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  • April 15, 2022 8:43 AM | Anonymous

    MADISON, Wis. — The Dane County Jail announced a new program Tuesday meant to help its residents fight opioid addiction.

    The Medication Assistance Treatment program will allow the jail’s nurses to administer the prescription drug Subutex to those who were already being treated with the medication before they entered the jail.

    “A large number of people entering our jail system are suffering from various forms of addiction,” Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett said in a statement. “The ability to offer this medication program and help maintain someone’s sobriety is a huge step in reducing recidivism and improving public safety.”

    Barrett said the program could expand beyond continuing care in the future. In the past, the jail has not been able to continue Subutex treatments inside the jail, leading to an interruption in recovery — and the possibility that those suffering from addiction commit more crimes in the future to support it.

    “While addiction itself is not an actual crime, the criminal activity involved with supporting that addiction is where the crimes typically occur,” Barrett said during a press conference Tuesday.

    If the county can help treat the addiction, it could lead to a reduction in crime by reducing the chances those people get arrested again.

    “Our ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism,” Barrett said. “When we reduce recidivism, we reduce the jail population. By reducing the jail population, we decrease the crime rates. By reducing the crime rates, we increase public safety and we reduce criminal justice budgets.”

    Dr. Elizabeth Salisbury-Afshar from UW-Madison says the drug has shown to be able to reduce illegal drug use and risk of death by as much as 50 percent.

    “When someone with opioid addiction who is on medication is incarcerated, while they’re there, that medication is stopped,” Dr. Salisbury-Afshar said, referring to jails that do not use a Medication-Assisted Treatment program. “We know from research that this puts people at risk for multiple things: it reduces the chance that they re-enter treatment when they leave. It also increases their risk for resuming use and it increases risk for overdose death.”

    Those who stop treatment while behind bars are 800 percent more likely to die from an overdose after they are released due to their tolerance being reduced, Dr. Salisbury-Afshar said.

    “This is a really important first step and I commend Sheriff Barrett and the Dane County Jail for committing to continued efforts to continue to expand access to care beyond continuation of care, but eventually to be able to screen everyone coming in and even be able to initiate care and link people to treatment in the community,” Dr. Salisbury-Afshar said. “This is the right thing to do.”

    Read article.

  • April 07, 2022 1:09 PM | Anonymous

    Wisconsin Department of Health Services

    You spoke, we listened

    In January 2022, we listened to Wisconsinites explain the profound impact of the opioid epidemic and potential strategies to save lives. Our goal was to gather input from a broad group of stakeholders to inform our use of future opioid settlement funds.

    • 598 people attended one of our 12 listening sessions.
    • 897 comments submitted through our input survey.

    We heard from substance use services providers, family and friends of people with a substance use disorder, and people living with a substance use disorder.

    Summary: Invest across the continuum from prevention to recovery

    We heard that supporting policy and systems change is essential to success. The remainder of the feedback falls into one of the areas listed below.

    • Address root causes. Address the social determinants of health. Improve access to mental health services. Bolster family stability. Reduce people's exposure to trauma and the impact of trauma.
    • Prevent proactively. Provide evidence-based substance use prevention education, especially in K-12 schools, as well as in communities. Consider including voices of those with lived experience to reduce stigma in communities.
    • Enhance harm reduction. Maintain and expand harm reduction strategies, including needle exchange, safe use sites, increased access and use of naloxone/NARCAN®, and fentanyl test strips.
    • Expand treatment options. Increase the accessibility and availability of all forms of treatment that follow best practices. Ensure equity in the location and delivery of treatment options.
    • Support recovery. Support individuals in recovery with targeted wraparound services. Provide direct support to families with a loved one with substance use disorder.

    Read more.

  • March 28, 2022 12:58 PM | Anonymous

    On March 23, 2022, the DEA announced a new option for DEA-registered practitioners working in hospitals, clinics, or emergency rooms, and for  DEA-registered hospitals/clinics that allow practitioners to operate under their registration number. Per this new option, the DEA will grant requests for an exception to the one-day supply limitation in 21 CFR 1306.07(b) to allow for the dispensing of up to a three-day supply of narcotic drugs, including buprenorphine and methadone, “to a person for the purpose of relieving acute withdrawal symptoms when necessary while arrangements are being made for referral for treatment.” Consistent with Pub. L. 116-215, the DEA will grant such exception requests while it works to amend 21 CFR 1306.07(b) as directed by said law.

    As part of this effort to save lives in the opioid overdose crisis, the DEA also announced that it is working to make permanent its COVID-19 public health emergency temporary regulations allowing for the initiation of buprenorphine for opioid use disorder by telemedicine.

    Finally, the DEA said it is, in partnership with HHS, “engaging in regular outreach with pharmacists and practitioners to express support for the use of medication-assisted treatment for those suffering from substance use disorder.”

    Read more.

  • March 28, 2022 8:25 AM | Anonymous

    Wisconsin DHS | Division of Care and Treatment Services

    This year's Opioids, Stimulants, and Trauma Summit is scheduled for May 10-12, 2022. You are invited to join us for this event in person or virtually.

    View the agenda for each day and information on how to register to attend

    Continuing education units are available for people who attend the live event either in person or virtually. 
  • March 25, 2022 12:20 PM | Anonymous

    Wisconsin DHS | Division of Care and Treatment Services

    We are accepting applications to award a contract for a mobile narcotic treatment program/opioid treatment program to provide opioid use disorder treatment services to underserved and high-need populations. Eligible applicants include for-profit agencies and nonprofit agencies currently certified under Wis. Admin. Code § DHS 75.13 and Wis. Admin. Code § DHS 75.15. Applications are due by 2 p.m. April 20, 2022. View more information on this grant funding opportunity.

  • March 22, 2022 3:35 PM | Anonymous

    DHS Releases Findings from Statewide Listening Sessions about Opioid Settlement Funds

    Feedback from public and providers from listening sessions will inform agency's strategy to address state's opioid epidemic

    Following a review of public feedback from listening sessions and an online survey in January on the best uses of funding received through national settlements with opioid distributors and manufacturers, the Department of Health Services (DHS) will begin finalizing its plan to invest the funds to save lives and address Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic. DHS held 12 regional listening sessions in early 2022. Nearly 600 people living with an opioid use disorder, their families and friends, and providers of opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery support services participated in these virtual events and nearly 900 comments were submitted through the online survey.

    “We listened as hundreds of Wisconsinites explained the profound impact of the opioid epidemic on their families and communities, and we appreciate everyone who took time to share their feedback with us,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “The flexibilities offered by these settlement funds will give us an opportunity to be ever more innovative in our response to the opioid epidemic so we can help people who are currently struggling with an opioid use disorder, as well as work to prevent more individual and community heartbreak over the loss of lives to opioid overdoses.”

    Read full press release here.

  • March 16, 2022 1:59 PM | Anonymous

    LA CROSSE — Gov. Tony Evers today signed three bills in La Crosse to help address substance use and overdose deaths in Wisconsin.   

    “Substance misuse has ravaged families and communities across our state, which has affected not only many Wisconsinites’ own health and safety but the well-being of their families and loved ones, too. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only further underscored challenges for folks working to overcome mental health crises and substance use disorders,” said Gov. Evers. “Tragically, fentanyl has played a serious role in overdose deaths across the country, and these bills are an important step toward reducing substance misuse and overdose deaths here in our state. We have to keep working to invest in getting folks and families the treatment and support they need to overcome these challenges.”   

    Preliminary data of 2020 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a single year in U.S. history; more than 93,000 people died, representing a 30 percent increase from the previous 12-month period. CDC data also shows that 75 percent of these overdose deaths were opioid-related, and that synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are the main driver of drug overdose deaths. In Wisconsin, the CDC estimates that in 2020 alone, there were more than 1,200 opioid-related overdose deaths, underscoring the importance of the governor’s action today. 

    Senate Bill 352, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 179:  

    • Creates a graduated penalty structure for manufacturing, distributing, or delivering fentanyl (or fentanyl analogs) or possessing it with intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver it. 

    Senate Bill 600, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 180:  

    • Specifies that materials used to test for the presence of fentanyl or a fentanyl analog in a substance are not drug paraphernalia.

    Senate Bill 49, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 181:  

    • Requires the Department of Administration, in collaboration with the Department of Health Services (DHS) and Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS), to issue a request for proposal, subject to approval by the Joint Committee on Finance under a 14-day passive review, to establish and maintain a data system to collect, format, analyze, and disseminate information on opioid and methamphetamines use.
    These bills will build on the work the Evers Administration is doing to combat the opioid epidemic, such as the state’s new pilot “Hub and Spoke” model of care, as well as investing approximately $47 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding to increase community-level supports for people who have been grappling with mental health and substance use challenges. Last year, Gov. Evers also signed Assembly Bill 374, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 57, into law, paving the way for much-needed funds to flow to communities throughout Wisconsin to address the opioid epidemic through a settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors. The final settlement agreement, approved by the Joint Finance Committee in November 2021, will provide more than $294 million over 18 years to the 87 local governments involved in the litigation and $126 million, as well as $9.6 million in additional restitution, to the DHS for programs aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic and saving lives.

    Additionally, last year, Wisconsin joined the Bloomberg Opioids Overdose Prevention Initiative which provided $10 million to combat the opioid epidemic in Wisconsin over the next five years. 

    People looking for substance use treatment and recovery services are encouraged to use the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline, which is free and available 24/7.

    An online version of this release is available here.

  • March 14, 2022 10:39 AM | Anonymous

    NASW | The Wisconsin Social Worker Journal | Winter 2021 | Pg. 15 | Ritu Bhatnagar, M.D., M.P.H.

    What is Wisconsin’s Unborn Child Protection Act? Passed in 1997, Wisconsin’s “Unborn Child Protection Act” — also known as Act 292 and previously known as the “Cocaine Mom Law” — permits the jailing, forced medical treatment, or house arrest of a pregnant person on a suspicion that they have consumed or may consume alcohol or a controlled substance during their pregnancy. While the law is enforced differently across the state, according to statistics published by Wisconsin’s Department of Children & Families, each year for the past 5 years, between 400 and 500 Wisconsin women are subject state intervention under Act 292. The law was not supported by any medical organizations and has been challenged in court. In 2018, a judge found it to be unconstitutional because the language was so unclear, but the law still stands. Read more about the law and its history here

    What role do social workers play in the enforcement of Act 292? Social workers play a unique role in the enforcement of Act 292. Often, it is the hospital-based social worker making the report to the county or local law enforcement. Social workers may report a pregnant person out of fear of losing their license, presumed obligation, or misplaced assumptions about drug use. It is important to know that the way the law is written does NOT mandate reporting while the person is pregnant. Reporting is considered “permissive” in this situation, and it is important to ensure that your decision takes into account the situation of the woman and the potential for far reaching legal consequences of reporting (see story at right).

    If you have further questions about this law, please contact Afsha Malik at

    In 2014, Tammy Loertscher had a medical problem that caused depression if left untreated. After losing her job and consequently her health insurance, Tammy started to use methamphetamine regularly to manage her depression. Tammy made sure her drug use did not negatively affect other aspects of her life. As soon as Tammy realized she was pregnant, she stopped using methamphetamine. However, pursuant to Act 292, Tammy was ordered into drug treatment that she did not need and was incarcerated in Taylor County’s jail for 20 days for refusing that treatment, where she was held in solitary confinement, refused access to a lawyer, and denied access to her previously-scheduled prenatal care. To learn more about Tammy’s story visit us here.

  • March 14, 2022 10:35 AM | Anonymous | Ritu Bhatnagar | Op Ed

    Some are interested in using legislation to modify cannabis laws to address certain health conditions and inequalities in drug law enforcement. They also want to increase tax revenue.

    As an addiction psychiatrist, I’ve seen previously healthy young people with cannabis-induced psychosis that continued even after the cannabis use didn't. This led to significant life-long negative impacts. With more potent cannabis forms available, my colleagues are also reporting that they are also treating challenging outcomes related to cannabis use.

    What we know about the impacts of cannabis on the developing adolescent brain is the drug can negatively affect attention and focus, anxiety and impulse control. Unfortunately, studies show a change in perception of safety of cannabis products: People think because the products are “natural,” they are “safe.”

    Recent reports of severe lung infections have been linked to cannabis products.

    My concern, after reading a recent bill allowing medical marijuana, is that it seems to be quite far reaching, and was written without much input from the medical community.

    Lawmakers should meet with addiction health professionals with expertise in this area to craft legislation that prioritizes public safety over profits.

    Dr. Ritu Bhatnagar, Madison, Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine 

    Read here.
  • March 11, 2022 10:33 AM | Anonymous

    NBC News | Ben Goggin

    If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol, drug or other substance abuse problem, call any of these numbers for help: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's national helpline is 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357); the National Drug Helpline is 1-844-289-0879; and the American Addiction Centers' hotline is (866) 464-3073.

    In December, Paul went home for the holidays. Like many people, he hadn’t seen his family for almost a year.

    But instead of spending time with his loved ones, he said he stayed in his room and injected methamphetamine. While his family was downstairs, Paul said he pretended to be sick while he relapsed in a multiday meth binge.

    Though he was alone in his room, he was using drugs with other people. As he was injecting methamphetamine, he connected with hundreds of other individuals doing the same thing over Zoom.

    “There is no meth without Zoom, and there is no Zoom without meth,” Paul, whom NBC News is identifying only by his first name to protect him from professional harm, said in an interview. “That is where I found a forum, like a tribe, where I could be my authentic self with no fear of judgment.”

    Paul, who said he’s been addicted to meth for about eight years, is part of a sprawling online community of meth users, hidden in plain sight on nearly every major social media platform and digital communication tool, from Facebook to Zoom to Reddit to Twitter.

    As nearly all social media platforms and tech companies have trended toward increased platform moderation amid heightened scrutiny from watchdogs, meth users have attracted little attention as they build online communities of tens of thousands of people. With a mixed bag of policies pertaining to drug content that varies by platform, users have found numerous venues where they can post photos and videos of themselves using methamphetamine, sell drugs and encourage other people to use meth.

    Read more.

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