Wisconsin is facing an opioid epidemic. And a new report says its critical early learning and care programs are available to help its youngest victims. Local 5’s has more on the report and the impact of early childhood programs. 

Inside Encompass Early Education and Care center local leaders gather.

“The key to solving these issues is to get kids on the right path in their earliest years,” said Rear Admiral (Ret.) Jerry Clusen, U.S. Navy.

To release the results of a study telling how children are impacted by the opioid crisis.

“When you have someone addicted to drugs and raising a child in those conditions – that child has a much greater chance of being addicted themselves and becoming involved in the criminal justice system,” said Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith.

That report from the Council for a Strong America says medical costs in Wisconsin were $409 million in 2015 and for every 1,000 births, 9 babies are born suffering opioid withdrawal.

“We do know that those most at-risk, the children we are talking about today, are in homes that are under great stress and trauma,” said Sue Vincent, Executive Director, Encompass Early Education and Care.

It’s a complicated issue – but these leaders say early learning and care programs make a huge impact.

“Head Start, Early Head Start, preschool childcare, all offer these kids a refuge from the chaos they might be dealing with at home,” said Smith.

Here at Encompass 700 children a day receive education and care in a safe, structured setting. A proven formula which the report says yields long-term results.  

“Higher reading and math test scores, held back less in school than their peers and were more likely to graduate from high school,” said Nancy Armbrust, retired Vice President, Education and Community Relations, Schreiber Foods.

The group says investing in these programs for at-risk kids now will help them become productive adults later on.

“The importance of children’s earliest years cannot be overstated,” said Armbrust.

Our future leaders – future workforce – able to rise above Wisconsin’s opioid crisis.

Forty-two thousand Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2016.