TOWN OF PARIS — Family, friends and colleagues gathered Saturday for the dedication of a living memorial in honor of late Kenosha Police Sgt. Trevor Albrecht.
An autumn blaze maple, planted recently in the lawn just west of the Paris Town Hall, will stand for many years to come as a tribute to Albrecht, a Paris resident who was killed in a snowmobile accident in January 2021 at age 41.
Alongside the tree, a boulder that Albrecht dug out of the ground on the family’s nearby property now displays a plaque in his memoriam.
“I hope that Trevor’s fellow law officers will take the time to pull in this parking lot from time to time and linger – to say hello and remember and honor,” said Paris Town Chairman John Holloway, who helped with the development of the memorial. “You will always be welcome. Places like this are important.”
Up front and center at Saturday’s dedication ceremony were Albrecht’s wife, Jessie, and children Otto, 9, and Iris, 6. In addition to hearing Kenosha Police Chief Patrick Patton’s warm memories of their late husband and father, the family received a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol and a work of art created by the kids’ classmates at Paris School. Other speakers at the ceremony included Kenosha County Executive Samantha Kerkman, Sheriff David Zoerner, and Jessie’s uncle, Ed Carlson, who spearheaded the tree project.
In his remarks, Patton shared a few fun anecdotes about his former colleague, as well as how the memory of Albrecht continues to affect him to this day.
Patton said Albrecht brought both strength and laughter to his work. A tree that will change colors each year is a fitting way to memorialize a man who had many colors, he said.
A native of Elizabeth, Ill., Albrecht joined the Kenosha Police Department in 2006. A captain in the Army National Guard from 2001 to 2010, he was a decorated veteran, having earned two Bronze Stars in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
His tree now stands near the Town of Paris veterans memorial, which pays tribute to all veterans with ties to the town, including Albrecht. A swing, donated by the Paris Happy Workers 4-H Club, will also soon be installed nearby, Holloway said.
Jessie Albrecht said it’s all a perfect tribute to Trevor.
“This is just so heartwarming,” she said.
Community members, family and friends filled the inside of the St. Anthony of Padua Church Saturday afternoon to celebrate Jaxson’s Day, which celebrated 10-year-old Jaxson Thomas for his volunteerism and selflessness.
The free community event featured free haircuts, face painting and food for patrons who came to celebrate Jaxson, who is a frequent volunteer for God’s Kitchen.
Organizers said the event at 2223 52st St. was also a way to help raise money for Jaxson’s private school tuition, as he attends a school that gives him confidence and teaches him self-regulations skills for his ADHD and autism.
Inspiration for the event came from God’s Kitchen founder Arnetta Griffin, who suggested the idea after Autumn Thomas, Jaxson’s mother, asked to sponsor Jaxson’s Family Walk & Run event at school in an effort to help support his tuition funds. As tuition prices for Jaxson’s school are set to rise, his mother would not be able to shoulder the cost on her own.
“This is a great turnout,” Griffin said. “It touches my heart.
Griffin hosted a similar event last year for Katalina Shope, who tragically lost both her parents last summer. Jaxson approached Griffin about doing an event for Shope. Saturday’s event marked the first time he has been the one celebrated rather than volunteering.
“This is what makes us God’s Kitchen,” Griffin said. “It’s a community.”
The event was filled with high spirits and high attendance from people who wanted to support Jaxson.
“It makes me feel really good,” Autumn Thomas said. “I feel really blessed.”
Thomas said Jaxson “loves to help people.”
“It’s important to encourage children to do what they love,” she said.
Jaxson, who spent the afternoon surrounded by friends and enjoying the community-wide support, said “Thank you,” to all who support him.
Fentanyl-related deaths among children increased more than 30-fold between 2013 and 2021, illustrating the opioid crisis’ unrelenting impact across the United States, according to a study by the Yale School of Medicine.
Between 1999 and 2021, 37.5% of all fatal pediatric opioid poisonings were caused by fentanyl, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The drug is now the primary agent noted in the pediatric opioid crisis, said Julie Gaither, the study’s author and an assistant professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Yale.
The study tracked data for more than two decades of opioid deaths among people under 20 and found that almost 5,194 children and teens have died from fentanyl.
In 2021, nearly 70,000 U.S. adults fatally overdosed on fentanyl, the biggest spike in overdose deaths in the country’s history. That same year, there were 1,557 pediatric deaths from fentanyl, and more than 40 infants and 93 children between the ages of 1 and 4 died because of the opioid, according to the study.
“No child should be dying from an opioid,” Gaither said. “It is not just a crisis that is affecting the adult population. It is something that’s affecting everyone in this country, the most vulnerable, even infants.”
Using county data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gaither found that in 1999, 5% of the 175 reported opioid deaths in children were from fentanyl. By 2021, it had increased to 94%, with 1,557 of the 1,657 opioid deaths attributed to the drug.
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When the crisis ramped up in the late 1990s, prescription opioids were overprescribed and people developed substance use disorders. Since 2013, most fatal overdoses have been caused by illegally manufactured opioids, but the death data do not distinguish where or how the drugs were obtained, Gaither said.
“The problem is getting worse, and we haven’t addressed it,” Gaither said. “The measures we’ve used so far have not contained this crisis, and most of the measures do not target children specifically.”
Trends among teens mirror those seen in adult opioid misuse, according to the study. There was a nearly threefold increase in deaths among older adolescents between 2018 and 2021. Most deaths (89.6%) were among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.
“I’ve talked to families, and they say it’s the first time the kid ever used a drug. They didn’t even know they were using fentanyl, and then they’re gone,” said Dr. Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.
But for young children, exposure usually happens at home, Gaither said.
“We’re almost three decades into this, and we have not done enough to teach families about how lethal these medications can be to a child,” she said. “We don’t stress enough how to store them and dispose of them.”
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According to the study, 43.8% of deaths among people under 20 occurred at home. About 87.5% of those overdoses were unintentional, and benzodiazepines were found in 17.1% of cases.
Deaths peaked across all age groups in 2020 and 2021, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly half of all youth fatal overdoses occurred during the pandemic, according to the study.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was the worst possible disease that could have happened to make the addiction crisis in the U.S. worse,” Humphreys said. “The virus itself, the measures taken to fight it, and society shutting down created stressors.”
Gaither said safe storage and disposal of prescription medication is needed to prevent children from accessing opioids at home. Greater emphasis should be put on harm reduction, she said, including increasing access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, in homes.
“By taking these protective measures and looking at how kids are affected by this crisis, we can do better to protect them,” Gaither said.
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