MADISON, Wis. - A total of 116 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and 11.6 million people misuse prescription opioids each year. HHS has labeled the problem an opioid epidemic, and it costs the country $504 billion every year.
The City of Madison hopes to address the problem locally at an "Addiction, Hope, and Recovery" town hall Thursday night
"It’s difficult to find hope as families we know are battered by the opioid overdose epidemic facing our community," said Mary Rauwolf of Safe Communities, one of the town hall's organizers. "Come to this town hall meeting to learn about work underway to address the problem, and opportunities to be part of the solution."
Last year, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, and Gov. Scott Walker signed 11 bills into law addressing the crisis locally. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in America, and local leaders say legislation isn't enough.
"We get reports from Chief Koval daily and so many incidents where people have OD'd in public spaces and places, bathrooms and parking lots," said District 1 alder Barbara McKinney. "When there is a community issue as powerful as this, we want to bring the community together."
The event is free and open to the public. The city of Madison's Public Safety Review Committee and Safe Communities came up with the idea for the town hall after seeing statistics indicating that the number of opioid overdoses has worsened over the past six years in Dane County.
Mayor Paul Soglin and city leaders will speak and listen to concerns, watch the documentary film "Straightforward on Addiction," and start the conversation about approaches that work.
"We hear a lot about the epidemic and about heroin and the scary stuff related to it," said Cheryl Wittke of Safe Communities. "But there are a lot of things going on that are making our community more resilient and safer and people are able to plug in and think about, how can (they) make a difference when you present it that way instead of all the scary stuff?"
Among Safe Community's resources is the Parent Addiction Network and an African American Opioid Coalition to counter increasing rates of overdoses in the African American community.
Wittke admits that while there is no "quick fix" to rid a city of the opioid epidemic, there are several simple steps people can take today to keep their kids, friends, and community members safe.
- Lock up all prescription drugs in a lock box, which Safe Communities will provide free of charge at tonight's town hall
- Dispose of any medication you no longer need
- If a doctor prescribes opioids, ask if you really need them'
Safe Communities officials say all of the health care systems in Dane County are on board with limiting the number of opioids they prescribe, and there is a health care task force on safe opioid prescribing.
In 2000, there were 13 opioid deaths in Dane County. In 2015, there were 57. In 2016, the most recent year on record, 85 people died in Dane County from an opioid overdose.
"The City of Madison is all on board," said Wittke. "It's a demonstration of the elected officials commitment, the police department, the fire department, and all the different organizations. So I think the local leadership has been exceptional. I have to say, it's a national model."
Madison won a Conference of Mayors award in 2013 for its commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic.
The town hall is scheduled from 4 p.m.- 8 p.m. Thursday night at the Madison Central Library, Rooms 301 and 302.
"Straightforward on Addiction" documentary and free popcorn
5 p.m. Welcome:
Mayor Paul Soglin, City of Madison
Samba Baldeh, President, Madison Common Council
Chief Steven Davis, Madison Fire Department
Chief Mike Koval, Madison Police Department
Janel Heinrich, Public Health Madison and Dane County
Dean Loumous, member, school board, Madison Metropolitan School District
5:30 p.m.: "Overcoming Stigma for a Safer Community" – Skye Tikkanen, Safe Communities
5:50 p.m.: "From a Parent’s Point of View" – Mary Rauwolf, Parent Addiction Network
6:10 p.m.: "Coming Together: How We Can Each Be Part of the Solution" – Skye Tikkanen
MARI (Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative)
African American Opioid Coalition (AAOC)
Parent Addiction Network
Prevention strategies for youth
Safe disposal through MedDrop, and Lockup Meds (free lock boxes available)
7- 7:30p.m.: Q and A; pick up lock boxes and materials
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