Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Milwaukee Gets $18 Million Opioid Settlement

But overdoses, deaths and need for treatment continue to increase.

By - Aug 16th, 2022 12:22 pm

Pills by Tom Varco (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Pills by Tom Varco (Own work) (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

While the opioid epidemic continues to ravage Milwaukee and other cities, the city and other government agencies will soon receive payouts from a $26 billion national settlement.

The City of Milwaukee will receive an initial payment of $2 million and $18 million over the life of the settlement.

“These dollars will all be used towards harm-reduction strategies,” said Alderman Michael Murphy last Friday during a special Common Council meeting. The council approved that strategy in March and was making the procedural move of formally accepting the money.

The city’s $18 million comes as part of approximately $400 million Wisconsin will receive, of which about $100 million will be distributed to the Milwaukee area.

Murphy said a formal proposal on exactly what the city will spend its initial funding on will come in September.

The alderman, as chair of the City-County Heroin, Opioid, and Cocaine Task Force, has watched as the crisis has mushroomed in Milwaukee and elsewhere in the nation. He said the latest growth area in opioid abuse is in Milwaukee’s African American community, joining the already plagued South Side.

The opioid problem is being exacerbated by fentanyl, which can be laced into a number of other drugs with deadly results.

A state dashboard shows opioid deaths in Milwaukee have climbed steadily from 212 in 2014 to 424 in 2020. Milwaukee County reported a record 643 drug overdose deaths in 2021.

The state in aggregate will receive $50 million in 2022 from the settlement this year, but Attorney General Josh Kaul said in March that this amount is less than the state already spends on the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion program.

One of the primary beneficiaries locally could be the Milwaukee Overdose Response Initiative (MORI). It was launched in 2019 as a partnership of the Milwaukee Fire Department, Milwaukee Health Department, Medical College of Wisconsin and other community organizations. It is based out of a fire station on S. 8th St. in the Lincoln Village neighborhood.

MORI attempts to help people who have experienced a non-fatal overdose or are close to someone who overdoses. The program’s funding supports MFD and peer support counselors from community partners making follow-up visits. It also pays for things like free rides from transportation network company Lyft to treatment facilities.

In 2019, Murphy said the city’s earlier follow-up efforts amounted to handing an individual a postcard-sized note with a phone number on it as they left the ambulance. Now care services are coordinated in partnerships with groups like Community Medical Services, WisHope and CleanSlate Milwaukee and follow-up visits are made.

Funding for the settlement comes from four companies: Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. Additional settlements are expected to be forthcoming from other companies including opioid maker Purdue Pharma.

Categories: City Hall, Health, Weekly

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