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DHS Issues Public Health Advisory to Warn of the Risks of Death from Drugs Laced with Fentanyl Numbers show an increase in overdose deaths in Wisconsin are linked to the addition of synthetic substances and a mixture of drugs used
Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Because it is so strong and cheap to produce, people who manufacture illegal drugs use fentanyl to make other drugs more powerful and less expensive to make. Fentanyl can be added to pills, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs.“As we continue our work to promote mental health, reduce harm, and increase support for those struggling with substance use disorders, we can't ignore the greater risks people face by not knowing what is included in the drugs they are taking,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. "This is a public health crisis, and it's necessary to sound the alarm to prevent unnecessary deaths."
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has issued a public health advisory to inform Wisconsinites about the increased number of deaths caused by drugs laced with synthetic substances, especially fentanyl
DHS data shows that just last year, synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were identified in 91 percent of opioid overdose deaths in Wisconsin, and in 73 percent of all overdose deaths. From 2019 to 2021, the number of fentanyl overdose deaths in the state grew by 97 percent.
Wisconsin Health News
The Wisconsin Department of Justice has reached an agreement in principle on the financial terms of a settlement with opioid-maker Teva that would provide up to $4.3 billion to participating state and local governments over 13 years.
Wisconsin is one of a dozen states leading negotiations with the Israel-based drugmaker over its alleged role in the opioid epidemic.
“Our efforts to pursue accountability from companies whose unlawful conduct contributed to the opioid crisis continue,” Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement. “This agreement, if finalized, will mark another significant step forward in bringing resources to Wisconsin for fighting this epidemic.”
The settlement is subject to ongoing negotiations. Details like the amount that will head to the state are still being worked out, per a Department of Justice spokeswoman.
Teva makes fentanyl products for cancer pain and generic opioids, including oxycodone.
The states alleged the company promoted fentanyl products for use by non-cancer patients, deceptively marketed opioids and failed to comply with suspicious order monitoring requirements.
As part of the agreement, Teva would provide up to $1.2 billion in generic naloxone over a 10-year period or $240 million in cash. The final settlement depends on complying with critical business practice changes and transparency requirements, according to the department’s statement.
The agreement would also provide $100 million for Native American tribes over 13 years, according to a Teva statement on its second quarter financial results.
The company expects the agreement to be finalized in the coming weeks, with a nationwide settlement sign-on process to follow.
“While the agreement will include no admission of wrongdoing, it remains in our best interest to put these cases behind us and continue to focus on the patients we serve every day,” the company said.
Gov. Evers, DHS Announce $2.5 Million in Telehealth Grants for Behavioral Health Providers Neighborhood access stations to help remove barriers to care
Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) today awarded more than $2.5 million to 27 providers for community behavioral health services that will provide access to mental health and substance use treatment and recovery supports through telehealth. Grantees will use this one-time funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to expand access to these important services by removing location and technology barriers to care. Private behavioral health telehealth stations with the tools needed for virtual appointments will be set up in central locations for people who may be struggling to access the services they need. This includes community centers, food pantries, homeless shelters, libraries, long-term care facilities, and schools.
"Every Wisconsinite should have access to quality, affordable health care they need when they need it, and that includes behavioral and mental health services,” said Gov. Evers. “These grants will help ensure more folks can meet with a provider no matter where they live, closing gaps in services and building a behavioral health system that works for everyone at a time when treatment and recovery supports for mental health and substance use are more important than ever.”
It is accepted that medications for opioid use disorder save lives.
In the midst of the ongoing opioid epidemic, exacerbated by the pandemic and inflation, many people are feeling economically pinched. Some people with opioid and other substance use disorders are struggling to maintain housing.
When people find recovery-oriented housing, they are excited because they feel they will get the support they need.
But it is very challenging when they then sometimes find that they are not allowed to stay at the supportive living environment if they are taking medications for their medical illness.
The idea of taking medications for substance use disorders being equivalent to not being in recovery is flawed. If we define recovery as taking medications as prescribed, we can shift the discussion to providing an environment that will set a person up for success that is more inclusive and supportive of the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all for recovery. The Department of Health Services has recently taken steps to encourage recovery housing to allow medications for substance use disorders on site.
Is the recovery community ready to support people who are taking medications?
Dr. Ritu Bhatnagar, president, Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine
Read original post here.
Wisconsin Medical Society
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (Lifeline), a free, confidential behavioral health and support line is now available. Anyone can utilize the Lifeline at any time by calling 988 (multiple languages available), texting a message to 988 (English only), or using the chat feature at 988lifeline.org (English only). People can connect with a trained crisis counselor to get help for themselves or a loved one experiencing a crisis, such as is thoughts of suicide, a mental health concern, substance use issue or any kind of emotional distress.
Additional details about the Lifeline:
Jerry Halverson, MD, DFAPA, WisMed Board Chair and Rogers Behavioral Health Chief Medical Officer, told Fox6, "The purpose of 988 is to help you get over that crisis point, and get you someone that can help you more definitively. This is going to open up access to a lot of people who wouldn’t have taken advantage in the past. It can be a game-changer."
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a network of more than 200 support centers around the country. Contacts not answered by in-state partners roll over to a national backup system. The Wisconsin Lifeline has helped ensure that as many contacts as possible are answered by Wisconsin-based counselors who have the best understanding of local communities, cultures and resources.
Learn more about Lifeline here.
Fueled by a continued surge in fentanyl use, opioid-related deaths set another record in Wisconsin last year, Paul Krupski, director of opioid initiatives for the Department of Health Services said Tuesday, previewing data the department plans to release this fall.
Nearly three-fourths of the deaths were linked to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, according to Krupski.
“It’s clearly the driver of what we are seeing,” he said at a panel hosted by Wisconsin Health News.
Krupski’s announcement mirrors national trends.
A record-breaking 107,622 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, a nearly 15 percent increase from the prior year, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the reported deaths, two-thirds involved fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, up 23 percent from 2020.
“Fentanyl is so cheap, and it’s so easily accessible and readily available,” said Rep. Jesse James, R-Altoona, chair of the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention.
James, who spearheaded a new law decriminalizing fentanyl testing strips, called for strengthening Good Samaritan laws.
“Stop having our citizens that are using become criminals because they have to become criminals before they get the services offered to them,” he said. “There’s a problem there. We need to really look at that.”
With the first payment of a more than $400 million opioid settlement set to hit the state by this fall, counties, which are receiving 70 percent of the funds, have an eye toward education.
“Part of what will happen at the local level is we will partner with our educational facilities to try to increase awareness and education so that we don’t have the problem and play catch up when someone needs Narcan, or when we are arranging a funeral,” Wisconsin Counties Association CEO Mark O'Connell said. “We got to do it earlier.”
Dr. Ritu Bhatnagar, president of the Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine, said more needs to be done to address the systemic issues that are leading to a growing number of Wisconsinites abusing substances. She called for policies aimed at the social determinants of health to make recoveries more sustainable.
“The education part is important,” she said. “But when the children go home, they are going back sometimes to very dysfunctional areas.”
The recent passage of Senate Bill 600 to decriminalize fentanyl test strips is to be commended.
The only way people with substance use disorders can get to treatment is if they are alive. Fentanyl test strips work much like a home pregnancy test or rapid COVID tests. These low-cost strips provide a person deciding to use a substance immediate information about whether or not fentanyl is present. Providing fentanyl test strips to people who are at risk of overdose allows them to make informed choices about their use of any substance. With the prevalence of fentanyl in many substances (opioids, methamphetamine, “fake Adderall” and even cannabis), a single pill can kill.
To all the people who are thinking about trying something “just to feel better for a moment,” please remember that a single pill can kill.
Wisconsin is wise to pave the way to provide resources to help people be safe. Now we need a concerted effort to get fentanyl test strips to first responders and emergency departments.
Pictured below is Dr. Ritu Bhatnagar, current WISAM President, attending and speaking at the Wisconsin Recovery Alignment Day on Tuesday, May 3 at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Recovery advocates and allies from across the state joined for the second annual day. The day included recovery and legislative speakers, meetings with the state representatives and senators, and opportunities to connect with recovery advocates. Special guest was Ryan Hampton.
Back in January 2022, WISAM leaders created the attached letter which was sent to all Wisconsin Sheriffs. You can preview the letter below and access the full copy for use as needed to advocate in your own communities.
As advocates for the well-being, health and survival of our patients, the Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine urges County Jails, the DOC and DHS to take concrete and expedited steps to ensure that individuals incarcerated in our state’s jails and prisons have access to the standard of medical care for opioid use disorder (OUD). This means identifying both individuals currently receiving medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) including buprenorphine, methadone, and extended release naltrexone, and individuals who would benefit from MOUD. Steps are needed to ensure that these individuals continue to receive MOUD while incarcerated. Buprenorphine and methadone, in particular, have been associated with reductions in mortality.
Access MOUD in Jails Letter Here
As the State Administering Agency for federal justice grant funds, the Wisconsin Department of Justice develops statewide strategies, determines funding priorities, and advises the Governor and legislature on justice policy issues.
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