MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said it wants immediate investment in opioid prevention and treatment services.
A total of $31 million has been awarded to Wisconsin as part of a settlement with drugmakers for their role in the current opioid crisis. However, a penny cannot be spent until lawmakers give their approval.
Wisconsin DHS received its first payment of $6 million in late July, with the rest of the funds expected by the end of the year.
“We just need the permission of the legislature to be able to move those dollars into Wisconsin communities,” Wisconsin DHS Secretary-designate Karen Timberlake told reporters Monday at a press conference in Green Bay. .
Last week, the Republican-controlled budget committee opposed the state health department’s plan to spend its share of a multistate settlement.
Timberlake, who was joined by Attorney General Josh Kaul, explained how the money would be spent and why there is no time to wait.
“We would spend an additional $2 million to expand the availability of free fentanyl test strips,” Timberlake said. “We know fentanyl is a huge contributor to the growing number of overdoses and deaths we are seeing. There is now a solution to this, which is to make fentanyl test strips more available. We are ready to distribute these tapes statewide.
The proposal also called for expanding the state’s direct Narcan program. Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is an opioid overdose reversal medication. The proposal also highlighted the need to invest in treatment facilities and help tribal nations.
“These are the strategies that over 900 people told us, in a series of listening sessions we did in January of this year, were the right investments to make,” Timberlake said.
Joint Finance Committee co-chairs State Sen. Howard Marklein and State Rep. Mark Born said they wanted to “improve the plan quickly,” but didn’t offer many specifics beyond ensuring legislators invest in impactful programs. without duplicating their efforts.
“The Joint Finance Committee has a responsibility to ensure that these funds are used in a way that has the greatest impact for the people of Wisconsin, not just rubber-stamp any incomplete plan given to us by Attorney General Kaul and Governor Evers’ administration,” the co-chairs said. in a report. “We are working diligently with colleagues and stakeholders to fill gaps in the plan and accommodate programs that were not included in the original plan. We are working quickly to reach consensus on a plan and ensure that this money goes to programs that will have meaningful results for people with opioid use disorders and their families.
As for when the committee plans to move, there is still no timeline for when a plan to spend the funds could be approved by lawmakers.