Weather Forecast


Wisconsin providers weigh in on federal opioid disaster declaration

Laurel White

Wisconsin Public Radio

Health care providers in Wisconsin say the Trump administration’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a national public health emergency will help people with addiction in Wisconsin — but they’re also pushing for more federal money to combat the problem.

The President Donald Trump made the declaration Thursday, calling the opioid epidemic "the worst drug crisis in American history."

Providers in Wisconsin say the declaration will make it easier for them to get existing federal grant money more quickly. It will also increase access to telehealth services, where doctors consult patients in rural areas by phone or video chat, an important step for many struggling to find services in rural parts of the state.

But advocates also called for more federal spending on substance abuse programming — something the declaration doesn’t include.

"One of us is dying every 16 minutes — at some point, it has to be all hands on deck," said Skye Tikkanen, drug poisoning prevention manager at Safe Communities of Madison and Dane County. "This is a step toward that, but this isn't all hands on deck yet."

Michael Heifetz, director of the state’s Medicaid program, lauded the president’s move, but also agreed more federal spending would help Wisconsin.

"This is a very unique and challenging dilemma that could use a few more resources," Heifetz said.

Any additional federal spending on substance abuse programs would have to be approved by Congress.  

Earlier this week, Gov. Scott Walker announced an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for substance abuse providers in Wisconsin. Advocates say that will improve access to treatment across the state.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2017, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. Find more WPR news on KUWS-FM 91.3 or