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Fight against heroin use hits home for state lawmaker

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) - Wausau was among the regions that received a $25,000 grant from the Department of Justice to combat the spread of heroin use. One of the people who was traveling with Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to announce the grants around Wisconsin is a state legislator who has experienced the pain drugs brought into his family. That’s State Representative John Nygren of Marinette.

Nygren’s daughter Cassie was a normal, smart, high school student with great potential. Then, she experimented with prescription pain pills and replaced them with heroin. Nygren says it’s easy to say, “That doesn’t happen in my little town” but it does. The lawmaker’s daughter was on the floor, unconscious, with a needle in her arm and near death. He’s grateful the paramedics arrived when they did.

Nygren now spends time helping others recognize the signs and avoid the pitfalls his family faced. “For me right now, not only helping my daughter, but helping our friends and neighbors be able to, I guess, avoid the pitfalls that we come across is job number one.”

As a legislator, he also sees the damage heroin and other drugs brings to his district’s people, economy, and legal system. “It hits from a family standpoint obviously. It hits from a workforce issue where my employers (in his Assembly district) are having a hard time being able to get people to pass drug tests. It hits from a financial standpoint, as local and state governments because their resources are so limited and corrections costs are just draining those, and often times with no success with very little rehabilitation.”

Nygren urges parents to get involved in their kid’s lives and pay attention to what they are doing. “Know who your children’s friends are. Know where they’re going at night. If they’ve got a sleepover, call the parents and make sure you know what’s going on. Our kid’s lives are too valuable for parents not to do the work, and I know a lot of people want to be their kid’s friends, but it’s important for us right now for us to be parents first and foremost.”

Nygren says his daughter has struggled with the addiction, and has been sentenced to prison for her actions involving heroin use.

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