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Wisconsin Attorney General visits Chippewa Valley to talk about drug disposal

ALTOONA — Wisconsin’s attorney general was in the Chippewa Valley on Thursday to announce drug takeback results from the previous weekend and urge residents to continue properly disposing of unused medication.

Attorney General Josh Kaul spoke alongside Altoona Police Chief Kelly Bakken, and Lil Piñero and Sarah Dillivan-Pospisil of the Eau Claire County Health Department, at the Altoona Emergency Services Building.

The statewide Drug Take Back Day last Saturday included 278 law enforcement agencies hosting more than 190 events to take in 58,408 pounds of medications.

They also collected drugs from 462 permanent drug disposal boxes at various law enforcement agencies across the state.

In Altoona, Kaul said that the state was working to combat an opioid epidemic as well as a continued methamphetamine problem.

The two largest goals of collecting drugs are to both get them out of circulation where they could be abused by someone without a prescription, and to remove them without them entering the water system by being flushed or thrown in the garbage.

He said that while they are working to expand treatment options and address criminal activity related to drug use, education and prevention are going to continue to be a large part of their strategy.

“We also need to work to prevent people from becoming addicted to opioids in the first place,” Kaul said. “Today is a sign we’re moving in the right direction.”

Government agencies in the area have seen healthy turnouts since the last drug takeback in October 2018.

Altoona collected 313 pounds of medication since then, which Bakken said was indicative of the continued education and awareness.

“I think that says a lot about our community and our community effort,” Bakken said.

In Chippewa County, the totals included all the collections since the last drug take back event in October.

They recorded more than 870 pounds total, the majority coming from the Chippewa Falls Police Department and Chippewa County Sheriff drop boxes, which contributed 380 pounds and 230 pounds, respectively.

Other drop off sites are located at the police departments of Bloomer, Boyd, Cadott, Cornell, Lake Hallie and Stanley.

The program, which has been in the county since around 2010, accepts a wide amount of prescription medicines, as well as prescriptions themselves.

Brian Micolichek, lieutenant of investigations for the Chippewa Falls Police Department, said the April numbers were a slight increase for the county, which generally averages 1,000 pounds to 1,500 pounds over the course of 12 months.

Micolichek noted, however, as the programs continue year after year the increased advertising is having effects.

He estimated that 80% to 90% of the collected weight was now purely medications, rather than containers due to people becoming more familiar with how to dispose of the drugs.

“People are more aware of it now than ever before,” Micolichek said.

'These students are our future': Top five percent of Chi-Hi and McDonell class of 2019 honored

Staying focused and excelling in the classroom can be difficult for high school students.

That’s why the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce rolled out the red carpet to honor those who are at the top of their class.

The 34th annual Excellence in Education celebration honoring the top five percent of the graduating class from Chippewa Falls Senior High School and McDonell Central Catholic High School was held Wednesday night at Lake Wissota Golf and Events Center. The crowd included the honored students, their families, academic community members and each student’s educator they chose as having impacted their educational career.

Ben Lane, chair of the chamber, said the event is an important one as it allows the leaders in the community to recognize the next generation.

“This is our chance to recognize the importance of education,” Lane said. “These students are our future and I’m honored to be here tonight with them, their educators and the businesses and organizations supporting our efforts.”

The students honored (and their chosen influential instructor) include: Faith Anderson (Tamara Slowiak, Chi-Hi), Addy Bengtson (Jayne Jochimsen, Chi-Hi), Eleanor Blair (Tony Reiter, McDonell), William Butak (Karen Drydyk, Chi-Hi), Shadia Escorcia-Cure (Mark Cloutier, Chi-Hi), Joseph Forster (Becky Bauer, Halmstad Elementary), Luke Franz (Michael Thompson, Chi-Hi), Joshua Gienapp (Becca Bestul, Chi-Hi), Cali Goulet (Angie Opilinger, Chi-Hi), Sophie Heller (Monika LaPoint, Chi-Hi), Alissa Hering (Chrissy Seibel, Chi-Hi), Cory Hoglund (Alice Butler, (retired) Notre Dame Middle School), Grace Kasparek (Molly Malone, Chi-Hi), Victor LaBelle (Laura Jensen, Chi-Hi), Adrienne E. Olson (Ron Buckles, Chi-Hi), Makayla Romundstad (John Kinville, Chi-Hi), Mikayla Runge (Jeff Keding, Chi-Hi), Katherine Rushmann (Pam Bowe, Chi-Hi), Caleb Smithberg (Warren Bowe, Chi-Hi), Catelyn Swenson (Ruth Buchner, Chi-Hi), Sydney Thies (Michael Renneke, Chi-Hi) and Mitch Vanyo (Virginia Welle, Chi-Hi).

In addition to each student receiving a trophy and a certificate and the instructor receiving a framed photograph of them with the student that chose them, a few other influential members of the community spoke on the importance of the students being honored and the school system in general.

The keynote speaker for the night was Chi-Hi graduate and licensed professional counselor and executive director for REALiving, Holly Hakes. Hakes said the key for the honored students’ success in college will be handling stressful situations with grace and patience. She said the two keys include making a list of self-care activities to do in stressful situations and eat right, drink right and sleep right.

“If you can do those things when things get a hard, I’m very confident that you’re going to have the magic bullet to help yourself be successful through the rest of your life,” Hakes said. “You will know how to be your own champion. You are the only person who has complete control over you, so I know you’ll be able to handle it.”

The last portion of the evening included the presentation of the Unsung Hero Award to longtime coach and teacher at McDonell Area Catholic School Denny Laramy. Laramy has been involved with McDonell since the late ‘50s/early ‘60s and he said any day he wakes up and gets to come to the school is a great one.

“Every morning when I wake up, I look down at my big toe and if there is no tag on it, it’s a good day,” Laramy said. “This has really been my whole life. I call this school a home away from home. This has been a wonderful day.”

Each student honored at the 34th annual Excellence in Education celebration will be individually featured in the print edition of The Chippewa Herald starting on Monday, May 6.

Poll: Hunger for change to system of government

After more than two years of the Donald Trump presidency, Andrea Petrusky is ready for some fundamental changes in the way the United States government works.

“Right now we’re being shown all of the loopholes, the president being able to do all the things that no president should,” said Petrusky, a 46-year-old elementary school teacher in a Seattle suburb. “It’s time to update what he’s allowed to do and not do. I think it’s time to toddler-proof the presidency.”

Petrusky is not alone in yearning for big changes to the way the United States government is structured. A new survey by the University of Chicago Harris School for Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 54% of Americans think the system needs major changes and 12% believe it should be completely replaced.

While 61% of Democrats like Petrusky want big changes, 52% of Republicans do as well. About one in 10 Democrats and Republicans say they want the system completely replaced, while that view is about twice as common among independents.

The AP-NORC poll finds that discontent with the government system is closely tied with policy concerns. It asked Americans how they think the government is performing on a series of issues as well as whether it has a role in handling those issues at all. Those who are most critical of the way government handles issues they think it should be dealing with are most likely to want changes, with 65% saying they desire major changes and 18% seeking a completely different system of government.

By contrast, among those happiest with the government’s performance on those issues, 48% say they want major changes and 8% want a total overhaul.

Petrusky, who’s trained as an environmental scientist, is aghast at how Trump named a former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Maybe that should be an elected position, too, where you have to prove your worth,” she said.

Don Conford likes what Trump is doing, but he, too, thinks there needs to be big changes in the way the government works, like term limits for members of Congress. The 54-year-old runs his own small construction business from a Los Angeles suburb and thinks government is corrupt.

“These politicians get into office, and they just sit there and sit there and sit there,” said Conford, who goes without health insurance because he can’t afford it. “It’s immigrants’ rights and criminals’ rights up and down the board, and us hardworking citizens have to pay for it.”

Conford is part of the 70% of Americans who feel that people like them have too little influence on the government. In contrast, 81% think wealthy people have too much sway and 78% think large businesses have too much power in Washington.

Lashaunte Halliburton is a 30-year-old unemployed mother of three in Dyersburg, Tennessee, who has held a series of low-wage jobs but couldn’t afford to maintain them and look after her children. She’s upset Trump has cut aid for low-income housing.

“He’s got money, so it’s not hard on him, and it’s not hard on his family,” Halliburton said. “He’s not thinking about us.”

African Americans like Halliburton and Inez Parker, an 81-year-old retired office assistant in Currie, North Carolina, are more likely than white Americans to think the system needs a complete replacement, 24% to 10%, while white Americans are more likely than black Americans to think it needs only minor changes or none at all, 36% to 19%.

Not everyone thinks the system needs a makeover. William Walker, a 33-year-old high school baseball coach in Orlando, Florida, is a Democratic-leaning independent. He’s no fan of the president or his policies. But he also doesn’t see major structural changes as the answer.

“I think our democracy works pretty effectively,” Walker said. “It has some opportunities for mischief and craziness, but all do. I prefer ours.”

Still, the poll shows that close to three in 10 Americans say the government can’t work well no matter who is elected, with that view more common among Republicans (38%) than Democrats (16%).


Chippewa Falls man bound for trial in sexual assault cases

An 18-year-old Chippewa Falls man charged in three separate sexual assaults that allegedly occurred in 2018 has been bound over for trial.

Reece L. Swan appeared in Chippewa County Court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing. Swan is charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault by use of force, four counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, and bail jumping.

Chippewa County district attorney Wade Newell submitted the police reports on each of the three alleged assaults to the court at the hearing. Chippewa Falls police officer Drew Zehm, who investigates sexual assaults, said he compiled the reports with assistance from other officers. He identified Swan as the suspect in each of the three cases.

The reports were placed in confidential files because each of the three females are juveniles.

Judge James Isaacson found probable cause that Swan committed a crime in each of the three cases and ordered the case to move forward. Isaacson set a return court date for an arraignment on May 28. No trial dates were set.

According to the criminal complaints, a 13-year-old girl told police that Swan sexually assaulted her on June 20 on a trail near the Xcel Energy Dam on the north side of the Chippewa River. A 14-year-old girl told police that Swan forced her to have intercourse with him Nov. 18 in a garage. A 16-year-old girl told authorities that Swan forced her to have sex with him Dec. 17.

Swan remains free after posting a $500 cash bond in December. He previously was ordered to have no contact with the juveniles or their residences, and he cannot have any unsupervised contact with juvenile females. He also is barred from using social media, and he must comply with juvenile supervision requirements.

Swan’s attorney, Kirby Harless, has asked that his client be allowed to contact one of the females because they have a child together. Newell objected to that request. At this time, Isaacson has not ruled on that matter.