October 17, 2017
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683

Department of Health Services Announces New, Easier Access to Opioid Death and Injury Data

Online tool is part of Governor Scott Walker's fight to end the state's opioid overdose epidemic

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced today that data on opioid death and injury is now available through the Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH) query system. The announcement was made at today’s meeting of the DHS Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Steering Committee which informs Governor Scott Walker’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

“This information can be used by anyone seeking to better understand the scope of Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic and develop strategies for combating opioid misuse and deaths,” said State Health Officer Karen McKeown.

The interactive database includes data from 2000-2016 that were gathered from a variety of sources. The DHS Office of Health Informatics will update the data annually.

Some of the key findings within the data include:

  • Drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin increased 300 percent during a 15-year period; there were 246 deaths in 2000 compared to 1,031 deaths in 2016. The age-adjusted rate during the same period went from 4.6 per 100,000 to 18.5 per 100,000.
  • From 2000 to 2016, over half of the drug overdose deaths involved prescription opioids. The total number of deaths due to prescription opioids increased 600 percent, from 81 cases in 2000 to 568 in 2016. While death from heroin overdose accounted for 36 percent of all drug overdose deaths, heroin overdose deaths increased 12 times, from 28 deaths in 2000 to 371 deaths in 2016.
  • From 2005 to 2016, the total number of opioid-related hospital emergency room visits and hospitalizations nearly tripled, increasing from 9,968 to 27,101. Fifty-six percent of the hospital discharges involved a stay of more than 24 hours (hospitalization). Seventy-seven percent of the hospital discharges were due to substance use disorders.

The tool allows users to get a statewide perspective of the opioid epidemic or select data based on geographic region, county, age, sex, race, and/or ethnicity. A video explaining how to use the system is available on the WISH home page.

Governor Scott Walker created the Task Force on Opioid Abuse in 2016 to address the state’s opioid overdose epidemic. In addition to the creation of the DHS Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Steering Committee, the Governor also directed DHS to issue a Public Health Advisory to increase the awareness of the situation and the efforts in addressing it. A special legislative session was called by the Governor earlier this year to consider recommendations developed by the task force, which is chaired by Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and State Representative John Nygren.