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WISCONSIN DELLS - At this year's annual statewide Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Conference in Wisconsin Dells this week, the Wisconsin Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (DEC) recognized three counties and the Oneida Tribe for their efforts in organizing and developing community programs to respond to the needs of drug endangered children.
Drug endangered children are those children who suffer physical or psychological harm or neglect resulting either from exposure to illegal drugs or persons under the influence of illegal drugs, or from exposure to dangerous environments where drugs are being manufactured. In Wisconsin individual Drug Endangered Children programs are often formed at the county level.
Counties recognized this year included: Portage, Milwaukee and Racine. In addition, the Oneida Tribe was recognized.
The DEC programs being recognized this year were each developed based on the needs and resources of their respective community. A key part of each of these programs involves educating the community on the needs and resources needed to provide services to drug endangered children.
In addition, two other individuals will be recognized for their work with the DEC Program. Sue Reetz will be recognized for her video production of "Living in Shadows" and Gina Mattheisen will be recognized for her "Sweet Dreams" Project.
The video production "Living in Shadows" is about children who have been victimized by growing up in an environment surrounded by drug abuse. The children tell their story through the video. The video is broken down into chapters and comes with a facilitator's guide. It is often used as a resource to educate people about drug endangered children.
Project "Sweet Dreams" was an inspiration of Gina Mattheisen's. Last year Gina collected donations of pajamas, slippers, books and stuffed animals. Each pair of pajamas was placed in a pillowcase and labeled for a girl or boy with the size listed. As a result of her efforts in the Marshfield area Mattheisen collected 1,500 pairs of pajamas, which were distributed to active DEC programs across the state. "Mattheisen's 'Sweet Dreams' project shows how just one community can make a difference," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
A representative of each county and tribal DEC program was at the conference to receive a plaque recognizing the establishment of the program.
This year's conference focused on:
On behalf of the Wisconsin DEC Alliance, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Corrections Secretary Rick Raemisch, Acting United States Attorney Stephen Sinnott, Dennis Schuh of the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance and Kim Eithun-Harshner of the Department of Children and Families presented the plaques.
A DEC program is a multidisciplinary team often comprised of members from law enforcement, human services, prosecutors, the medical community, the health department, and probation and parole. Other participants may include schools, treatment centers, non-profit groups, faith-based organizations and community members.
Through the DEC program, organizations within a community work together to enhance their response to the immediate needs of drug endangered children and to gather adequate evidence to substantiate prosecution of appropriate endangerment and other charges. Each county is unique, and specific regional needs and available resources influence the type of DEC program each county implements.
The DEC initiative in Wisconsin began in November 2004, when a multidisciplinary focus group met to discuss the national DEC program. A statewide steering committee was formed with approximately 20 members from various disciplines. In 2005, members of the national DEC alliance provided basic DEC training for approximately 600 people in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Alliance provided guidance to counties in the development of their DEC programs, sponsors an annual statewide DEC conference, and has developed a website for use as a DEC resource. For further information about the Wisconsin DEC Alliance, visit http://www.wisconsindec.org.
The conference is sponsored by: Wisconsin DEC Alliance, Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, U.S. Attorney's Offices for the Western & Eastern Districts of Wisconsin and the Marathon County Sheriff's Department.