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New effort to stem overdose deaths, streamline access to treatment announced in Milwaukee

9 May 2019 8:14 AM | AIMHI Admin (Administrator)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Source Article | Comments Courtesy of Matt Zavadsky

Huge Kudos to Captain Wright and his team at Milwaukee Fire!  Even re-opened a closed fire station to serve as a home-base for their MIH program!

Nice work, Michael!

New effort to stem overdose deaths, streamline access to treatment announced in Milwaukee

Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

May 3, 2019

Milwaukee officials announced a data-driven effort Friday to help stem the opioid crisis by following up with people who have overdosed and streamlining access to treatment.

"We are here for one reason: We want to change the outcomes of what we see in this city, this county and this country, and it's all about partnerships," Ald. Michael Murphy told those gathered for the announcement Friday at Milwaukee Fire Department Station 31, 2400 S. 8th St. 

He said there remains a stigma around addiction that enforces the idea that people who are addicted got themselves into the situation they're in and should, therefore, pull themselves out of it.

That's not true, he said.

The program is expected to roll out in June on Milwaukee's south side, in Ald. José Pérez's 12th aldermanic district.

"This district has been hit severely by this opioid crisis," Pérez said.

Dubbed the Milwaukee Overdose Response Initiative, the effort puts into practice the recommendations of the Milwaukee City-County Heroin, Opioid, and Cocaine Task Force. It aims to save lives by finding trends in data while also providing more direct avenues to treatment and providing in-school education.

The effort is led by the Milwaukee Fire Department and the Milwaukee Health Department.

More specifics about the program will be available after a May 9 meeting.

The data shows that substance use disorder is still widespread, but innovations in treatment, prescribing and awareness are helping. 

How the program works

The program allows data to be used proactively, Milwaukee Fire Department Capt. Mike Wright told those gathered for the announcement. Under the program, he receives a report each morning that details what happened in the last 24 hours. That includes the narrative of each case, the person's age and whether opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone was used. 

"All this data has never been at our disposal in such a ready fashion," he said. 

A packet is produced on each patient. Then, paramedics and a peer-support person from Community Medical Services, a service for people who struggle with addiction, head out to follow up with the person who overdosed.

They will first ask if that person needs clean needles, Wright said. If so, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin also responds.

The response team then would offer ongoing assistance to the person who overdosed and their loved ones.

"At any time the patient is ready for treatment, we will go out," Wright said. "And then if they say we are ready to go, we stay with them" as they go to a facility.

It's critical, he said, to respond quickly when a person with an addiction wants treatment.

The program will be implemented by the Milwaukee Fire Department Mobile Integrated Healthcare Program, which aims to proactively address the chronic health issues that cause residents to repeatedly call 911.

The Mobile Integrated Healthcare Program on Friday also celebrated its continued expansion. Station 31, one of six that closed in 2018 under Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's 2018 budget plan, has reopened for the program.

"It's an amazing program, and it's growing," Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing told those gathered.

Its first paramedics were trained in 2015.

The department has seen reductions in repeat 911 calls among the people who participated in the program since it launched, he said. Those calls fell by 56% in 2016, by 62% in 2017, and by 55% in 2018, he said.

What they're doing is working, Rohlfing said, and other agencies have come on board.

"We're reaching more patients than ever, and the important thing is we really are meeting them where they are — and where they are in their life, in their health situation but where they are in the community," he said.

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