After a number of burglaries, thefts and armed robberies were linked to the growing use of heroin, officials within Dane County and the city of Madison have made it their priority to finalize the Opiates Task Force.

Mayor Paul Soglin’s operating budget sets aside $45,000 to the taskforce in combination with a little more than $33,000 put forward from the county, Soglin’s spokesperson Katie Crawley said.

Crawley said the task force is a joint attempt to weed out the dangers heroin use poses to the community.

Madison Police Department spokesperson Joel DeSpain said heroin use has reached “epic proportions” and as a result, it is affecting all levels of law enforcement.

While MPD is not putting the task force together themselves, it has been pushing the task force’s induction for years, DeSpain said. He said he hopes their efforts will help to end the rampant heroin usage that has been at the root of so many crime-related problems.

“This is not a problem that police officers can arrest ourselves out of; it’s a public health problem,” DeSpain said.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the primary goal of the Opiates Task Force is to bring together numerous stakeholders throughout the city of Madison and Dane County and assess the opiates problem, both by looking for the source of the heroin as well as why the problem’s growth is occurring now.

“It’s extremely important now that we start to get a handle with this issue, deal with the issue of being addicted and look at prevention and education so that people understand the risks of addiction before they get involved with drugs,” Parisi said.

Because this plan is being administered by a union between the city and county, with help from the county health department, it cannot be implemented until it goes through both budget processes, Parisi said.

The county budget’s process goes through mid-November, meaning that it will not officially come together until the end of this year or the beginning of the next.