As Opioid Overdose Death Toll Climbs, Wisconsin Expands Response

The Chippewa Herald

By David Wahlberg

Dylan Randel, who struggled with opioid addiction for years, seemed to be doing better last year.

The 32-year-old from Madison, who had been in and out of jail, moved into his own condo and started looking for work. Monthly injections of naltrexone, one of three medications approved to treat opioid addiction, appeared to keep his cravings at bay.

But he complained of side effects from naltrexone, also known as Vivitrol. After apparently skipping his shot in November, he was found dead at home a week after Thanksgiving, from a suspected heroin overdose.

“It’s the worst thing that can happen to you,” said Mary Randel, Dylan’s mother and a nurse practitioner at UW Health. “He did get treatment, but he just didn’t seem to buy into it.”

Wisconsin, which saw a record 916 overdose deaths from opioids in 2017, is expanding the depth and breadth of its response to the epidemic, largely through an influx of federal funds.

State grants to ARC Community Services in Madison and Tellurian in Monona, designed to increase medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, are among many efforts stemming from increased federal funding, which in Wisconsin went from $5.1 million in 2016 to $17.3 million last year.

As opioid abuse has shifted to some extent from prescription drugs to heroin and illicit forms of fentanyl, a variety of prevention, treatment and recovery programs must be provided to meet different people’s needs, said Paul Krupski, director of opioid initiatives for the state Department of Health Services.

The expanded countermeasures haven’t noticeably curbed the epidemic yet, but it may be too early to see results, Krupski said. An official tally of opioid overdose deaths for 2018 won’t be available for months.

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