Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

May 10, 2024


Prevention, Harm Reduction, Treatment and Recovery

Wisconsin Addresses the Full Spectrum of the Opioid Crisis

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) recently unanimously approved a collaborative plan to invest $36 million in Opioid Settlement funds to address the full spectrum of the opioid crisis in Wisconsin. This plan was a cooperative effort among the legislature, the Department of Health Services (DHS) and a wide variety of stakeholders who are already working on this issue around the state.
Together, we decided to take a full spectrum approach to the crisis and allocated funds for prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery. Our goal is to prevent abuse and addiction, save lives, help people move past addiction and fully recover from addiction.
The plan, approved on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, will deploy $36 million at the beginning of fiscal year 2025, which starts on July 1, 2024. This is the third round of funding from the massive national opioid settlement that started in 2022. Wisconsin is receiving a total of $750 million over 18 years from the settlement with pharmaceutical distributors and drug companies related to the epidemic of opioid abuse in our state. All counties and a number of municipalities also receive settlement funding directly.
Wisconsin has already received, and deployed, nearly $40 million of the opioid settlement since 2022. We have tried a couple of different approaches to address the crisis and we are learning from every round of funding. DHS provides a report to the legislature each quarter to summarize and review the application of funds from the prior round so that we can make data-driven decisions to move forward.
Prevention: The new plan is very focused on preventing Wisconsinites from abusing opioids. The fact is that some opioids are legal drugs. Many people are prescribed them to manage pain after a surgery or injury. But they do not heal us. They are only meant to reduce pain and we must be aware of the potential for dependency and abuse.
Our prevention efforts include education in our K-12 schools, investments in Boys and Girls Club programming and through a new public awareness and prevention campaign. Some of us probably remember the anti-drug campaigns – “Just Say No” and the infamous fried egg commercial – “this is your brain, this is your brain on drugs, any questions?” We have allocated $750,000 for DHS to educate the public about opioids to prevent abuse and addiction.
We have also invested $1.5 million in a competitive grant program for Community-Based Prevention led by community anti-drug coalitions, nonprofit agencies, and faith-based organizations. These groups will be invited to apply for a grant for a variety of approaches such as drug prevention, stigma education, training for implementation and mental health care. There are many community organizations, churches and groups who are already doing great work to address the opioid crisis. We want to support their efforts.
Harm Reduction: We want to save lives. In the past two cycles, we have invested a lot in harm reduction infrastructure. This includes providing law enforcement, public health and others with opioid antagonist medications like Narcan to save someone from an overdose, as well as funding for fentanyl test strips.
Harm reduction, overdose reversal programs are off and running. We invested $6 million to continue providing these resources and have asked DHS to assess and make awards for where these funds are needed most to reduce harm.
New this year, we allocated $500,000 for a safe disposal kit dispensing program. Charlie Hartig, CEO of Hartig Drug with locations throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, contacted me to share the success of Iowa’s Disposal Kit Dispensing Program. This program reimburses pharmacies that provide free disposal kits and patient education with opioids. We liked this idea because it helps people to recognize the need to safely dispose of opioids and provides an easy way to do it.
We also allocated $500,000 for grants to small facilities such as veterinary clinics, behavioral health facilities, surgery centers, nursing homes, fire stations, dental offices, correctional facilities and rural clinics to purchase electronic lock boxes for storing and tracking narcotics. We want to support small businesses that handle opioids in preventing theft and abuse.
Treatment & Recovery: As we continue to navigate the full spectrum of the opioid crisis, we decided to continue our investments in treatment and recovery from opioid abuse and addiction. We reinvested $3 million in Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) because it has been very successful. This program combines medication, counseling and behavioral therapies to treat opioid use disorders.
We continued to invest in the Shatterproof Treatment Atlas, which is an online substance use disorder treatment platform where individuals can search for resources to help with addiction. You can access the Shatterproof Treatment Atlas here: www.treatmentatlas.org. If you, or someone you know, is battling addiction, please click on this link.
New this year, we invested $600,000 to expand the Medical College of Wisconsin’s (MCW’s) Periscope Project. This program reaches pregnant women by providing real-time information and guidance to health care providers who care for pregnant women with substance use and mental health disorders. This program targets a major at-risk population and their children. The potential ripple effect of the Periscope Project is immeasurable.
Overall, I am proud of our work to allocate funding to tribes, law enforcement, community organizations and schools to meet needs across the entire spectrum of the crisis, from prevention to recovery. Our collaborative plan is a thoughtful, data-driven approach to addressing the opioid crisis. I will continue to monitor our efforts and share opportunities to participate as we move forward.
As always, if you need assistance with any state-related matters, please call our team at the State Capitol – 608-266-0703 – or email me – Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. My team is ready, and willing, to help navigate your state government, clear obstacles and receive your input.