Wisconsin DHS aims to address opioid epidemic with millions of settlement dollars

LA CROSSE (WKBT) – Wisconsin is set to get $31 million this year to fight the opioid epidemic.

That money comes from the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors– Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, as well as Johnson & Johnson– from a National Prescription Opiate Legislation settlement.

Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services submitted a three-phase plan to invest in harm-reduction, capital projects and other initiatives last month.

One of those strategies involve the use of Narcan and fentanyl test strips.

Fentanyl has been found in a wide range of substances in the community, including in marijuana, heroin and cocaine.

Dr. Chris Eberlein, who works in emergency medicine at Gundersen Health System, said harm-reduction resources are invaluable.

“Fentanyl is a predominant drug in our community that is killing people right now, and so we really want to empower people to know exactly what they may be using,” Eberlein said.

Eberlein said increasing access to Narcan is also important because it already has saved thousands of lives in the community.

He urges anyone who uses to have someone with them who is sober and able to administer Narcan if needed.

“This is the step to keep patients alive until you can get into treatment– that’s what these tools are truly for,” Eberlein said.

The DHS also aims to limit the supply of opioids and improve access to treatment.

The DHS submitted its three-phase investment plan last month.

The budget-writing committee has until Aug. 16 to weigh in.

Its proposed plan is still pending, but Eberlein says any increase in treatment and education in the community will benefit it over time.

Wisconsin is set to get over $500 million over the course of 18 years from those settlements.