Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division
Press Release

Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division Receives $1.2 Million Grant from Bureau of Justice Assistance to Reduce Offender Opioid Overdose Deaths

Funding to enhance overdose treatment and recovery programming

By - Mar 3rd, 2020 11:15 am

MILWAUKEE – (March 3, 2020) – Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division (BHD) today announced a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) over three years to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to reduce the risk of overdose deaths and enhance treatment services for eligible individuals in custody at the Milwaukee County House of Correction (HOC). To be eligible for treatment, a person must be within 30-90 days of release and medically determined to have an opiate addiction.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure that we are tackling the opioid crisis head-on and taking a more proactive role in helping our residents get the treatment they need,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. “We are taking bold steps to achieve our vision that by achieving racial equity, Milwaukee is the healthiest county in Wisconsin. This grant will help us take a practiced and proven approach when it comes to ensuring every resident in every community across Milwaukee County has what they need to thrive.”

The BJA grant funding will allow BHD and its partner agencies to develop person-centric care plans that address a whole person’s needs with packaged services of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), recovery housing, individual counseling, a certified peer specialist, outpatient services, intensive outpatient services, and recovery support coordination. To offer these comprehensive services, BHD will use its Community Access to Recovery Services (CARS) program network with more than 58 local agencies, providing over 40 different services with more than 1,600 different providers.

“Enhancing services for individuals who are incarcerated is an important step in Milwaukee County’s efforts to create a full continuum of services that are accessible and address the whole person’s needs,” said Mary Jo Meyers, Milwaukee County Director of Health and Human Services. “The BJA grant funding brings critical community partners together to impact the development and implementation of expanded services and address the racial inequality that exists in our justice system.”

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) data collected between 2013 and 2017 shows a 109.2% increase in opioid overdose hospitalizations after placement on probation and a 160.8% increase in opioid overdose hospitalizations after release from prison. Data further shows deaths from opioid overdoses have increased 126.7% among those in the Wisconsin’s Adult Corrections system. The program enhancements from the BJA grant funding will work to reduce these numbers and create a continuum of care that supports people in need.

“Milwaukee County has the highest rate of opioid deaths and hospital visits due to substance misuse in Wisconsin,” said Mike Lappen, administrator for the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division. “This grant allows us to wrap all the necessary services around individuals during one of the most critical periods of their recovery journey.”

To be eligible, individuals must volunteer for the program; have a medical and substance abuse assessment that indicates opiate addiction; be medically able to participate in MAT; participate in treatment programs to address cognitive-behavioral changes, and be incarcerated and nearing release into community supervision. Participants will receive coordination between in-custody and community-based treatment providers.

“The process of transitioning from jail or prison back into the community can be overwhelming for individuals with opioid use and dependence addiction,” said Jose Hernandez, Assistant Superintendent for Milwaukee County House of Correction. “The BJA grant funding and partnership with BHD will allow us to enhance our programming for those transitioning out of our system and address the substance abuse issues impacting Milwaukee County.”

As the program’s research evaluation partner, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will assist in data collection, solution design and formal evaluation of the program results. Additional project partners include the Wisconsin DOC, WellPath Medical and Behavioral Health Care Providers (in-custody treatment provider), and Community Medical Services (opioid treatment provider).

About the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division

The Behavioral Health Division provides care and treatment to adults, children, and adolescents with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual disabilities through both County-operated programs and contracts with community agencies. Services include intensive short-term treatment through our crisis services and inpatient services, as well as a full array of supportive community services for persons with serious mental illness and substance use disorders.

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