- Wisconsin to receive $31 million in settlement funds for 2022.
- There were 1,277 deaths in Wisconsin related to opioids in 2020.
- DHS will allocate $11 million in settlement funds to support capital projects.
- Capital projects and Tribal Nations are in line for $17 million of the $31 million.
- GOP members blocked Evers’ spending plan to ensure settlement funds are spent actively addressing the opioid crisis while giving Wisconsin communities desperately needed resources.
- Governor Evers was highly opposed to improving the plan and is defensive against GOP members suggestions to spend the funds wisely.
Tony Evers’ opioid spending plan isn’t as goal-oriented as it seems. While the name is right in the title, “Opioid Settlement Funds,” Evers appears to have included some questionable fat, and we aren’t provided with much detail.
On July 12, 20022, Wisconsin was informed that the state would receive three payouts from these settlements in 2022. The initial payment of about $6 million was received on July 29, 2022. The DHS is expecting approximately $31 million in settlement funds for 2022.
The main portion of Wisconsin’s first wave of opioid settlement money is going towards several new buildings. The Department of Health Services sent its Opioid Settlement Proposal to the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. The DHS included the following information in the report:
“DHS proposes to invest settlement funds in various strategies that will support data collection and surveillance, prevention, harm reduction, treatment, recovery, capital projects, and funding for tribal nations.”
In other words, capital projects and tribes in Wisconsin are about to receive $17 million of the $31 million that is supposed to be addressing the opioid crisis.
The GOP members in the Wisconsin legislature aren’t willing to spend the state’s opioid settlement quite how Governor Tony Evers wants. That’s why they decided it was best to slow things down and consider the other routes they could take when spending this massive amount of funding.
Residents of Wisconsin are dying every day from drug overdoses. According to the DHS website, there were 1,277 deaths in Wisconsin related to opioids in 2020. Unfortunately, these statistics aren’t showing any signs of letting up either.
So why is the DHS, which openly states that the opioid crisis is at an all-time high, willing to spend so much of this desperately-needed funding elsewhere?
Aside from that $17 million, the rest is said to be divided into the following:
- Narcan/Fentanyl Test Strips
- Education for Schools on The Danger of Opioids
- Funding Treatment
- Opioid recovery
The department stated that they will need new and updated facilities to “increase access to services.” So, the mysterious capital projects up their sleeve aren’t entirely clear as of now. We don’t know what these updates involve, and we don’t know how many new facilities they plan on adding. We know that the $11 million for new facilities and $6 million for tribal nations ($17 million total) is much more than what he is willing to spend statewide on treatment.
There’s a legitimate reason why GOP members have blocked this plan and paused proceedings. It would make the most sense if Gov. Evers were okay with carefully spending it only where it will have the most positive impact while ensuring the victims and families affected by this horrendous drug are provided with all the resources they need.
“Capital projects and funding for tribal nations” sounds like projects that may not directly serve to mitigate the statewide opioid crisis.
Wisconsin is set to receive an additional $25 million from the national opioid settlement and a share of the $4.2 billion settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals. But, again, DHS is not transparent about where that money will go.
JFC co-chairs Representative Mark Born and Senator Howard Marklein assured the public that “Fighting the opioid epidemic has been a priority for Wisconsin Republicans for over a decade. We remain committed to ensuring our communities have the resources to help those with opioid use disorders. We’ve been working with stakeholders to ensure that we invest in impactful programs without duplicating our efforts. We will swiftly improve the plan to promptly distribute these funds to help combat the opioid crisis that continues ravaging Wisconsin.”
Carefully spending $31 million in opioid settlement funds seems the correct way to handle this situation. It is unclear why improving the plan and making sure we are putting this funding to fruitful, productive use is so greatly opposed by Evers.
The Governor claimed that this move would delay the state’s effort to combat the problem with opioids, even going as far as saying that these legislators turned their back on the people of Wisconsin.
The GOP members who moved to pause this plan are taking those extra precautions and measures to ensure these beneficial settlement funds are spent actively addressing the opioid crisis, nothing less and nothing more. This amount of money can make a massive difference, but only if we do our due diligence and ensure it is being spent in the right places.
Evers commented, “The opportunity to invest millions into getting people treatment, support, and services does not come along every day.” He is correct about this, and Republicans have the same mindset. Although, conservatives seem to have a different, more carefully calculated, and well-thought-out approach to utilizing that amount of money.
We must handle $31 million with care. That is the bottom line. We need to know where this money is being invested, exactly how it will help, and ensure that we take the best action possible and explore the correct avenues to help us control this crisis.