DHS receives $6 million in 1st payment from opioid manufacturers

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 10:48 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The state of Wisconsin is receiving millions of dollars in a settlement tied to the opioid epidemic and the role big pharmaceutical companies played in it.

These funds will be used for treatment to help those struggling with addiction as state leaders say the crisis has worsened largely fueled by fentanyl.

On Monday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced it received $6 million as part of a $31 million payment, its first of three such payments.

“The number one goal right now is that we need to save lives, we cannot get people into treatment,” DHS Director of Opioid Initiatives Paul Krupski said. “We cannot get people the help they need if they are not alive.”

DHS is getting only 30 percent of a more than a $100 million settlement reached earlier this year with several pharmaceutical companies. The other 70 percent is going to counties and municipalities in Wisconsin.

Health officials are already prioritizing the funds.

“Increasing our reach for naloxone, primarily Narcan which is the nasal version,” Krupski said during a media conference. “As well as fentanyl test strips, because fentanyl is the driving factor in the overdose deaths that we’re seeing.”

Krupski says DHS can’t use the money yet until the legislature approves the agency’s proposal, which is broken into three phases.

The Jackie Nitschke Center in Green Bay sees clients dealing with the effects of opioid addiction.

“We get a lot of calls from family members. Many people, especially family members, who are scared to death of their loved ones who are using and not necessarily ready for help,” Clinical Supervisor Tina Marie Baeten said. “We also get people who are ready for treatment.”

Baeten says she would like to see the settlement funds go towards room and board for those seeking recovery.

“Some people are just above the mark what would be considered income levels, that they’re just above but can’t really afford treatment,” Baeten said.

In the spring, Action 2 News interviewed Diane Payne who lost her 18-year-old daughter to a fentanyl overdose in Green Bay.

“Just the amount of fentanyl that is out in the streets, it blows my mind,” Payne previously said.

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She told Action 2 News on Tuesday she’d like some of the funds going to local recovery centers that provide housing for people.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul says there’s no simple solution to stopping the drugs coming from across our border, yet his office is working at targeting large scale traffickers.

“The more we can break up those networks and slow the supply of drugs the safer our communities. But at the same time, we’ve got to make sure that people are not becoming addicted to opioids, so they’re not using fentanyl,” Kaul said.

Last week, Kaul announced settlements with two other opioid companies totaling more than $6 billion. That money will be divided among states and municipalities, but the agreement has yet to be finalized.

The state health department received the first payment from the agreement with three major pharmaceutical distributors and Johson & Johnson.

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