Safe Communities Reveals Fentanyl-Reduction Plan Related to Dane County Harm Reduction and Prevention Act

June 6, 2023
Cheryl Wittke – Executive Director Safe Communities Madison-Dane County

Easy, free access to lifesaving doses of naloxone at over 100 community locations

Today Dane County Executive Parisi shared an update on efforts funded by the Harm Reduction and Prevention Act.

The Harm Reduction and Prevention Act built upon Dane County and Safe Community partnerships and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community to distribute fentanyl testing strips, along with Narcan kits, and increase awareness about this deadly epidemic.

Pastor and First Lady Wade hosted the event at Second Baptist Church and spoke to the powerful work of the African American Opioid Coalition.

Thanks to all community partners for hard work underway:

  • Fifteen boxes have been installed, and 100 additional Overdose Aid Kits (OAK) are ready to go. They are stocked with doses of nasal naloxone, fentanyl test strips, safe use tips, and recovery resources.  Siting OAK boxes at community locations with elevated overdose rates will be first priority.  Organizations and businesses can request an OAK box — see Safe Communities’ website for details.
  • Three vending machines with 24-7 access to naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and recovery resources will be installed at the Dane County Jail, outside Public Health Madison and Dane County’s Syringe Services office on E. Washington Avenue, and at a downtown location to be determined in August 2023.
  • Dane County Emergency Management is coordinating a community-wide Naloxone Leave Behind program with local EMS agencies, and expanding prevention activities thanks to a new position funded through the Harm Reduction Act.

All Dane County hospital emergency rooms offer recovery coaches to patients undergoing treatment for overdose. But a new pilot at UnityPoint Health-Meriter will embed Safe Communities’ Recovery Coaches on-site during peak hours to foster real-time collaboration between patients, peers, family members and clinical staff to reduce drug harm and improve patient outcomes. Thanks to UnityPoint-Meriter CEO James Arnett for joining us today to show his support, and thank you, James for your organization’s leadership on this important work.

The Harm Reduction Act invested in culturally competent outreach and education to groups at the highest risk of fentanyl drug poisoning/overdose. With us today community members who are putting these funds to work:

  • African American Opioid Coalition (AAOC) is working to address an alarming increase in overdose deaths among Black community members in Dane County.
  • Staff from OutReach LGBTQ Community Center are out at clubs and community events distributing naloxone, test strips, safe use, and recovery resources.
  • LaMovida Radio is kicking off a Spanish-language public education campaign.

A public education campaign will approach the problem from all angles by crafting messages targeted for:

  • recreational users at risk of inadvertently ingesting fentanyl;
  • people who use regularly – don’t use alone; carry naloxone;
  • friends, family, public at large – be prepared to recognize and respond to an overdose.

Look for billboards, bus wraps, social media and radio ads to launch in August 2023.

Finally, we’re excited to announce efforts to launch school-based primary prevention and harm reduction education. At this time, Madison Metropolitan School District plans to pilot evidence-based curricula Safety First and Sources of Strength, and three additional school districts are making plans to introduce these exciting programs into their classroom.

School-based Programs

Sources of Strength Program

The target population for Sources of Strength Secondary are Middle and High School students in Dane County.

Sources of Strength is a highly effective program that harnesses young people as immensely powerful change agents within their school communities.  Adult advisors coordinate ongoing meetings and evidence-based prevention strategies that focus on Hope, Help, Strength rather than shocking, traumatic, or sad messaging approaches.

Safety First Program: Real Drug Education for Teens

Safety First is meant for High School students. This curriculum is particularly relevant for students already using, for students at-risk for using, and/or for students living in communities in which there are high levels of drug use. The curriculum is designed to be used in classrooms or group settings.

Drug education should be:

  • Scientifically accurate, providing accurate information about all drugs.
  • Interactive
  • Compassionate, taking into account that some youth will have used and/or sold drugs – or have close friends and family members who have.

Educating and empowering teenagers to make safe and healthy choices must be our highest priority. For more information about the Safety First Program, click here.

Area school districts are planning to launch Sources of Strength and Safety First in classrooms this Fall. Interested in bringing these exciting programs to your school community? Contact Project Manager Leah at