Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced today that it has received the first payment of more than $6 million from the National Prescription Opiate Litigation (NPOL) settlement funds. Last Thursday, in anticipation of receiving the NPOL funds and in compliance with state law, DHS submitted an updated proposal to the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance for how to use and invest the nearly $31 million Wisconsin was awarded from the NPOL for calendar year 2022. The NPOL funds are part of a nationwide agreement that was made with three major pharmaceutical distributors and Johnson and Johnson, to prevent, treat, and support recovery from opioid use disorder.
“The settlement funds will go a long way toward enhancing our efforts to help people with opioid use disorder and prevent future misuse, overdoses, and deaths,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “We have been committed to continuous collaboration as we have planned for these funds to arrive. Our proposed investments have been informed by recommendations from the public, advocates, providers, first responders, and other partners, to avoid a ‘one-size fits all approach’ to addressing the state’s opioid epidemic”
DHS proposes to invest settlement funds in a variety of strategies, including:
- Making immediate investments in harm reduction.
- Investing in harm reduction by increasing the availability of NARCAN® and fentanyl test strips around the state.
- Making investments in new and updated treatment facilities.
- Funding for tribal nations to address the dramatic increase in opioid overdose deaths.
- Enhancing data collection and surveillance.
- Funding for family support centers to provide information, education, and healthy coping skills, while building resiliency, for family and friends of a person with substance use disorder.
These different strategies will be carried out in phases that will correspond to the specific payments Wisconsin will receive this year, with the entire amount for each payment allocated in the plan.
"By holding accountable those who contributed to and profited off the opioid epidemic, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, states across the country, and county and local governments have secured substantial recoveries to help fight the epidemic,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul. “This payment and those that will follow must be put to use promptly so these funds can begin addressing the impacts of this devastating epidemic as soon as possible.”
On February 25, 2022, the Wisconsin Department of Justice announced final approval of the opioid agreement with three major pharmaceutical distributors, Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen and Johnson and Johnson. Payments from the distributors will continue for 18 years, while payments from Johnson and Johnson will continue for nine years.
DHS is required under 2021 Wisconsin Act 57 to submit a proposal for expenditure of the settlement funds to the Joint Committee on Finance under the committee’s 14-day passive review process. On April 21, 2022, the Joint Committee on Finance requested that DHS revise its initial proposal to reflect how the payments would be received. Act 57 also requires that DHS receives 30 percent of the total allotment of NPOL funds while counties and municipalities that participated in the litigation receive the remaining 70 percent.
On July 12, 2022, the state was notified that Wisconsin will receive payments from these settlements in calendar year 2022. The initial payment of $6 million was received today. It is expected the remaining $25 million will be paid later this calendar year.
In anticipation of receiving opioid settlement funds, DHS held 12 regional listening sessions in early 2022. Nearly 600 people living with an opioid use disorder, their families and friends, and providers of opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery support services participated in these virtual events. Nearly 900 comments were submitted through an online survey.
Earlier this year, DHS partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Justice to unveil an updated Dose of Reality information and education campaign to change the conversation around the state’s opioid epidemic by providing the tools to prevent or reduce the risk of opioid misuse through open and honest discussions about the dangers of opioids and ways to save lives. This updated campaign includes information on illegally made fentanyl, which has been involved in most Wisconsin opioid deaths in recent years.
Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic began in the late 1990s and has been evolving since, with an almost 900% increase in opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2018. Opioid overdose deaths decreased by 10% in 2018, but increased significantly in 2020 to a record high of 1,227. The COVID-19 pandemic, a rapid increase in the amount of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and rise in the use of many drugs at one time are believed to be responsible for the increase in overdose deaths.