The rate of opioid overdose deaths in Wisconsin has risen approximately 81 percent from 2006 through 2015, according to a new Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) report, titled “Select Opioid-Related Morbidity and Mortality Data for Wisconsin.” In response, the Wisconsin DHS has submitted an application for up to $15.7 million in federal funding to boost the state’s response to the growing misuse and abuse of opioids from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The amount of the grant is based on the unmet need for opioid-related treatment and the number of opioid-related deaths in the state. Wisconsin is eligible to receive up to $7,636,938 each year for the next two years under the 21st Century Cures Act.
The DHS report provides statewide and county-level data on opioid-related deaths and hospital visits, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) (in which an infant is born with withdrawal symptoms from substances taken by the mother), and data on ambulance runs in which naloxone (a medication used to reverse opioid overdose) was administered. The report includes these data highlights:
- The rate of opioid overdose deaths increased from 5.9 deaths/100,000 residents in 2006 to 10.7 deaths/100,000 in 2015.
- Rates of drug overdose deaths involving opioids were higher among counties in the southeastern region of the state (Milwaukee area), and higher among men compared with women.
- Drug overdose deaths involving opioids were highest among young men aged 25-34, and among women aged 35-54.
- Hospital visits involving opioid acute poisoning (including overdose) increased from 25.3 to 52.0 per 100,000 between 2006 and 2014.
- The rate of ambulance runs in which naloxone was administered rose from 51.2 to 67 per 100,000 from 2011 to 2015.
- The rate of NAS increased from 2.0 to 8.7 per 1,000 live births from 2006 to 2014, a rate increase of 335 percent.
In 2016, DHS issued a Public Health Advisory due to the opioid epidemic. In 2017, Governor Scott Walker called for a special session of the legislature to consider recommendations presented by the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse. New legislative proposals will build on efforts already underway under the HOPE (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) agenda, which includes 17 bills aimed at prevention and treatment of opioid addiction and overdose.
Pending approval from SAMHSA, the funds will be used to:
- Support community coalitions focused on reducing the nonmedical use of opioids among people age 12 to 25.
- Establish a hotline to provide information on treatment services and recovery supports.
- Expand access to treatment for uninsured and underinsured individuals.
- Establish new opioid-specific treatment programs to reduce the distance people have to travel for these services.
- Establish a network of individuals in long-term recovery from the misuse and abuse of opioids trained to coach people through the treatment and recovery process.
- Develop training for professionals on proven intervention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and abuse.