The state of Wisconsin will join an initiative aimed to prevent opioid overdose-related deaths, Gov. Evers announced on Thursday.
The Bloomberg Opioids Overdose Prevention Initiative was founded by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2018 in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Global Health Advocacy Incubator, Johns Hopkins University, Vital Strategies and the Pew Charitable Trists. First launched in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the initiative initially included a $50 million investment to reverse the trend of increasing deaths related to opioid use in the United States.
It will now launch in five states – New Jersey, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin – with an expanded investment of $120 million. $10 million of the investment will go directly towards Wisconsin’s efforts to prevent opioid overdoses.
Opioid-related deaths have skyrocketed in Wisconsin. In 2000, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recorded 111 deaths attributed to opioid overdoses – this number has increased more than ten-fold as the state recorded 1,226 deaths in 2020.
In 2018, it was estimated that about 78% of deaths related to drugs were caused by an opioid overdose. Wisconsin currently ranks 22nd out of all 50 states, including Washington, D.C., for opioid overdose deaths.
The statewide rate of death caused by opioid overdose is 21.1 deaths per 100,000 people, and is considerably worse in Milwaukee, Dodge, Adams and Kenosha counties. This rate is highest for Black and African American citizens, as well as Native American citizens, with rates almost double that of white citizens.
According to the press release, the Bloomberg investment will be used to “communicate best practices and create models that can be replicated across the country with a focus on medication access, equity and local community engagement,” by using existing statewide efforts, implementing new programs and advocating for new federal policies to prevent overdose deaths in Wisconsin.
“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,” said Gov. Evers in the press release. “It’s more critical than ever that we get folks support and access substance use treatment and mental health services.”