New federal grant combats Dane County opioid crisis

MADISON, Wis (WMTV) -- A new $1.1 million federal grant will expand the Madison Police Department's Addiction Recovery Initiative (MARI) and create a new program to fight the opioid crisis.

The new initiative is called "Pathways to Recovery." It will be a new addiction resource team made up of professionals in the community.

The Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative (MARI) will become the The Madison Area Addiction Recovery Initiative (MAARI) to cover surrounding communities.

A MARI graduate said this grant can save lives like it saved hers.

Moments like helping her kids are what Shawn Sveum cherishes the most.

"These last two years have been the best they've ever been I think," she said.

But before then, she was fighting a battle of her own.

"I got sucked into the pain pill epidemic," Sveum said.

She overdosed three times.

"My daughter had to call 9-1-1 for me. The second time I overdosed I was in bed and she found me again. My lips were blue," she said.

The third time she overdosed, someone lent a helping hand.

“They just looked at me and said ‘We're not going to take you to jail. We're not going to take you to jail. There's a new project out,’" she said.

She completed the 6-month MARI program allowing her to be free of her charges and get a second chance at life. She said this concept of getting addiction help and not jail time can save lives.

"The first time I overdosed and went to jail I came home that night and I wanted to use. I didn't have the skills I didn't have the tools," she said.

"Putting them in jail especially temporarily, that's not fixing their addiction. That's not getting them treatment," Bernard Albright, Madison Police Department MARI Coordinator said.

A new federal grant will allow more opportunities to get help. The Pathway to Recovery program will create an addiction resource team to offer a more proactive approach to the opioid crisis. The team will have several community representatives such as a police department resource officer, peer support specialist, project coordinator and community paramedic from a local fire department.

"When we see the success stories it's very rewarding for us, and that's what keeps us going," Albright said.

The goal is to see people like Sveum get the help they need and start a pathway to recovery.

"There were a couple times when I wasn't going to be here and that scared me. I can't imagine my kids or family having to live without me," Sveum said.

Sveum said she has been clean for two years.

Community partners are looking to fill these new positions. The new version of the MAARI program will start in June.