A parent’s nightmare
Trina Jacobson opens up about a system she feels is failing her son in his battle against heroin addiction
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Trina Jacobson sounds tired as she speaks, her voice saturated with the anxiety and exhaustion that come with being the mother of a heroin addict.
Her son Brandon was, as of Monday, in Clark County Jail because his probation, stemming from a number of Marshfield burglaries he participated in, had been revoked.
“He was always a fun kid,” Trina said, reflecting back on Brandon’s childhood. Involved in sports through much of high school, Trina said Brandon was a happy child growing up in Pittsville.
“He got in trouble at school, but it was pretty much because he was mouthy — normal kid stuff that was really nothing to be concerned about,” Trina said.
Over the past few years, the normal teenage trouble became much more serious.
Brandon has been convicted of a number of misdemeanors in Clark County court, including theft and criminal damage to property; he faces felony charges in Wood County for possession of narcotic drugs, a case which is still open; and he has also been found guilty of operating while revoked.
Brandon is 20, and he has told Trina he started using heroin at age 17. Trina said she started to notice changes in Brandon in the summer of 2015.
“I don’t know anything about all this. I’m learning all about it now in a hurry. I don’t know if maybe he was functional back then (when he first started using) or didn’t do it all the time,” Trina said.
Trina began to put the pieces together when she noticed Brandon sleeping an abnormal amount during the day. He began to spend “a lot of time in the bathroom” and became “more moody” and “defensive” as well.
Trina noted that Brandon’s friend group began to change as he slid into heroin addiction. Since he started to use, Trina said his sense of time has also suffered as dates blur together in his mind.
“He said that it makes all his problems go away. He doesn’t have to think about it,” Trina said when asked what Brandon says about why he uses.
Brandon’s older brother Josh was not a drug user, which has made Brandon’s addiction even more foreign for Trina.
In January of this year, Brandon spent time in a rehabilitation facility, and Trina said he did well with that process. However, just weeks after leaving rehab, Brandon totaled his car. Trina and her husband, Lance, chipped in to help Brandon buy a new car, but about two weeks after purchasing it, trouble would strike again.
“I got a call from him on a Friday night … saying that he was arrested in his car in Marshfield. He was (found) sleeping — drugs, heroin,” Trina said. She said after the incident Brandon was on a four-day probation hold in Wood County Jail.
When the hold was up, Trina and Brandon went to speak with his probation officer at the Department of Corrections Probation and Parole office in Clark County. That probation officer, Trina said, discussed the possibility of Brandon moving into a halfway house, which might help him combat his addiction.
Later in the same day, Brandon told Trina he would travel to Stevens Point for a support group meeting and that he needed to talk to his sponsor. After leaving home Brandon texted Trina that his sponsor would not be at the meeting and that he would visit the sponsor’s house afterward.
Trina went to sleep, and at about 11:20 p.m. she received a phone call from Brandon saying he was not yet to Stevens Point and that his car was in the ditch. He said he would handle the situation, telling Trina he had located a ride home, but he did not return to Pittsville that night or the following morning. At 7:30 a.m. the next morning, Trina called Brandon’s probation officer to report that he had not yet come home.
Trina said she called the probation officer because she felt things “were spiraling backwards so quickly between the totaled car, the drug charge, and the new car in the ditch. I believed if I didn’t, he wouldn’t be here today.”
“We didn’t even barely leave his probation office before he was looking for something (drugs). He never went to the meeting (in Stevens Point),” Trina said. “What he did was he took off like a bat out of hell and ran to Appleton to see his girlfriend, got a speeding ticket. … He must’ve been in a hurry to get back home, and it was raining out that night quite heavily, and he ended up in the ditch.”
After going into the ditch, one of Brandon’s friends came to pick him up, and Brandon used drugs that night, Trina said.
Hitting a dead end
Despite the initial possibility for Brandon to attend a halfway house, Trina said she was told by Brandon’s probation officer that the Wood County prosecuting attorney would not delay court dates for the narcotic possession charge, and the halfway house option has now been taken “off the table.”
Wood County Assistant District Attorney Michael Zell, who is prosecuting Brandon’s narcotics possession charge, said while he could not talk about specifics of the case, “In general we certainly want people to be able to get treatment.” He added that Wood County offers an Adult Drug Treatment Court program, which Zell said “allows people … generally to defer their felony charges so that they can participate in a fairly extensive treatment program, and we almost always agree with someone entering that program if they’re eligible.”
However, the Jacobsons live just inside the Clark County line, so Brandon is not eligible for the Wood County drug court program. To be eligible an individual must “reside in Wood County for six months and be willing to continually reside in Wood County,” according to the county’s website.
Clark County, according to Clerk of Courts Heather Bravener, “does not offer any kind of drug treatment court.”
Zell said the decision of whether or not to seek treatment would have been largely made by the probation officer and that individual’s supervisor.
“If someone’s probation agent was calling me with this kind of a request, I would never say, ‘No, I won’t delay the case in order for that (drug treatment) to happen,’ but I would be honest about, you know, ‘Well, this is what I see going on here,’ and then it’s really not my decision about whether to place them into treatment,” Zell said.
Trina said that over about the past two years, Brandon has had four different probation officers through the Clark County office. The Department of Corrections Probation and Parole office in Clark County has yet to offer a comment for this story.
A cry for help
Trina looks at Brandon’s situation as an example of a system that is not doing enough to help people suffering with addiction.
“I read article after article … about everything that everybody’s trying to do to combat the heroin epidemic and what they’re trying to do to help, and here’s a kid that needs help, and look at what’s happened,” Trina said.
The treatment piece of the addiction puzzle has also been far from perfect, Trina said. Brandon was treated for 23 days at an in-patient facility in January. Insurance would only cover seven days of treatment at a time, and the provider felt that 23-day total “was long enough,” Trina said. She added “just to get Brandon in the door” at the treatment facility cost $1,400.
“I would like to see more help coming to these kids. I mean it’s not only my kid. There’s other ones that are going through this,” Trina said.
As Trina looks through Brandon’s phone now fully aware of his addiction, she sees desperation in his past text messages to drug dealers as he searched for a fix. In the drug dealers’ texts to Brandon, she sees predatory behavior.
“The messages from the drug dealer(s) didn’t stop,” she said. “I figured after all of them (drug dealers) I told off that they would’ve all known that Brandon didn’t have his phone. … It’s just unreal.”
Trina said maybe jail is the best option for Brandon, though she was not sure, and feels nobody can understand what she and her family are going through. She sees a general apathy in society at large in combating the drug issue.
On top of everything, Brandon is going to be a father with the baby expected in November.