County Executive & Mayor Outline Action Plan to Address Heroin & Prescription Drug Overdose Increase

October 19, 2011
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858 or Katie Crawley, Office of Mayor Paul Soglin (608)-266-4611
County Executive

  Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin announced a detailed plan today to address the rising number of heroin and prescription drug overdoses in the county. The action plan outlines next steps for their joint opiates initiative announced earlier this month.


“Both the county and the city faced difficult budgets, but the Mayor and I agreed that a joint investment needed to be made to reverse the deadly and troubling trend of heroin and opiates overdoses in Dane County,” said Parisi.  “Every day we read about another case of tragedy or a close call.  This menace can occur anywhere at any time, and we must begin addressing it immediately.”


“ The abuse of heroin and other drugs in the area is not only driving up law enforcement time and resources but also health care and social services efforts. The most effective way to fight this epidemic is through partnerships and pooling of resources,” said Soglin. “ I am confident that with the resources devoted to this issue we are taking the appropriate steps to reduce the tragic effects we’ve seen.”

In the weeks and months ahead, a number of work groups consisting of local elected officials, law enforcement, health care providers, and alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) prevention community members will meet to work on several key areas outlined in the initiative:


  • Reducing access to drugs through drug enforcement, reduced misuse of prescription drugs, improved disposal of household pharmaceuticals, and community education campaigns.


  • Reducing inappropriate prescription drug usethat can often lead to an escalated addiction to opiates and heroin by partnering with the health care community.


  • Improving poisoning intervention to reduce overdose deaths.


  • Early intervention, drug treatment, and recovery efforts through family and community assisted intervention efforts, detox and recovery programs, and alternatives to incarceration.


  • Integration of mental health care  to address some of the root causes of addiction.


  • Substance abuse prevention  through school based programs, drug free coalitions and other community partners.


After the first of the year, workgroup members will reconvene at a community summit to discuss steps needed to implement their plan of action.  A report on these activities will be released following the summit.

Parisi and Soglin are proposing in their budgets to invest a total of $78,276 in their opiates initiative through the city-county Public Health Department, and partnering with Safe Communities to implement a plan of action for the effort.  Safe Communities has successfully launched a number of similar community focused initiatives throughout the area, and has been a leader in local efforts to address drug abuse.


“An effort this important requires an extensive community-wide, collaborative approach,” said Cheryl Wittke, Executive Director of Safe Communities.  “I’m proud to be a partner with the city and the county in this initiative, and look forward to working with our partners to come up with solutions.”


Poisoning deaths have reached near historic levels in Dane County, surpassing vehicular crashes as the number one cause of death.  Two-thirds of poisoning deaths are due to drug overdoses.  Officials point to the rising abuse of prescription drugs such as  OxyContin, oxycodone, and Vicodin as gateways to heroin abuse.  Those who abuse painkillers are said to make the switch to heroin because the drug is much cheaper and easier to obtain.


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