A report published by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) shows the state’s opioid epidemic worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, DHS is unveiling new strategies to prevent and reduce further harm. These strategies are funded by Wisconsin’s share of a recent multistate settlement with McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm that for years fueled the opioid epidemic nationwide through its work with the manufacturers of opioid drugs. DHS is receiving nearly $10.4 million over five years for work to save lives.

The report, Opioid Overdose Incidents and the COVID-19 Pandemic in Wisconsin, shows opioid overdose incidents in Wisconsin from January 2019 through March 2021 based on ambulance runs and emergency department visits. These data paint a near real-time picture of opioid overdoses during key stretches of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including the start of the statewide pandemic response in March 2020, the surge in cases in the fall of 2020, and the decline in the number of cases with the availability of the vaccine in late 2020 through March 2021.