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Report looks at success of statewide opioid treatment efforts

In 2014, a package of laws were passed in Wisconsin, included funding for opioid treatment programs in high-need, rural areas. State officials are now looking at how those efforts are doing.

The funding for opioid treatment programs were passed under the Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) agenda. A recent assessment shows that 475 people got help in 2017 and that more than 70 percent of patients reported the treatment provided a better quality of life.

Three organizations in northern Wisconsin each got $672,00 last year for their treatment programs: HSHS St. Vincent's Hospital Libertas of Marinette, Family Health Center of Marshfield Clinic and NorthLakes Community Clinic.

The treatment programs initially focused on opioids, but there's been a shift in 2018 to include meth under grants that began in 2015.

"We'll see a shift from people using opioids to methamphetamine and back again. So, it's kind of like a pendulum. We're seeing it swing back and forth," said Miranda Behnke, HOPE grant program manager at Libertas Treatment Center in Marinette. It is sharing the grant with Previa Health.

She and others said that opioids are driving the nation's drug epidemic, but some areas of Wisconsin are seeing a shift to other drugs, complicating anti-addiction treatments.

"People talk a lot about opioids. But in Wisconsin for the most part, the biggest issue is meth. And the treatments are very different for the two of them and so it's been a pretty big struggle to figure out how provide services for both," said Reba Rice, CEO of NorthLakes Community Clinic.

Last year, NorthLakes Community Clinic served 143 people, including eight pregnant women, in six counties: Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Sawyer and Washburn, according to a state Department of Health Services report.

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