Home Finance Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee objects to Gov. Evers’ plan for $31 million opioid settlement money

Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee objects to Gov. Evers’ plan for $31 million opioid settlement money

Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee objects to Gov. Evers’ plan for $31 million opioid settlement money

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance has delayed the Evers administration’s spending plan for $31 million in settlement funds to combat the state’s opioid epidemic.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Health Services submitted a proposal to the committee recommending how the state should use the money awarded from a legal settlement with pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.

The National Prescription Opiate Litigation (NPOL) settlement was reached as part of agreements that Attorney General Josh Kaul entered into settling the state’s legal claims.

DHS received its first $6 million payment on July 29 to begin using immediately, while the remaining $25 million is expected by the end of the calendar year.

Committee members had until Wednesday to anonymously object to the DHS’ plan.

Committee co-chairs state Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, and state Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, released a statement after the committee objected to the plan.

“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 they need to help those with opioid use disorders and their families,” they wrote.

“We have been working with stakeholders to ensure that we are investing 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 to ravage our state.”

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The statement did not include specific objections or discuss alternative uses for the money.

The Joint Finance Committee will now meet to discuss the DHS proposal and the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau will likely study the plan.

Gov. Tony Evers and Kaul slammed the committee’s decision.

“Wisconsin communities need funding to fight the opioid epidemic now,” Kaul said. “Wisconsin DOJ has fought hard and continues to fight to bring substantial resources to Wisconsin to combat the opioid epidemic, and there’s no good reason for Republican legislators to stand in the way of getting funds distributed that will save lives.”

Evers said legislators have turned their backs on Wisconsin families who are facing substance use and mental and behavioral health challenges now.

“The opportunity to invest millions into getting people treatment, support, and services does not come along every day,” Evers said. “For these legislators to turn their backs on the people of Wisconsin, especially given increases in substance misuse and the mental and behavioral health challenges our state is facing today in the wake of the pandemic, it simply defies logic.”

DHS is proposing several things for the $31 million including:

  • Investing in harm reduction by increasing the availability of NARCAN® and fentanyl test strips around the state.

  • Making investments in new and updated treatment facilities.

  • Funding for tribal nations to address the dramatic increase in opioid overdose deaths.

  • Enhancing data collection and surveillance.

  • Funding for family support centers to provide information, education, and healthy coping skills, while building resiliency, for family and friends of a person with substance use disorder.

The entire proposal is at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p03288.pdf

Corrinne Hess can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her @corrihess

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: GOP legislators object to Evers plan for $31M opioid settlement money