#HopeActLiveWI: Responding to Wisconsin's Opioid Epidemic

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#HopeActLiveWI: Responding to Wisconsin's Opioid Epidemic

Paul Krupski

A Message from Paul Krupski,
DHS Director of Opioid Initiatives

Road to recovery 

September is Recovery Month, a time to celebrate people who are on the journey to recovery. I say "the journey to recovery" because many who have struggled with addiction to opioids have shared with me, and will tell you, that the road to recovery isn't always a straight path, but each step leads them to another day free from addiction and further away from a possible, even fatal, overdose.That is why, no matter where an individual is in their journey to recovery, it is worth celebrating. In this newsletter, we have information on how you can be part of Recovery Month activities. 

DHS is also celebrating a brand new tool, Data Direct: Opioids, data dashboards that allow users to see and compare data for their county and around the state. Try it out! It is part of the DHS continued effort to give partners and friends a more user-friendly, intuitive way to access data. We think you'll be impressed. 

Speaking of data, we are gratified to see the number of opioid-related deaths has dropped by 10 percent in 2018 to 838. That is definitely cause for celebration, but we know there is still more work to do, because one opioid-related death is one too many. To that end, we're also unveiling a new promotional campaign reminding everyone who has a friend or loved one using an opioid painkiller or heroin to get naloxone and to keep it handy to save a life if someone overdoses. Be sure to watch for our Recovery Month public service announcements that you can share on your social media platforms and with the media in your area. Please follow DHS (@DHSWI) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram during Recovery Month for information on resources to help everyone live their best life. We invite you to join the conversation and share what recovery means to you. 

Treatment works. Recovery is possible. Whether you're on the journey yourself, or know someone who is, we are rooting for you and look forward to celebrating your success. 


Rally for Recovery

Rally for Recovery 2019

When: September 14, 2019

Where: Wisconsin State Capitol

Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The theme for this year’s event is "Sharing Recovery Pathways and Transforming Lives.” Speakers include Ryan Hampton, the author of American Fix and a person in recovery; musician Lee Turner; and Montee Ball, a former Wisconsin Badgers football player and a person in recovery. The Ho-Chunk Nation Drumming Circle and UW Marching Band will perform.

Trainings on the use of naloxone will be held several times during the rally.

data direct screen shot

Data Digest

Introducing Data Direct: Opioids

DHS has introduced Data Direct: Opioids, data dashboards that give users easy access to opioids data, including deaths, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and more. The data is provided in the form of counts, rates, and percentages. Users can change the visuals to display the information by year, drug type, age, sex, and race.

The dashboards show:

  • An estimated 1 in 6 Wisconsin adults were prescribed and used an opioid in the past year.
    The top reasons for opioid prescriptions were for pain related to surgeries and back pain.
  • Hospital emergency room visits for all opioid-related overdoses in Wisconsin increased from 2014 to 2018 by 64 percent. However, inpatient stays for overdoses from 2014 to 2018 decreased by 15 percent.
  • The number of opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin in 2018 fell by 10 percent from the 932 deaths reported in 2017. 

The Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH) data query system is still available. Where WISH data is frozen at a certain point, the opioids data dashboard is adjusted monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on how often the sources of the information are updated. 

naloxone video still

Coming to a theater near you

Save the life of someone you love. Get naloxone.

DHS is launching an informational campaign to spread awareness about overdose and encourage the public to keep naloxone on hand if they know someone who takes opioids for any reason. A public service announcement produced by the DHS video team will play in Marcus Theatres across Wisconsin. Be sure to keep an eye out on social media, too, for additional campaign materials and education, and let us know what you think.

Knowing the signs of an opioid overdose and having naloxone on hand can help save lives. Accidental overdose can happen to:

  • Anyone taking more opioids than prescribed, either accidentally or on purpose,
  • Anyone mixing an opioid with other medicines, illegal drugs, or alcohol, and
  • Anyone taking an opioid that was prescribed for someone else. 

Learn more about naloxone.  

Emergency rule allows more medical providers to become certified opioid treatment programs

DHS has issued an emergency rule to allow more medical providers to become certified opioid treatment programs.

Opioid treatment programs are specially licensed treatment centers that provide Food and Drug Administration-approved medications combined with counseling and other support services. This type of integrated care helps individuals move from the misuse and abuse of opioids to long-term recovery. 

The emergency rule repeals Wis. Admin. Code § DHS 75.15(9)(a) that prohibited opioid treatment programs from also providing medical services not directly related to narcotic treatment. DHS has proposed a permanent rule change to repeal this provision. 

Information on how to become certified as an opioid treatment program is available on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's website

The DHS website has information for professionals responding to Wisconsin's opioid epidemic.

Wisconsin Medicaid changes concerning hepatitis C treatment

People who inject drugs are at a greater risk of acquiring a hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, but many are reluctant to get tested or treated for their HCV infection because of their drug use.

Effective July 1, 2019, Wisconsin Medicaid has made important revisions to their Prior Authorization process for Hepatitis C Agents Drug Class (see page 4 of the Forward Health Update):

  • There is no longer a sobriety restriction for alcohol and/or substance use when approving prior authorizations for hepatitis C treatment. A member’s ability to adhere to the medication regimen and attend medical appointments are considered at part of prior authorization process.
  • Treatment requests will be considered for members who have been re-infected. For members who had received HCV treatment before, their full medical record as well as best HCV treatment options based on clinical evidence are considered.   

As a reminder, since July 1, 2017, Wisconsin Medicaid allows providers of any specialty to prescribe hepatitis C treatment. Also, patients with any fibrosis score will be considered for hepatitis C treatment (cases in which the member has cirrhosis with severe liver functional compromise are not considered for treatment). 

Complete details are available in the June 2019 Forward Health Update: July 2019 Preferred Drug List Changes and Other Pharmacy Policy Changes.

Questions about the hepatitis C prior authorization should be directed to Forward Health


Program helps inmates overcome opioid addiction

A program designed to help county jail inmates who are addicted to opioids stay off heroin and prescription painkillers after they are released has entered its second year. For year two (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020), this program is available at 16 county jails: Bayfield, Brown, Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Iowa, Kenosha, Manitowoc, Racine, Rock, Shawano, Sheboygan, Vilas, Walworth, and Washington.

County and tribal agencies receiving grants from DHS have partnered with county jails in these areas to offer participating inmates a dose a non-narcotic, injectable medication that treats opioid addiction before their release. Upon release, the former inmates are given a treatment plan that includes case management and follow-up injections they can get in their community to ensure they will be successful in recovery.

Seventeen county jails (all 16 listed above and Waushara) were part of this program in year one (July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019). Much of the work during year one focused on developing and coordinating services. Enrollment in the program began in January 2019. The total number of inmates served in year one was 395.

Funding for this initiative was authorized under 2017 Wisconsin Act 261.

healthy communities

Building healthy communities

From May 2018 through April 2019, DHS supported 70 community groups in their efforts to prevent opioid abuse. these efforts included holding drug take-back events, installing permanent prescription drug prescription drug take-back boxes, distributing at-home prescription drug disposal kits, distributing prescription drug lock boxes and bags, and hosting naloxone training events. These activities were funded by Wisconsin's share of the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Learn more about these efforts.

Did you know?

Help is a phone call away for health care providers who are struggling to figure out the best course of treatment for a patient with a substance use disorder. The UW Addiction Consultation Provider Hotline is a free services supported by a grant from DHS. Call 800-472-0111. 

Project Echo

Free monthly training

Health care providers are invited to participate in Project ECHO, free monthly training workshops on topics related to the treatment of substance use disorders. Continuing education credits are available. 

kids on school bus

Getting ready for back to school

Young people are at a high risk of becoming addicted to opioids, and back to school time is a good time to talk to kids and young adults about the risks. The DHS website has tips on how to prevent opioid abuse among young people. 

pill bottle

Mark your calendar! Next Drug Take-Back Day is in October

October 26, 2019 is Drug Take-Back Day. It's a chance for you to get rid of all of those prescription medications you no longer need, or that have expired. But, why wait? Did you know you can drop off your medications at many locations any time of year? Find a Drug Take-Back location near you

Grant Opportunity

Available grants

Wisconsin counties and tribes are eligible to apply for funding for opioid use disorder treatment services. Grants will be awarded to those counties and tribes with the greatest need. The deadline to apply is September 12. Get details.

meetings and events

Meetings and Events:

August 27, 2019-Buprenorphine X-Waiver Training, La Crosse

September 6, 2019-State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Madison

September 14, 2019-Rally for Recovery, Madison

September 19-20, 2019-Crisis Intervention Conference, Wisconsin Dells

September 20, 2019-Project ECHO, Statewide

September 26-27, 2019-Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine Annual Conference, Madison

October 15-16, 2019-Wisconsin Opioid and Meth Summit, Lake Geneva

October 18, 2019-Project ECHO, Statewide

October 28, 2019-Buprenorphine X-Waiver Training, Madison

October 29-30, 2019-Mental Health and Substance Use Recovery Training, Wisconsin Dells

November 6, 2019-Buprenorphine X-Waiver Training, Wauwatosa

#HopeActLiveWI: Responding to Wisconsin's Opioid Epidemic is published quarterly by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Please share this newsletter and encourage your colleagues to sign up to receive it. You can also follow #HopeActLiveWI on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Join the conversation.