Department of Health Services (DHS) Issues Public Health Advisory on Opioid Crisis

02Oct16

On September 27, 2016, Governor Scott Walker released the launch of a task force to address the use and abuse of heroin and prescription opioids. As stated in the public health advisory letter, “This health advisory is being issued by the State Health Officer to inform the public of the alarming statistics of the current opioid epidemic in Wisconsin.”

To read the advisory…https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/092716.htm

Here are the heartbreaking statistics…

The number of Wisconsin citizens who die as a result of drug overdose now exceeds the number of those who die from motor vehicle crashes, as well as suicide, breast cancer, colon cancer, firearms, influenza, or HIV. Opioid-related overdose deaths more than tripled in Wisconsin from 194 deaths in 2003 to 622 deaths in 2014. They are now a leading cause of injury deaths in Wisconsin. Prescription opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone contributed to about 45% of the total number of drug overdose deaths, and heroin contributes to about 27%.

Here are the things the letter says Wisconsin is trying to do, https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/092716.htm:

Improve the way opioids are prescribed; promote the use of the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), I explained this program in depth in my blog in April of this year (http://blog.unlikelyaddict.com/?p=113); expand access and use of naloxone, or Narcan, an opiate reversal medication; expand access to evidence-based substance abuse treatment; continue to enhance collaboration with others (states, local agencies, healthcare providers) to collaborate on ways to reduce opioid abuse.

They call it an escalating epidemic, which, of course, it is. So how are they going to accomplish the above objectives? Well, they have a 5-year plan, detailed here…https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/hw2020/wi-hipp.htm, working through the Wisconsin Health Improvement Planning Process (WI-HIPP).

They are asking for people to get involved, if you are interested in doing so, you can email them at this address…

DHSHW2020@dhs.wisconsin.gov. I emailed them today to offer my assistance in whatever capacity they feel may be useful. As a nurse in recovery, as a citizen of Wisconsin, as an opiate addict in active recovery (meaning I work a 12 step program), I think I have something to offer.

Part of this plan, that has already been put into action is to make naloxone available without a prescription. This drug reverses the effects of opiates so that if a person overdoses and is given naloxone, they have a very good chance of surviving. This is a huge step that will save lives.

I am encouraged to know that the state recognizes the depth of the opioid problem, but I am concerned that real progress will be slowed by the political process. There are many departments included in this task force, sometimes the more people involved, the slower the progress. But, for now, I am grateful to know that those with the ability to effect change understand the crisis and are willing to take steps to try and improve the situation. To help ease the epidemic that is devastating so many individuals and families.

To read Governor Scott Walkers Executive Order #214, click here: https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/WIGOV/2016/09/22/file_attachments/625561/EO%2B%2523214%2B-%2BOpioid%2BAbuse%2BTask%2BForce.pdf

About the Author

Kristin Waite-Labott is a registered nurse and recovering addict who has firsthand experience with the challenges of addiction. She now works as the Head Nurse Coach at Veritus, a virtual treatment program for nurses with substance use and mental health disorders, and is dedicated to helping nurses overcome addiction and making a difference in the lives of others. Kristin is passionate about addressing the growing problem of addiction among healthcare professionals and encourages open discussions and action to prevent it from spreading further.

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