Wisconsin Department of Health Services outlines plan to tackle growing opioid overdoses

Before the pandemic, opioid overdose deaths were on the decline in Wisconsin.

2018 saw 10% fewer deaths than 2019. Then the pandemic hit and opioid overdose deaths hit a record 1,227.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rapid growth in the availability of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and an increase in the use of many drugs at any given time is also thought to be responsible for the increase in overdose deaths. We must take essential action now to save lives,” said Karen Timberlake, Secretary-designate of the Department of Health Services.

DHS has already received $6 million to help save those lives. It is the money for the national settlement of prescription disputes.

The state expects to receive nearly $31 million before the end of the year.

“These efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable along with our ongoing efforts to investigate opioid manufacturers are beginning to yield real results and real dollars for the State of Wisconsin. And it’s critical that we hold these companies accountable.” responsible opioids,” Attorney General Josh Kaul said.

The Department of Health Services’ plan to address the opioid epidemic is divided into three phases, the first of which addresses immediate needs and harm reduction strategies.

As part of this phase, $3 million will go to the Narcan Direct program. $2 million for distribution of fentanyl test strips and $1 million for grants that will address the root causes of opioid abuse.

“We know that we save lives every time, or almost every time, someone at risk of overdose is administered Narcan. The fentanyl test strips prevented an overdose by letting someone who might be using drugs know if that drug is contaminated with fentanyl,” Timberlake said.

The second phase will spend $11 million on capital improvement projects.

This will help improve existing treatment facilities as well as build new ones in areas of the state that lack them.

Also under phase two, $6 million will go to tribal nations in the state.

“Tribal nations are also in dire need of this funding as they have seen a dramatic increase in opioid-related deaths that has prompted at least three tribes to declare states of emergency in response to rising substance use. and the opioid epidemic,” Timberlake said.

These three tribes are Bad River, Lac du Flambeau and Menominee.

The third phase is to invest in long-term projects such as the DHS Alert and Overdose System, school education programs, and expansion of the drug-assisted program.

Timberlake is convinced that these strategies work together.

“We saw a drop in deaths and overdoses just before the pandemic. In 2018, opioid overdose deaths were down 10% from the previous year, but then increased significantly in 2020 to a record high of 1,227. Sadly, that represents 1,200 lives lost to of something preventable and treatable,” Timberlake said.

The plan still needs to be approved by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

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