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Parisi commits $15K to health initiative to combat addiction

'We want them to be treated for the addiction that has trapped them in a living nightmare'

MADISON, Wis. - Medical and addiction specialists along with an area politician announced a pilot program intended to help people with opiate addictions get help.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, SSM Health St. Mary's, the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation and Safe Communities announced the program Thursday morning at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital on South Park Street.

People treated for an opiate-related overdose at the Emergency Department at SSM Health will be offered help from recovery coaches immediately after the OD.

"We want them to be treated for the addiction that has gripped them and that has trapped them in a living nightmare," Parisi said.

Instead of putting people who overdose into the legal system, the program will provide help from the state-certified coaches who are also in recovery themselves.

"Simply throwing people in jail for opiate addiction does not help and will not cure this epidemic," Parisi said. "We need to offer people the help they need when they need it."

Dr. Kyle Martin said doctors are able to revive people who are overdosing on opiates, but the emergency treatment doesn't tackle the addiction issue.

"Frequently, fortunately, we're able to use medication to get them back," Martin said. "The tragedy that we're left with is the cycle repeats itself and we see the same folks back again."

The pilot program is expected to treat 75 patients. Since 2000, opioid overdose deaths in Dane County have more than quadrupled: from 15 per year in 2000 to 73.

Parisi included $15,000 in his budget for next year for the program, and Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation will also contribute $15,000. Safe Communities will run the program, which starts in the Emergency Department at SSM Health St. Mary's on Nov. 1.

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