Wisconsin Department of Health Services
For Immediate Release | December 13, 2021Contact: Elizabeth Goodsitt/Jennifer Miller 608-266-1683
La Crosse Lighthouse Peer-Run Respite Opens A space for healing mental health and substance use concerns
Wisconsin’s sixth peer-run respite funded by the Department of Health Services (DHS)—the La Crosse Lighthouse—is now open. It offers a place where people with mental health and substance use challenges can stay in times of increased stress or symptoms and receive support from people who have themselves been mental health and substance use service users.
“Making sure folks have the mental health and treatment services they need is an essential part of addressing substance use in our state,” said Governor Tony Evers. “Growing the state’s network of peer-run respites is a critically important part of that effort as peer-to-peer connection can help folks address trauma, receive the support they need, and ensure they get on the road to recovery.”
Established in Wisconsin in 2015, peer-run respites prevent people from experiencing traumatic mental health and substance use crisis situations and costly hospitalizations. During a free stay, guests benefit from one-on-one and group peer support and activities focused on the eight dimensions of wellness guidance from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: emotional, financial, social, spiritual, occupational, physical, intellectual, and environmental. There are no required activities for guests. They are free to come and go during their stay for doctor and therapy appointments, school, work, family, and other responsibilities. In many cases, guests also get connected to community resources designed to support their wellness after their stay.
View the entire news release.
WMS | Medigram
The Wisconsin Medical Society (Society) and the Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine (WISAM) joined forces on December 8 to warn state policymakers about the potential harmful effects of kratom – a tree native to southeast Asia whose leaves can contain compounds causing psychotropic effects. The two organizations provided testimony to the State Assembly Committee on State Affairs, asking legislators not to support Assembly Bill 599 – legislation that would legalize two of the substances found in kratom products and create a regulatory scheme that would allow for kratom sales.
The testimony included a literature review published in the April 2021 edition of the Wisconsin Medical Journal (WMJ) about ongoing experiences with patients suffering from Kratom Use Disorder (KUD), and a case report from a 2016 WMJ on kratom addiction and withdrawal. The testimony also highlighted various U.S. Food and Drug Administration warnings about the drug and how U.S. Marshals have seized numerous shipments of dietary supplements containing kratom over the past several years due to false claims about the product’s safety and efficacy.
The bill is now eligible for a committee vote. The Society and WISAM will continue to monitor AB 599 and offer to meet with any policymaker who has additional questions. Contact Society Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information; he will also discuss the bill as one of the topics during the WisMed Friday Report tomorrow, December 10, at 12:15 p.m. Register here for this members-only event.
Wisconsin Health News
Deaths from drug overdoses in Wisconsin increased by 21.8 percent over the past year, according to provisional data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were 1,599 predicted overdose deaths in Wisconsin during the 12-month period ending April 2021, compared to 1,313 the prior year.
The CDC noted the numbers are "underreported due to incomplete data."
Nationally, drug overdoses increased by over 28 percent over the past year. More than 100,000 people reportedly died over the 12-month period, the highest it has ever been.
Synthetic opioids caused roughly 64 percent of all drug overdose deaths during that time.
Medigram | Wisconsin Medical Society
As Wisconsin faces a resurgence in opioid overdose deaths, the State Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety unanimously approved WisMed-supported legislation that can help save Wisconsin lives. The unanimous 11-0 vote for Assembly Bill 619, which removes fentanyl test strips from the definition of “drug paraphernalia” in the criminal code, occurred November 10 in the State Capitol.
WisMed member and Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine (WISAM) President Ritu Bhatnagar, MD, testified in favor of the bill during the committee’s October 20 public hearing, emphasizing how these testing strips can prevent someone from unwittingly taking a drug laced with fentanyl. The bipartisan bill is authored by State Assembly Reps. Jesse James (R-Altoona) and Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (D-Milwaukee) and State Sens. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).
As a recent story in the Wisconsin Examiner about the legislation cites, Wisconsin Department of Health Services data show that more than 6,200 people in Wisconsin died of a drug overdose from 2014-2019, with nearly 4,800 of those deaths involving opioids. Another 1,900 of those deaths were heroin-related. The article also points out that last year in Milwaukee County alone 544 people died a drug-related death – an unfortunate annual record for the county – and more than 400 of those deaths involved fentanyl.
Contact Society Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information.
Wisconsin will receive $10 million over the next five years to fight the opioid epidemic, thanks to an initiative that’s expanding into the state.
The Bloomberg Opioids Overdose Prevention Initiative launched in Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2018. It’s now moving into Wisconsin, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina.
“The coronavirus pandemic has only underscored the crisis we are facing in our state and country with the opioid epidemic, as opioid-related deaths last year exceeded 1,000 in a single year in Wisconsin for the first time,” Gov Tony Evers said in a statement. “It’s more critical than ever that we get folks support."
The initiative aims to scale existing efforts, implement new programs and advocate for federal policies to expand treatment access and harm reduction policies. It’ll support technical assistance, direct services and staff at government agencies.
The program's expansion is funded by a $120 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, Johns Hopkins University, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Vital Strategies are partners.
The Senate Committee on Insurance, Licensing and Forestry unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that lawmakers billed as a technical correction so that more social workers can provide substance use disorder treatment without needing additional credentials.
Licensed clinical social workers are able to provide substance use treatment services within their scope of practice.
A 2018 law eliminated a requirement that other master’s level licensed mental health professionals, like marriage and family therapists and professional counselors, obtain an additional credential to provide the services.
However, lawmakers “unintentionally omitted” certified advanced practice social workers and certified independent social workers, since their credential is titled “certified” instead of “licensed,” Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, said in testimony to the committee last week.
“This bill corrects this error and enables these master's level social workers to provide substance use treatment within their scope of practice, thus removing an unnecessary regulatory barrier that impacts access to treatment,” he said in written testimony.
The National Association of Social Workers Wisconsin Chapter and the Wisconsin Association of Family & Children's Agencies support the bill.
Two people registered against the plan. Michael Kemp, a certified substance abuse counselor, said he was “deeply disturbed by this effort to extend the scope of practice to professionals who have mostly received minimal education on the treatment of this unique brain disorder.”
Lawmakers are considering legalizing fentanyl testing strips, which can determine whether a substance contains the highly powerful synthetic opioid.
Current law considers fentanyl testing strips drug paraphernalia, making it a felony for any person to use or possess with intent to use.
Bill author Rep. Jesse James, R-Altoona, said last week the strips are “valuable, life-saving and very inexpensive.”
“We have a chance in Wisconsin to take a step forward in ending the increase of overdose deaths happening statewide,” James told the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety. “Saving lives should never be a partisan issue or up for debate.”
“Let’s prevent the next fentanyl death,” said Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, D-Milwaukee. “Let’s pass this bill.”
Kristen Grimes, director of prevention services at Vivent Health, said they distributed more than 54,000 fentanyl test strips last year. They received around 3,700 reports back about their use from clients.
The reports show that once clients identified a drug with fentanyl, they used safer behaviors to reduce their risk of overdose, she said. That could include taking less of the drug to see how it feels, using it with friends to keep an eye on each other and telling others about what they’re finding in their drugs.
“I can tell you from personal experience, our clients do not want to die,” Grimes said. “They’re tired of watching their friends die. And they can utilize fentanyl test strips to save their lives.”
Wisconsin Medical Society | Medigram
The Wisconsin Medical Society joined with the Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine (WISAM) in supporting state legislation that can protect lives by preventing inadvertent fentanyl overdoses. The legislation, Assembly Bill 619, would decriminalize the possession and use of fentanyl test strips (FTS), which can be easily used to test substances for the presence of the powerful drug. The bipartisan bill is authored by Reps. Jesse James (R-Altoona) Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (D-Milwaukee) and Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).
“Saving lives should never be a partisan issue or be up for debate,” Rep. James said in his testimony as the main author of the legislation.
Ritu Bhatnagar, MD, testifies in the State Capitol
WISAM President and Society member Ritu Bhatnagar, MD appeared before the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety and gave excellent written and verbal testimony describing what she sees in her practice as Medical Director for NewStart, Unity Point Health-Meriter Hospital’s addiction treatment service branch.
“I have taken care of people whose lives have been turned upside-down by having a legal charge related to the possession of these fentanyl test strips,” Dr. Bhatnagar testified. “They have had a very difficult time, then, once they’re in treatment with me, trying to get their lives back together, look for work, try to find anything else with this on their record.
“Everything you’ve heard today about needing to have these (FTS) decriminalized so that people don’t enter the criminal legal system is absolutely essential because of the differential enforcement that’s happening around the state,” Dr. Bhatnagar said.
The bill is now eligible for a committee vote. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Wisconsin State Senate as Senate Bill 600. Contact Society Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information.
Save the Date for National Addiction Treatment Week!
Join National Addiction Treatment Week from October 18-24, 2021 and inspire the next generation of medical professionals to treat addiction and save lives! Each year, National Addiction Treatment Week raises awareness about the gap between the number of patients who need addiction treatment and qualified medical professionals available to treat patients using evidence-based approaches. The week highlights the critical need for more clinicians to enter the field of addiction medicine. Check out this year’s engaging schedule of events and ways to be involved! Mark your calendar today, join our partners and collaborators and spread the word to “treat addiction and save lives!”
By putting our combined resources to work, we all contribute to the health and wellbeing of patients!
UW School of Medicine and Public Health have 6 free new videos on why and how to address tobacco use among patients with severe and persistent mental illness:
Click to view: https://ctri.wisc.edu/smoking/
Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine563 Carter Court, Suite B,Kimberly, WI 54136