#HopeActLiveWI: Responding to Wisconsin's Opioid Crisis

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#HopeActLiveWI: Responding to Wisconsin's Opioid Crisis

Paul Krupski

A Message from Paul Krupski,
DHS Director of Opioid Initiatives

The Year in Review

Where did 2019 go? As the holidays and a brand new year fast approach, it's seems right to take stock of how far we've come since the start of this year, and where we hope to be at this same time in 2020. 

The best news of  2019 was the announcement made in August that opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin  declined in 2018 to their lowest level since 2015.The 838 deaths reported represented a 10 percent reduction from 2017. Whatever role you play in ending the state's opioid epidemic, you should feel proud those efforts are paying off by reducing the number of lives lost to overdose. 

Other highlights from 2019:

In January, Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes were sworn into office, and DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm took the helm at DHS. Getting to know them and learning their approach to ending the opioid epidemic has been a great experience, and I look forward to putting their plans into action. 

In March, DHS hosted another successful Opioid Forum. This one was in Green Bay. Over 800 people attended the two day event, and we were honored to have Governor Evers, Attorney General Josh Kaul, and DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm speak to the attendees and share their visions and offer support for the efforts taking place across the state. Plans are already underway for the 2020 Opioid Forum, May 5-7, in the Wisconsin Dells. Details of next year's event are in this newsletter.

In April, there was another successful Drug Take Back Day that collected over 58,000 pounds of unwanted medications.These events help all of us empty our medicine cabinets of medications we no longer need and prevents them from being misused or disposed of improperly. 

A deal to provide direct access to the lifesaving opioid antidote, naloxone, was cemented in June.  NARCAN® Direct will provide our partners with NARCAN® at no cost through an order on demand system. The program began with 14 agencies. As of this month (November), 68 agencies are participating. NARCAN® is the nasal spray formulation of naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses and this program will assist in getting NARCAN® into the hands of those who need it most so someone who overdoses on opioids can be revived and start their journey toward recovery.

In August, DHS unveiled Data Direct: Opioids This online tool features interactive charts, graphs, and maps and provides the most up-to-date opioid-related data for Wisconsin. 

In September, we celebrated Recovery Month with another great rally on the Capitol Square. I was honored to once again read the Governor's Proclamation at the event, and meet with people who are sharing their stories, breaking down stigma, and proving that recovery is possible. 

October 26 was the second Drug Take Back Day of the year in Wisconsin. 60,472 pounds of unwanted drugs were collected. Again, a big thanks to everyone who participated. Keep in mind, you don't have to wait for an event to get rid of the medications you don't want. There are drop off sites around the state for people to dispose of medications any time. 

Together, we've accomplished a lot toward the goal of ending the opioid epidemic. I am excited to see how those efforts continue to bear fruit in the next year.

Happy Holidays and all my best for a happy and healthy new year!

Paul Krupski,
Director of Opioid Initiatives 

Addiction Recovery Helpline

More than 5,000 calls for help

The Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline assisted 5,594 people in its first year of operation. This free and confidential service is managed by 211 Wisconsin under a contract with DHS. It connects individuals seeking help for challenges with alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription painkillers, and other drugs for themselves or loved one to services in their community. Call 211 or 833-944-4673. People who may not be comfortable speaking directly to an operator can text their ZIP code to 898211 or use the live chat option at addictionhelpwi.org 

Read more about the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline’s first year of operation


The holidays and the stress of addiction

It's the season to be merry and bright, but that's easier said than done if you or a loved one has a substance use concern. In her article  "Families and Addiction-Surviving the Season of Stress" (Social Work Today, November/December 2011) Milwaukee native Christina Reardon, MSW, LSW wrote, "...stress can be particularly severe for families of active substance abusers or recovering addicts. For these families, the thought of managing substance abuse issues while maintaining peace and unity can be overwhelming-and mishandling these issues can lead to further estrangement from the addict or a relapse for the recovering person." Reardon spoke with experts who tackled subjects ranging from managing expectations to supporting family members in recovery. The article also has tips to help family members in recovery avoid relapse during the holidays. 

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Hep A: Are you at risk?

Overdose is just one of the risks when opioids, including heroin, are abused. People who use drugs, whether injected or not, are at a higher risk of getting hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the hep A virus. Currently, there is a nationwide outbreak of hepatitis A, and while Wisconsin hasn't had an outbreak, we are monitoring for cases throughout the state. The single best way to prevent a hepatitis A infection is by getting vaccinated against the virus.

Learn more about hepatitis A and how to prevent it.

New report on opioid treatment programs

The "2018 Calendar Year Report on Opioid Treatment Programs" is now available on the DHS website. It contains data on the services provided by the 20 accredited treatment programs in Wisconsin with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration to administer and dispense medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid addiction. 

Read the report.

Data Digest


New data dashboards

Dashboards showing data on the types of mental health and substance use services provided by Wisconsin’s public behavioral health system are now available for viewing on the DHS website. The data is from the Program Participation System. It is self-reported by county behavioral health agencies.

Funding Opportunity

Division of Public Health Overdose Data to Action Program

The DHS Overdose Data to Action Program will be announcing a funding opportunity in January 2020. Eligible applicants include: Local health departments, tribal health clinics, cities, counties, and community-based non-profit organizations. The program is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This will be a multi-year funding opportunity. Be on the lookout for the request for application in January. 


State Opioid Response Grant enters year two

A series of grant awards were made recently funded by Wisconsin’s share of the State Opioid Response Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. All of the grants are for one year, the second year of the grant (October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020).

Learn more about all of the projects funded by federal grants received by DHS to address Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic.

Opioid and methamphetamine treatment center grants awarded

Following a competitive application process, three organizations have been awarded grants to operate opioid and methamphetamine treatment centers in areas of Wisconsin that currently have few options for treatment.

HSHS St. Vincent Hospital and Libertas Treatment Center; Family Health Center of Marshfield (doing business as HOPE Consortium); and NorthLakes Community Clinic will receive $672,000 per year for up to five years, starting January 1, 2020.

All three organizations have been providing treatment services to regions in northern Wisconsin under this grant program since 2015. This grant program was created as part of the HOPE Agenda.

Get information about opioid treatment services in Wisconsin

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Make plans to join us for the 2020 Opioid Forum 

DHS will host its third annual Opioid Forum May 5-7, 2020, in the Wisconsin Dells. The agenda will feature keynotes, plenary sessions, and workshops focused on evidence-based practices from around the state and the nation that can be used to address the opioid epidemic in your community. There will also be sessions focused on methamphetamine and stimulants. The separate event held in 2018 and 2019 focused on the intersection of trauma and substance use will be folded into the 2020 Opioid Forum. The impact of trauma on substance use will be discussed in many of the workshops throughout the conference. The 2020 Opioid Forum is a production of DHS Division of Care and Treatment Services. The agenda is not yet available. If you have a suggestion for a speaker or topic, email the Division of Care and Treatment Services. To watch recordings of many of the sessions from previous Opioid Forum events, visit the DHS website 

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Meetings and events

#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.