No Drug Problem in Muskego? Think Again

MPD, those who have lived through addiction, and those who have seen loss through it, say it's time to wake up to reality of the prevalence of drugs in the community, and offer hope.


Julie Bendtsen turned 21 in October, and she was obviously proud to report she did so "in sobriety."

The girl who spoke on stage in a somewhat matter-of-fact way about her new life in Prescott, AZ in a recovery community was a far cry from the girl who was addicted to drugs, wondering if there was any hope for girl she saw in the mirror.

A group of more than 60 residents came to Muskego's Atonement Lutheran Church, and heard from Bentsen, whose family is a part of the congregation and suggested the Recovery Life presentation to begin discussing what drugs are doing to Muskego's children.

"We need an event that is honest and frank and open," said Dave Dringenberg, who is an associate pastor for youth and family ministry at the church. Dringenberg said he also had a sister that suffered with alcohol addiction, which put her in jail for a time.

'We're losing our children'

Joining Bentsen was Jenny Reidy, a Muskego mother whose daughter Holly died two days after her 21st birthday.

"We watched her dying in a hospital bed for three days, and our lives have been changed forever, and we continue to pray for answers," she told the group. It was the first public talk Reidy had given but she explained that it was her hope to reach out to other parents who have gone through the same experience, or are still going through it.

"We were a good, strong family, and we gave our children strong morals, but it was like a car accident you watched happen. We couldn't stop it, and we knew it wouldn't end well," she said. "It has become an epidemic in Muskego, and we're losing our children."

Numbers don't lie

Muskego Police Department Detective Shawn Diedrich and Community Resource Officer Ann Shaw were also there to present some of the drug-related statistics, which further painted a picture of rising drug use throughout Waukesha County.

In 2012, the Waukesha County Drug Enforcement Unit arrested 323 defendents, netting 493 grams of cocaine, 11 grams of crack, 928 Oxycodone pills, 50,600 pounds of marijuana and 833 grams of heroin. The last statistic for heroin reflects a sharp increase from just 24 grams in 2011, and 20 in 2010. These are only the arrests made through this agency, and don't include municipal arrests that remain in local courts.

"If you don't think Muskego has a heroin problem, think again," Diedrich said. "It's not that our drug problem is worse than in any other community, it's our drugs of choice that are the problem."

Heroin addiction usually follows the use of prescription medications like Oxycodone, which is one of the most prescribed drugs, and can be found in many families' medicine cabinets. The 'high' from these drugs is similar to heroin, but heroin is far less expensive while far more addictive, not to mention much easier to acquire.

"If you go into Milwaukee, you'll trip over it," Diedrich said. "The trouble is, you'll be tripping over it with other kids from Waukesha County."

Shaw said locally the numbers are just as scary. Since 2005, Muskego has had 33 reported overdoses, 20 of them to heroin, with 11 fatalities. Again, these numbers don't include cases that were taken directly to a hospital without MPD's involvement.

In addition, 2012 drug-related crime has included 106 thefts, 71 retail thefts, 60 burglaries, 127 arrests for possession of drugs or paraphernalia and 75 underage drinking citations. The number not included here is alcohol referrals, which are issued for first-time offenders.

Diedrich also explained to parents what to look for in their children, or their children's friends, to be aware of that could point to drug or alcohol abuse: 

  • Lying, stealing
  • Poor hygiene, or bad odor
  • Mood swings or changes in friends
  • Missing items from the home, especially spoons (used as paraphernalia)

Seeing the light, seeing hope

However there was also a thread of hope to offer parents, and Bendtsen was living proof that there is a way through addiction.

Despite drinking after 8th grade, 'graduating' to marijuana shortly after and harder drugs that led her to rack up credit card bills, Bendtsen said she came to a realization that there had to be more to her life. Her parents had administered 'tough love,' not allowing her back home until she took serious steps to get and stay sober, and once she did, helped her reach that goal.

"I went to a rehab facility in Oshkosh called NOVA, and at first I did it for my family, then I wanted it for myself. I saw what was possible and that sobriety could work for me," she explained.

Her new life in Prescott has put her in a "positive, recovery atmosphere, and I realized how key it was to get out of the environment that I was living in here."

Reidy also had a life line for parents in an organization called "Holly's Hope," which seeks to provide information and support for parents who may suspect abuse, or are going through it with their own family members. If you wish to connect with other parents, have questions or get involved, call 414-422-9116. All conversations are kept confidential.

Additional resources:

Al-Anon: alanon-wi.org
Narc-anon: narcanon.org
Waukesha County drug assistance - call 211  

Atonement Lutheran also has a group that meets Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. called "Breathing Under Water" that is a supportive forum for families coping with abuse, and all are welcome.

Dawn Ryan January 25, 2013 at 03:33 PM
In 2005 my husband and I told the vice principal of Muskego High School that there was a heavy drug problem at the school. He responded with "There was not a drug problem at his school". Glad to see someone is paying attention to this now, but sad these years have passed and so many lives destroyed. Dawn
Lori Stromski January 27, 2013 at 05:53 AM
My name is Lori Stromski I have a 23 year old daughter who is a recovering heroin addict we live in Muskego and have since she was 5 .Almost all her friends she went to school with are addicts .Young people who had so much to offer the world!!! Please do not fool yourself aNd think it can not happen to your child .,,,,because it can!!!Learn the signs -falling grades-our daughter was a honor student bit S soon as she started using her grades dropped-vomit in the toilet-missing spoons-finding q-tips- ink pens dismantled (they use them to do heroin) missing items . Please do not think it can not happen to you and do not hesitate to call the police if you suspect your child is using or get free drug tests from your choice live . Org -watch the a Lunt of $$$$your child spends !!! This drug kills and it does not discriminate so do not hesitate to react or it will be to late! Thos community needs to do more to spread AwReness of this issue before one more person dies from this unnecessarily .....
Mindy Freel February 01, 2013 at 05:46 PM
This genuinely concerns me, but I am glad it is being recognized now. I have a 2 year old daughter. We just moved to Muskego from a not very great area of Milwaukee. We moved because we wanted a better, more safe live for our baby girl. We plan on staying in Muskego forever. I just hope that this is recognized and taken seriously before too many more get hurt.
Deanna Kuhn Knasinski August 01, 2013 at 12:16 AM
I am deathly afraid for my kids & any kids who go to MHS. This needs to be addressed with the community & kids more.
Ulysses Benjamin Dover August 08, 2013 at 09:34 AM
Heroin is a problem all over. Including Muskego. The MHS Principal needs to recognize and respond. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323997004578640531575133750.html?mod=e2fb


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