We know multiple stressors during the last 18 months—isolation, sickness, grief, job loss, food instability, and loss of routines—have devastated many Wisconsinites, creating behavioral health challenges across the state. Addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other events on mental health and substance use is our top priority.
Through American Rescue Plan Act funds, we have access to approximately $47 million in funding to increase community-level supports for people who have been grappling with mental health and substance use challenges.
We have submitted plans to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration covering how Wisconsin would use these funds. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will review and decide if the initiatives described below are approved.
The plans were developed in collaboration with key stakeholders in Wisconsin's mental health and substance use services system, including tribal and county health and human services staff, service providers, advocates for people with mental health and substance use challenges, and people in need of help.
Mental health services
We have received $24.6 million in supplemental Community Mental Health Services Block Grant funds under the American Rescue Plan Act. This funding enables us to support comprehensive community mental health services and address needs and gaps in existing treatment services for those with severe mental health conditions. The funding will support the following initiatives.
Strengthening the crisis services system: $16.6 million
Improving access to local and regionally based crisis services makes it possible for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis to receive the care they need, avoid unnecessary institutional stays, and minimize burdens on law enforcement. The plan we submitted builds on our previous work to fund such things as regional stabilization models, improve real-time coordination of linked and flexible services tailored to the individual crisis response, develop a shared regional dispatch for mobile crisis teams, and provide additional support for county crisis programs. This funding will also support next year's rollout of 988, the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number for people experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
Responding to early serious mental illness and first episode psychosis: $2.5 million
People who experience a first onset of serious mental illness, which can include a first episode of psychosis, may experience symptoms that include problems in perception (such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling something that is not real), thinking (such as believing in something that is not real even when presented with facts), mood, and social functioning. There are effective treatments available and the earlier that an individual receives treatment, the greater likelihood that these treatments can lead to better outcomes and enable people to live full and productive lives with their family and friends. The plan we submitted expands access to training for clinical staff in responding to first episode psychosis to give clinical staff the information they need to help their clients thrive. It also expands the number of coordinated specialty care sites for early intervention for individuals experiencing a first episode of psychosis.
Expanding community-based care: $5.5 million
Community-based services are at the heart of Wisconsin's mental health services system. The plan we submitted builds on our previous work to make community-based services more available to all state residents by continuing support for wraparound as an evidence-based practice to support youth with severe emotional disturbance, expanding access to recovery support and peer support services, and developing a warmline or a hotline that offers emotional support and is staffed by volunteers who are in recovery themselves.
Substance use services
We have received $22 million in supplemental Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funds under the American Rescue Plan Act. This funding enables us to support comprehensive community substance use services and address needs and gaps in existing services for people experiencing substance use challenges. The funding will support the following initiatives.
County and tribal system support: $4.55 million
County and tribal health and human services agencies are responsible for delivering services and providing for the well-being, treatment, and care of individuals living with substance use concerns. This often is done in partnership with community-based agencies and organizations. The plan we submitted gives these agencies funding they can use to address the unique substance use issues facing their communities.
Prevention activities: $3.5 million
Substance use prevention activities focus on changing the way people think, feel, and act with regard to alcohol and other drugs. The goal is to build healthy communities by reducing harmful substance use or substance use that affects a person's overall well-being. The plan we submitted provides additional resources to regional substance use prevention centers, which will work with community substance use prevention coalitions on strategies to address local needs. This funding will also support substance use prevention programs for youth, including those that target tobacco use, and prevention activities related to opioids for communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic.
Harm reduction: $2.5 million
Harm reduction refers to efforts that reduce the negative consequences of harmful substance use. Our plan would expand evidence-based harm reduction strategies focused on communities most vulnerable to an opioid overdose. To save lives, the plan we submitted would expand access to NARCAN®, the opioid overdose reversal drug. This would be done through leave behind programs in which EMS providers and law enforcement officers offer a free NARCAN® kit at the response scene to a person who was revived from an opioid overdose, NaloxBoxes or boxes filled with NARCAN® in public locations, a program that would distribute NARCAN® to Wisconsin residents leaving jails and prisons.
Crisis services: $2 million
Improving access to crisis services makes it possible for individuals experiencing a substance use crisis to receive the care they need, avoid unnecessary institutional stays, and minimize burdens on law enforcement. The plan we submitted would expand and enhance substance use crisis response services in part by providing professionals working in this area more training on the best practices for working with people experiencing a substance use crisis.
Medication-assisted treatment telehealth expansion: $1 million
Medication-assisted treatment is considered to be the most effective treatment approach for opioid use disorder. Right now, many people in Wisconsin have to travel great distances to access a provider offering medication-assisted treatment. Providing medication-assisted treatment through telehealth reduces this disparity and allows more state residents to access this service. The plan we submitted supports the development of infrastructure to provide medication-assisted treatment through telehealth to anyone in the state who needs it if it is not available locally.
Women treatment services: $2 million
Women seeking substance use disorder treatment face unique barriers and issues compared to men. The plan we submitted expands both care coordination and opportunities for women to access residential treatment programs.
Recovery and peer support expansion: $4 million
When facing a substance use challenge, a person can feel alone or afraid to ask for help. That’s why having a good support network is incredibly important. For many people, peer specialists are key part of their support network. A peer specialist is a person who uses their personal lived experience to provide support to others and demonstrate that recovery is possible. Some people lean on recovery coaches as part of their support network. A recovery coach is trained to help people achieve their goals related to substance use recovery. The plan we submitted supports an expansion of peer specialists and recovery coaches across Wisconsin. This funding would also support Wisconsin's peer-run respite centers in their support of people with substance use issues.
Data dashboards and state administrative costs: $2.4 million
The plan we submitted would improve and enhance state data systems to monitor opioid program outcomes, as well as fund state level costs for administering these supplemental funds.