Kenosha County Executive Samantha Kerkman and Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave joined together Wednesday, Aug. 30, on International Overdose Awareness Day to highlight the tragic impact that opioids have had on both counties, as well as the actions being taken to address this health crisis.
Kerkman and Delagrave briefed reporters immediately before Racine County’s Overdose Awareness Day event at Echo Veterans Memorial Park in Burlington.
In addition to presenting a joint proclamation in observation of the day, they noted the climbing numbers of overdose deaths in both counties in recent years.
“Fifty-three Racine County residents tragically lost their lives as a result of overdoses last year, and we are well on our way to eclipsing that total in 2022,” Delagrave said. “The life of EVERY resident is valuable, and each of these 53 deaths is a devastating reminder of the terrible impact opioids have had on our community.”
Coincidentally, Kenosha County also saw 53 toxicity deaths in 2021, Kerkman noted. That came during a year when more than 107,600 lives were taken by overdose nationwide, an all-time record.
“This is a health crisis that is affecting every corner of our communities, and is devastating many families,” Kerkman said.
Both executives cited ongoing efforts in their counties to stem this tide.
In Kenosha County, a Human Services on the Go mobile unit recently distributed more than 400 Narcan kits at the Kenosha County Fair and other community events over the summer, connecting with thousands of people about the behavioral health resources that are available in the community.
That Narcan distribution was in addition to the more than 800 kits that Kenosha County Public Health has distributed to EMS personnel and members of the community at large.
Narcan is an overdose-reversing medication that is available for free, along with the associated training, in both counties.
Kerkman said Kenosha County is also continuing to forge partnerships to work together to destigmatize treatment for substance abuse.
Examples of this include a $150,000 state grant that the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department and Kenosha County Behavioral Health Services recently secured to expand medically assisted treatment in the county jail, as well as the Kenosha Overdose Response Initiative. The latter will provide follow-up services to all individuals in Kenosha County who survive an overdose with a team of public health professionals, paramedics and peer support specialists, linking survivors and their families to treatment services.
In Racine County, Delagrave noted the installation of NaloxBox overdose kits stocked with Narcan in all county buildings. These kids have also been shared with other community partners.
Racine County received its first settlement payment resulting from opioid litigation and will soon receive the guidance needed to maximize the impact the these funds can have on the county’s approach to opioid dependency and overdose deaths, Delagrave said.
“Lastly,” Delagrave said, “both of our communities recognize the necessity to tackling lethal fentanyl. This synthetic drug, which is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, has been introduced to illicit street drugs with deadly results. We must educate our residents and support our law enforcement officers as they contend with this crisis."
Both Kenosha and Racine counties offer 24/7 crisis lines to assist those struggling with substance abuse in their times of greatest need.
Kenosha County’s crisis number is 262-657-7188; Racine’s is 262-638-6741.
“Help is available,” Kerkman said, “recovery is possible, and community collaboration is important as we work together to end this crisis.”