(WEST BEND, WI) – County Executive Josh Schoemann and Sheriff Martin Schulteis joined Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson today to address the surging fentanyl crisis in our community.

Our country is in the midst of a drug epidemic fueled by fentanyl, a deadly substance which is now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45. It affects all genders and races in both rural and urban areas. From 2018-2020, the latest data available, the count of opioid-related deaths in Washington County was 16 in 2015 and rose to 25 in 2020.

This year to date, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office, that number has already reached 23. Sheriff Martin Schulteis said, “87% of all our fatal overdose deaths this year involve fentanyl. This is a staggering statistic our county can’t ignore.”

“We need to devote resources to educate and protect the public,” said Josh Schoemann. “Our proposed Washington County Anti-Crime Plan referendum will put deputies in schools, add detectives to the Drug Task Force, and partner social worker-deputy teams to co-respond to mental health and substance use related calls. This plan gives the residents of Washington County the option to choose a proactive approach to combat the fentanyl crisis we are facing.”

In addition, the Washington County Health and Human Services Department (HHS) provides other programs and services to connect residents with substance use resources they need. Last month, the county launched a local campaign, Change the Ending (ChangeTheEnd.com) to direct those struggling with mental health and substance use to resources available via a simple online series of questions.

Finding proactive approaches to help people access services and potentially avoid involvement in the criminal justice system can help in their recovery.

Other programs overseen by HHS to address the fentanyl crisis are:

  • Washington County HHS has funded a Peer Support Specialist in its Outpatient Clinic in partnership with Sirona Recovery as well as hired an additional full-time Substance Use Disorder Case Manager.
  • Washington County HHS and the Washington County Sheriff have partnered since 2018 on providing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to inmates prior to release from jail to reduce overdoes fatalities and support recovery
  • Washington County HHS operates a Medication Assisted Treatment Clinic in its Outpatient Clinical Services Program focused on servicing uninsured and underinsured individuals. In 2020, a provider was brought on that can administer Suboxone and Sublocade
  • In 2022, the Washington County Heroin Taskforce transitioned into the Substance Abuse Coalition so their work can have a broader impact on substance use disorder and the prevalence of fentanyl in many drugs
  • Washington County HHS has increased its funding for treatment services for the uninsured and underinsured by nearly $500,000 per year
  • Since 2017, the Washington Ozaukee Health Department and Elevate Inc. have developed a robust Naloxone program where they have distributed 432 boxes of Narcan and trained 426 community members on administration
  • The Washington/Waukesha County Substance Use Prevention Initiative works to prevent and reduce the incidence of youth alcohol and drug use, with a focus on the misuse of opioids and/or heroin
  • Washington County and its community partners have developed a comprehensive criminal justice partnership to implement diversion programming and Drug Treatment Court to support individuals’ ability to access treatment and recovery
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