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STATE OF AFFAIRS: Great Lakes Region Zeros In on Opiate Addiction

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Great Lakes Region Zeros In on Opiate Addiction

ONE YEAR LATER: Vertava Health Asks “Where Are They Now?”

An Update on the Progress of the Great Lake States

(July 28, 2016) – Over a year ago, Vertava Health took to the streets to bring you the most up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of our nation’s drug epidemic state by state. We spoke with the nation’s top leaders in addiction, recovery, law enforcement and state government to keep readers informed on each state’s progress in battling an epidemic that is killing over 100 people a day in the United States. This week we checked in with 5 states in the Great Lakes region to give you a progress report on the efforts they were initiating and enforcing when we spoke to them last.


Happening Then Last year we took you to Madison, where the state of Wisconsin was celebrating the collection of 62,618lbs. of prescription drugs, breaking a record for the state’s take-back program. Attorney General Brad Schimel said “Safe disposal of prescription medications, whether on drug take-back day or at a permanent drug disposal drop box, prevents these potentially dangerous drugs from falling into the wrong hands where they may be used”. Wisconsin law enforcement agencies hosted 128 take-back events last year, and provided 256 permanent drug disposal drop boxes. Back in May of 2015, the state collected nearly 40,000lbs., then around 45,000lbs. In October. A new bill was introduced in reducing prescription drug costs in the state, which included prescription pain killers, but was aimed at improving quality of life of those in need of some prescriptions to survive. The number of counties offering Comprehensive Community Services doubled after the state’s investment. DHS Secretary Kitty Rhoades told us “CCS is built around the belief that people can get better, and a comprehensive approach is key”. As of March 31, 3,535 individuals were enrolled in CCS. Still, Wisconsin joined several other states in the Centers for Disease Control ranking of average with 73 prescriptions per 100 people. 170,000 adults in Wisconsin had serious thoughts of suicide last year. Happening Now The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) was recently awarded two national awards for its outreach efforts. Attorney General Brad Schimel’s prescription drug abuse prevention campaign Dose of Reality won a Telly Award for the “Overdose” TV Commercial, and the DOJ’s newly redesigned website was recognized by the Conference of the Western Attorneys General (CWAG). Winning a Bronze Telly Award, the Dose of Reality “Overdose” TV Commercial works to educate Wisconsinites about the dangerous use of prescription painkillers. CWAG awarded DOJ the “Best Redesign” awards, highlighting not only the visual appeal and ease of use, but also noted the website’s “understanding of the constituency they serve and the issues and services of greatest interest and need”. The second in a series of roundtable discussions about opioid and illegal drug use sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) will be from 3 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, in Room 126 of the Western Technical College building, 220 S. Main St. in Viroqua. On July 13, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that judges using COMPAS during the sentencing phase must receive written warnings not to rely solely on the tool’s score after a defendant’s lawsuit argued that Northpointe’s secret scoring system was unfair and a threat to his due process rights. HealthNet of Rock County will be hosting a first-of-its-kind mental health conference in the Stateline Area, featuring guest speaker Patrick Kennedy. “Southern Wisconsin Conference on Mental Health” will be held on Sept. 19 at the Pontiac Convention Center to raise awareness of a lack of mental health providers in light of a growing need for services. A pharmacy on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is now among those that will dispense naloxone, a lifesaving drug that counteracts opioid overdoses, without a prescription. Dr. Angela Janis, a psychiatrist with University Health Services, wrote a standing prescription for naloxone — most commonly known by the brand name Narcan — for the Walgreens pharmacy at 311 E. Campus Mall. Gov. Scott Walker crisscrossed the state in March to hold public signings of eight bills aimed at combating heroin and opioid abuse. The new laws are part of Marinette Republican Rep. John Nygren’s Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education, or HOPE, agenda. Nygren has sponsored 17 pieces of legislation aimed at combating heroin and prescription painkiller addiction during the past two legislative sessions, much of which has received bipartisan support.


Happening Then Like most other states, the drug of choice was shifting. Liquor was no longer quicker. Once less popular than marijuana or cocaine, the death count from heroin tripled in Michigan in just a decade. State Public Health Director Nick Lyon told us 180 people die each year in the state from heroin overdoses. This prompted Michigan’s first Heroin Summit, which hosted 500 state officials in East Lansing. Happening Now In an effort to raise awareness among teens, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently launched a statewide media campaign to emphasize the health and personal consequences of drug abuse. To best reach teenagers with this message, the media campaign is running on television, online, and is being highlighted in movie theatres throughout the summer. The spot is available for viewing on the MDHHS YouTube channel. “We know that using drugs in adolescence has very real impacts on a young adult’s physical, financial, and emotional wellbeing,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive with the MDHHS. “The purpose of this campaign is to illustrate the harmful effects of drug abuse so teens better understand the seriousness of what may seem like a momentary decision. This campaign carries an important message: don’t let drugs be your future.” Last year, 15.8 percent of Michigan youth reported taking prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription at least once, a number down slightly from 2013, yet nearly double the 2011 rate. In support of the effort to address drug use and abuse in Michigan, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley chaired the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Use Task Force. Gov. Rick Snyder created the task force to focus on reducing opioid and prescription drug abuse in the state. View the 2015 Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force report for more on the task force’s findings and recommendations.


Happening Then The home of Wrigley Field saw its share of drug battles last year, including the proposed legislation to require insurance companies to cover prescription painkillers that cannot be crushed into powder form. These measures aimed to prevent people from abusing the opiates in powder form, but some said it would cost the Medicaid program around $55 million on the LOW end. While a number of overdoses in Illinois were linked to heroin, and prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and  Vicodin were still a huge problem in the state, the number one drug of choice was still alcohol, according to statistics gathered by the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Association. The Association told us part of the blame for the heroin overdoses was the cheap price of the drug on the street. Happening Now U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger met Wednesday morning with Grundy County, Illinois officials to discuss the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act signed into law last week by President Barack Obama. CARA supports expanded use of naloxone, or Narcan, by first responders and community members in a position to administer it to a person who is overdosing. First responders in Illinois started carrying it after a law was signed last year by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Opioid and heroin overdose has continued to be an epidemic in Illinois. In the Springfield area, there were over 500 heroin or opioid related deaths between 2010 and 2014. “The fact that we are losing Illinois residents to heroin at such a drastic rate is unacceptable,” says U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk. “Research shows that four out of five heroin users started with prescription pain medication.” Sen. Kirk says in order to prevent overdoses we must curb addiction, which starts with reducing the rate of doctors over-prescribing opioids to treat pain. If we can stop addiction before it starts, we will help Illinois residents lead safer lives. A new Illinois law will let drug court participants use medication to combat opioid addiction. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the measure late last week. It goes into effect Jan. 1. Under the new law, judges are prevented from barring drug court participants from using medications that doctors prescribe to treat opioid addictions.


Happening Then A small Indiana town of just over 4000 people was ground zero for the Centers for Disease Control and the Indiana State Health Department after an HIV outbreak reached 143 new cases (138 confirmed and 5 preliminary positives) in just one month. It sparked a nationwide debate on controversial needle exchange programs, since health officials said 4 out of 5 of the cases reported intravenous drug abuse, more specifically heroin. This caused state officials to probe into possible overprescribing of the highly powerful and addictive painkiller Opana, often used in heroin mixtures. Happening Now While the Marion County Jail continues to battle problems with overcrowding, city and county officials have begun distributing grant money from the state meant to help counties handle the influx of inmates resulting from criminal justice reform that keeps low-level offenders out of prison. The City-County Council at its meeting earlier this month approved nearly $800,000 in grant funding from the Indiana Department of Correction to go toward programs that would treat low-level offenders who are struggling with addictions and mental health problems. This money is part of a sweeping series of laws the legislature passed in 2014 that seek to treat nonviolent offenders rather than incarcerate them. Floyd and Clark County sheriffs both have said a majority of their inmate population is booked in on drug-related charges. Stephanie Spoolstra, the executive director of addiction and recovery for the Indiana Department of Correction, said an estimated 80 percent of the state’s prison inmates have some level of substance use history. A company called Innovative Health Solutions may have the answer to help people shed their opioid addiction when coupled with therapy. The company’s new device, “the Bridge,” is essentially a pain blocker that sends an electrical pulse to nerves at the base of the brain. That signal reduces or eliminates the pain of withdrawal. Governor and Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Mike Pence Wednesday joined 45 governors in signing the Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction, which summarizes the actions needed to address the factors contributing to opioid addiction. The compact, which was developed by and released through the National Governors Association (NGA), stems from a resolution passed at the NGA Winter Meeting in February. By signing the compact, governors are agreeing to redouble their efforts to fight the opioid epidemic in their respective states.


Happening Then The state faced an increase in opioid abuse at astronomical proportions, and the challenge of fighting the frighteningly high overdose rate was daunting, to say the least. Experts in the state saw the same problem in Ohio that was expressed in New York – a lack of accessibility for detoxification and treatment facilities. Happening Now Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine told an audience of educators July 26 that he would like to see age-appropriate instruction on drug addiction from kindergarten through high school, as part of efforts to counter the state’s heroin epidemic. “If we’re serious about prevention, if we’re serious about education, if we’re serious about stopping kids from starting on drugs, you have to start in kindergarten,” DeWine said. “And you have to do something that’s age-appropriate every single year. So for 13 years, you have to be doing something.” In a highly publicized case, April Corcoran was sentenced to 51 years to life in prison last week, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer. Corcoran, 32, had pleaded guilty in June to raising money to feed her heroin addiction by loaning out her 11-year-old daughter to her drug dealer, who, with the mother’s blessing, raped, sodomized and abused her, sometimes videotaping it, according to the indictment against Corcoran. Nearly 500,000 low-income Ohioans have received mental health and addiction services under the state’s Medicaid expansion since the program began in 2014. The Columbus Dispatch reports the expansion has brought more than 950,000 people onto the rolls and more than half were treated for mental health and addiction issues. Officials say almost all of the newly enrolled clients with mental health or addiction issues had been uninsured prior to the expansion. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said this month that more treatment facilities must be opened to help opioid addicts overcome a disease that is killing scores of Ohioans every month. Murthy visited Cleveland as part of his national “Turn the Tide” campaign, in which he is talking to health care professionals nationwide about reforming their opioid prescribing practices. Later this year, his office will issue its first-ever report on substance abuse and addiction.