DHS Submits Plan to Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance on How to Use $8 Million in Opioid Settlement Funds

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recently submitted its plan to use nearly $8 million in opioid settlement funds to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) to support prevention, harm reduction, and capital projects to address the state’s opioid crisis. The money is part of the $400 million the state receives in annual installments through an agreement with major pharmaceutical firms. $130 million of the total amount goes to the state, while the remainder is provided to counties and municipalities.

2021 Wis. Act 57 requires DHS to submit a plan for the anticipated settlement funds to the JFC every year. While the plan submitted in 2022 was created through information gathered at listening sessions across the state, this year DHS conducted a survey to gauge priorities for this plan and over 4,100 people responded.

“As with last year’s proposal, this plan prioritizes what people with lived experiences, their families and friends, and our partners told us is needed to address the state’s opioid crisis,” said Paul Krupski, DHS director of opioid initiatives. “People who responded to our survey ranked the programs and services they see as priorities, and we’re eager to have the committee’s approval of them.”

Priorities include:

  • Increasing the availability of Narcan® and fentanyl test strips statewide via existing DHS programs ($4 million).
    • $1.5 million to maintain the availability of Narcan® statewide via the DHS Narcan® Direct Program through community provider agencies.
    • $500,000 to maintain a statewide distribution of fentanyl test strips via the DHS fentanyl test strip direct program through community providers.
    • $1 million to sustain the EMS Leave Behind Program providing EMS agencies with Narcan® and fentanyl test strips.
    • $750,000 to sustain the DHS Law Enforcement Narcan® Direct Program
    • $250,000 to sustain providing fentanyl test strips to law enforcement agencies participating in the DHS Law Enforcement Narcan® Direct program.
  • One-time capital projects ($3 million)
    • Capital projects to expand prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and/or recovery services statewide.
  • Prevention ($1 million)
    • Implementation of K-12 evidence-based substance use prevention programming. 

In 2022, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) announced final approval of an agreement with the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors (Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen) and Johnson & Johnson. Payments from the distributors will continue for 18 years. Payments from Johnson & Johnson will continue for nine years.

This year, Wisconsin will receive two payments from these settlements. The first payment of $617,290 from Johnson and Johnson is expected to arrive in mid-June. The second payment of $7,371,693 from the distributors is expected on July 30. 

In fiscal year 2023, DHS received three settlement payments totaling just over $30 million, and under the plan approved by JFC in 2022, nearly $13 million has gone toward expanding the Narcan® Direct Program; capital projects to expand prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services; and room and board costs for residential treatment for Medicaid members. The remaining funds will go to programs and projects awaiting approval of applications, including funds to tribal nations, medication assisted treatment, and for after-school programming. Details about these projects will be released soon.

The opioid settlement funds supplement the ongoing efforts by the state to address the opioid epidemic in Wisconsin. Through the Dose of Reality campaign, a joint effort of DHS and DOJ, Wisconsinites can find resources for themselves and loved ones about preventing harm using overdose reversal medications, like Narcan® and fentanyl test strips, treatment and recovery options, and information about talking to family and friends about opioid use. Resources for health care providers is also available.

While data for 2022 has yet to be finalized, 2021 data show there were 1,427 opioid overdose deaths in Wisconsin, and 3,133 emergency room visits, as a result of opioid use. An increase in overdose deaths can be traced in large part to the addition of fentanyl, a powerful, synthetic drug, in substances like opioids.

If you or someone you love needs help for an opioid use disorder or other substance use concern, contact the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline. Call 211 or 877-947-2211.