KENOSHA COUNTY, Wis. - You probably go to the fair for the rides, music and food, but in Kenosha County, you can come back with something life-saving.
You might not expect to talk about drug overdoses at a fair booth, but with Wisconsin fentanyl deaths up 97%, it’s important to talk about that everywhere.
What better place than a bright day at the Kenosha County Fair to shine a light on something often kept in the dark.
"This is a great place to interact with the people," said Kensoha County Executive Samantha Kerkman. "They’re walking by."
"We can’t hide it anymore," said Nicole Pietluck, Kenosha County resident. "Drug abuse is strong in Kenosha and all around."
Pietluck was one of dozens of people at the fair to stop by the county booth to pick up free Narcan and train on how to use the opioid overdose-reversing drug Saturday, Aug. 20.
"Even if you don’t think you’ll come across a situation where you have to use Narcan, you would be there ready and prepared," said Pietluck.
"Within just a few minutes, I was able to engage with 33 people, and our Human Services team was able to hand out that much information, that much Narcan and hopefully, ensuring a lot more safety for our residents," said Kari Foss, behavioral health manager with the Kenosha County Division of Aging, Disability and Behavioral Health.
Like the name suggests, the Kenosha County "Human Services on the Go" met people where they were at on Saturday.
"I had a woman show up today and say she worked at a gas station, and she knows there have been overdoses at the local gas station she works at and she wants to be prepared for when it happens again because she’s sure it’s going to happen again," said Foss.
On Aug. 17, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services issued an urgent public health advisory on fentanyl overdose deaths, adding that fentanyl is being found in all types of street drugs.
In 2019, Foss said Kenosha County had 16 fentanyl overdose deaths. That number jumped to 24 in 2020 and 40 in 2021.
It’s a complex problem, but saving a life can be surprisingly straightforward.
"Making it simple for people to actually learn about it and how they can help, and it’s something so simple," said Kerkman.
"We’re just having one conversation at a time," said Foss.
"It should be something talked about so we can prevent it," said Pietluck.
"Human Services on the Go" will be at the Kenosha County Fair Sunday, as well, giving out Narcan and training. Foss said you can reach out to your local health department to set up training, as well.
She also stressed that recovery is possible.
The Kenosha County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Center can be reached from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 262-764-8555. The Kenosha County crisis hotline at 262-657-7188 is available 24/7.
For more information about substance use prevention, treatment and recovery, the DHS invites you to visit the Dose of Reality webpages. Additional help can be found through the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline available 24/7. Call 211 or 833-944-4673 or text your zip code to 898211.