The Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ (DHS) State Health Officer has issued a Public Health Advisory, in response to the use and abuse of opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers.


“Wisconsin has taken great strides in recent years to address the escalating problems relating to the misuse of opioids, but there is much more work to be done,” said DHS Secretary Linda Seemeyer.  “Our data show opioid addiction is a public health crisis that is destroying lives and families across the state, and we will continue our commitment to reversing the trend and ending this epidemic.”

State Health Officer Karen McKeown notified local health departments of the Public Health Advisory on Friday. “This Advisory is another tool in our multi-faceted approach to addressing this crisis,” McKeown said. “We look forward to working with all of our partners to address this crisis and improve the health and safety of all Wisconsinites.”

The most recent data show opioid-related deaths topped 600 in 2015, for the second year in a row.  Opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin tripled from 2003 to 2013, from 194 to 588.  The number of people who die in Wisconsin from drug overdose now exceeds the number of those who die from motor vehicle crashes, suicide, breast cancer, colon cancer, firearms, influenza, or HIV.

Opioid abuse has been identified as a top priority in the State Health Improvement Plan.  Additionally, DHS has been promoting opioid misuse prevention and treatment services, and recently announced the signing of a standing order to allow pharmacies to dispense naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose, without a prescription.