The mayor of Lincoln says drug abuse – especially opioid abuse – has become an epidemic.
"Since I've become mayor of Lincoln, which has been about a year and a half, we're pulling a lot more illegal drugs off the streets," said Gerald Wise.
Wise said he’s hoping the new “Gold Star Community Task Force” – spearheaded by the mayors of Bismarck, Mandan and Lincoln – will make a difference. And he said he hopes the task force will dig deeper into the “why” people are using drugs and becoming addicted.
"We need to look at what's causing them to ingest these drugs," Wise said in an interview. "Depression? Lack of work?"
Wise said those who treat addiction need to be tuned into the “why” – and need to be compassionate.
Wise also said he speaks from experience -- he said he, too, went through some addiction problems in the 1980s.
"I've had young kids I know who get arrested in my city, and I walk up to them and ask them what's wrong," Wise said. "I talk to them with compassion. They look at me, and say, 'You don't understand.' I tell them, 'I do understand -- because I did what you're doing."
Wise said he tells them he has turned his life around.
"So I recommend to them, 'This is what you need to do. And if you can't, go talk to somebody,'" Wise said. "Instead of just shoving them into rehab, we need to find rehab where someone will sit down, find out what caused them to get into their addiction."
The task force is just getting started.