addiction and to ultimately prevent crime from recurring. While there is an extremely limited amount of addiction-related treatment available in prison, the fact is prisons and jails are largely not equipped and do not have the necessary resources to deal with addicts.
We desperately need far more alcohol and drug treatment options available for all people, not just those few who can afford extremely expensive intensive treatment. Limited insurance coverage for treatment and a lack of sufficient medication-assisted treatment are enormous barriers to solving this epidemic.
Addicts will often relapse or “fall off the wagon.” This should not be viewed as a failure for which we, as a society, deem that person hopeless. Addiction specialists, medical doctors and neuroscientists understand relapsing is part of the process of recovery.
If we want to make a real impact on crime reduction and public safety, we must understand and treat addiction for what it is — a disease, not a moral failing.
Casey Hoff is a criminal defense attorney based in Sheboygan.
This op ed originally ran in the Sheboygan Press.
More about the Opioid Crisis
- Sensenbrenner-Backed Legislation to Fight Synthetic Opioids Clears House - U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner - Jun 15th, 2018
- Community Engagement Session Hosted by Heroin, Opioid and Cocaine Task Force - Ald. Michael Murphy - Jun 4th, 2018
- Brad Schimel and Scott Walker Repeat Mistakes Past; Refuse to Take Legal Action Against Opioid Manufacturers - One Wisconsin Now - Jun 4th, 2018
- State Awards $2.4 Million For Opioid Treatment - Danielle Kaeding - Jun 2nd, 2018
- Campaign Cash: State Politicians Funded by Accused Drug Makers - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - May 26th, 2018
- City-County Plan Targets Opioid Epidemic - Edgar Mendez - May 22nd, 2018
- Brad Schimel Election Ad Blames Families, Not His Pharmaceutical Donors for Opioid Crisis - One Wisconsin Now - May 17th, 2018
- Governor Walker Announces 10% Drop in Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed Over the Past Year - Gov. Scott Walker - May 16th, 2018
- Cocaine Overdose Deaths Have Nearly Tripled - Ximena Conde - May 15th, 2018
- Bryce Calls on Steil to To Reject Donations from Pharmaceutical Companies Fueling the Opioid Crisis - Randy Bryce - May 9th, 2018
- U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Bill Cassidy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Halt the Flow of Illicit Fentanyl into the U.S. - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 24th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Joins Colleagues to Call on Administration to Take Immediate Action to Reduce Price of Life-Saving Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 20th, 2018
- Opioid Crisis: The House Where Addicts Die - Isiah Holmes - Apr 18th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address the Opioid Crisis - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 17th, 2018
- Op Ed: Stronger Action Needed on Opioid Crisis - Matt Flynn - Apr 14th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Allow Safe Disposal of Unwanted Drugs in Hospice - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 13th, 2018
- Leah Attends Opioid Taskforce Meeting about Alternative Treatments to Pain - State Sen. Leah Vukmir - Apr 13th, 2018
- Walker Signs Vukmir Bill Battling Opioid Crisis - State Sen. Leah Vukmir - Apr 10th, 2018
- Combating the Opioid Crisis: Governor Walker Signs Bipartisan Bills on Opioids into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Apr 9th, 2018
- Bipartisan Alternative Drug Treatment Program Signed Into Law - State Rep. Evan Goyke - Apr 3rd, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Hosts Roundtable with Green Bay Officials on Fighting the Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Apr 2nd, 2018
- U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, Todd Young and Edward Markey Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Opioid-Related Infectious Diseases - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 23rd, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Announces New Funding for Wisconsin to Combat the Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 22nd, 2018
- Vukmir Battles Opioid Epidemic - State Sen. Leah Vukmir - Mar 20th, 2018
- Supervisor Peggy West: Time to Hold Drug Makers Accountable - Sup. Peggy A. West - Mar 14th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin to Health Insurers: Step Up Response to Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 5th, 2018
- Latest Report Highlights 20 Percent Decrease in Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed from 2015 to 2017 - Gov. Scott Walker - Mar 2nd, 2018
- Tracking Opioid Deaths by ZIP Code - Isiah Holmes - Mar 1st, 2018
- Governor Walker Discusses the Opioid Epidemic at Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Conference - Gov. Scott Walker - Feb 5th, 2018
- Vukmir, Nygren Lead Efforts to Combat the Opioid Epidemic - State Sen. Leah Vukmir - Jan 19th, 2018
- Governor Walker Takes Additional Action to Fight Opioid Crisis - Gov. Scott Walker - Jan 19th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on President Trump To Renew The Opioid Public Health Emergency - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Jan 12th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on President Trump to Sign Bipartisan Legislation Passed by Congress to Help Halt Flow of Illicit Fentanyl into the United States - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Dec 22nd, 2017
- Drug-Related Deaths To Hit 420 in 2017 - Edgar Mendez - Dec 21st, 2017
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators Urging Congressional Leadership to Commit Resources to Opioid Epidemic - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Dec 15th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: Brad Schimel’s Opioid Problem - Bruce Murphy - Nov 14th, 2017
- Op Ed: State Leaves Counties to Sue Drug Companies - State Senators Janet Bewley and Dave Hansen - Nov 11th, 2017
- Special Report: Opioid Crisis Hits City Hard - Edgar Mendez - Nov 9th, 2017
- Opioid Crisis Still Growing - Dave Fidlin - Oct 30th, 2017
- Op Ed: Nygren, Sidener Dramatize Opioid Problem - Casey Hoff - Oct 18th, 2017
- Op Ed: The Heroin and Opioid Crisis Is Real - Isiah Holmes - Aug 28th, 2017
- The State of Politics: John Nygren’s War on Drug Abuse - Steven Walters - Jul 10th, 2017
- Op Ed: Opioid Crisis Demands Bipartisan Solutions - Jeff Plale - Feb 24th, 2017
- Prescription Drugs Lead Way to Heroin - Wyatt Massey - Mar 17th, 2016
- Heroin Deaths Up 241% Since 2010 - Wyatt Massey - Mar 16th, 2016