MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley is proposing to deploy $8.5 million in opioid settlement dollars to fund seven projects focused on opioid use disorder (OUD) abatement, prevention, and recovery programs over the next three years. The projects would be administered by the Milwaukee County Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).

“For years, local leaders and organizations across Wisconsin have been on the frontlines of the opioid crisis. The $102 million in opioid settlement funds have the potential to be transformative, helping to save lives from this epidemic and mitigate continued suffering for residents and their loved ones,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “My administration is proposing upstream investments to help address racial and health disparities and ensure residents can access the resources and support they need – because lives depend on it.”

Last year, Milwaukee County successfully recovered $102 million in opioid litigation settlements, representing the largest amount recovered by any local government in the history of Wisconsin. Through utilizing these funds, County Executive Crowley is proposing the following projects to continue combatting the opioid epidemic. 

  • Filling Gaps in Paramedic Coverage: This proposed project will focus on high-vulnerability, low-resourced populations to regionalize and expand the Mobile-Integrated Health (MIH) model to fill gaps in care, address inequities in patient engagement, and consider procedures to address opioid-adjacent issues such as firearm injuries, cardiac arrest, and more.
  • Provide Grief Outreach and Grief-Informed Care: Milwaukee County DHHS Behavioral Health Services (BHS), the Medical Examiner’s Office (MEO), and the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) are collaborating to address overdose-related grief and reduce future overdoses. The proposed project includes providing grief outreach to families, collecting vital data to understand overdose risk factors, expanding collaboration to refer affected families to BHS resources, training frontline service providers, and piloting trauma-informed support for families impacted by overdose loss.
  • Create Overdose Prediction Model: This proposed project seeks to identify individuals at risk for overdose when they present at specific Milwaukee County service lines via a predictive model pilot project to help identify key risk factors for overdose, understand community needs, and create a model for data matching and integration for future Milwaukee County data initiatives.
  • Integrate Pre/Post Incarceration Access to Treatment and Healing: The proposed project targets pre- and post-incarcerated individuals in the criminal justice system using a Mobile-Integrated Health (MIH) model to provide OUD resources. High-risk individuals will be identified and referred by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, the Community Reintegration Center (CRC), and the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. Referrals will be managed by OEM, shared with MCW, and distributed to local fire departments. These fire departments will offer outreach via phone and in-person, including peer support, harm reduction supplies, medication-assisted treatment, outpatient treatment referrals, housing and mental health resources, and other local services.
  • Public Health Campaign on Prevalence of Adulterants and Opioid Overdoses in Black and Brown Communities: This proposed project tackles the issue of adulterants and opioid overdoses in Black and Brown communities by empowering individuals with lived experiences and their families to share insights on drug use trends and effective harm reduction strategies. The collected data will inform a culturally relevant media campaign to produce customized marketing materials to engage these communities and enhance data-driven decision-making.
  • Adding Harm Reduction Beds to the Hillview Building for Those Experiencing Homelessness and Active in an Opioid Addiction Crisis: This proposed project will renovate the third floor of Hillview Hall to add an anticipated number of 20 harm reduction beds for those experiencing homelessness and active opioid addiction. These beds will offer a safe place off the streets, reduce overdoses, and support residents in practicing harm reduction, working toward recovery, and transitioning to permanent supportive housing.This is a one-time investment.
  • Overall Enhancement of the Provider Network and Treatment Services in Milwaukee County for Those Experiencing SUD: This proposed project aims to enhance Milwaukee County’s provider network and treatment services for individuals with SUD, particularly those historically marginalized, regardless of their specific substance use diagnosis or ability to pay. This initiative will strengthen the existing network of 43 community agencies and attract new vendors to address the growing and changing needs due to the opioid epidemic.

“DHHS is expanding partnerships and evidence-based practices by investing in prevention, intervention, harm reduction, and treatment and increasing access to resources for all Milwaukee County residents,” said Shakita LaGrant-McClain, DHHS Executive Director. “Our opioid settlement projects are aimed at addressing crises with the populations we serve, including older adults, people with a disability, individuals struggling with mental health issues, homelessness, and those in our care and custody.” 

“Ensuring equitable access to public safety and health services is crucial as we address the opioid crisis in Milwaukee County,” said Cassandra Libal, Director of the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management. “The proposed projects will not only enhance our emergency response but also provide vital support to our most vulnerable populations, bridging the gaps in care and promoting health equity across our community.”

Milwaukee County gathered input from stakeholders and facilitated a process to make allocation recommendations for deploying opioid settlement funds. The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors will consider approving the projects in the weeks ahead.

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