Dispose of medications during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, April 22

pile of empty pill bottles

Help minimize unintentional drug poisoning

Safe Communities Madison-Dane County and the African American Opioid Coalition (AAOC) will host three drug take-back locations in conjunction with National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Saturday, April 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Warner Park, Elver Park and Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

“Research shows that close to 50% of people who misuse prescription drugs for the first time get these medicines from people they know, with or without asking,” said Cheryl Wittke, Safe Communities executive director. “We’re grateful to partner with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Madison Police and the Dane County Sheriff to offer safe disposal opportunities.”

“Unintentional deaths through drug poisoning exceed deaths from motor vehicle crashes in Dane County,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “I encourage county residents to safely dispose of unwanted or unneeded prescription medications to prevent misuse and accidental poisonings. This is one step we can take to make our community safer.”

The AAOC is focused on addressing the alarming increase in overdose deaths among Black people, which is more than three times the rate among white people according to a 2020 annual report on overdose deaths in Dane County put out by Public Health Madison and Dane County.

This year’s take-back day coincides with Earth Day, providing another reason to clear out forgotten medications. People are discouraged from disposing of medications by flushing or pouring them down the drain to protect our water supplies from contamination.

The following is a list of what items can and cannot be accepted.

Bring: Prescription (controlled and non-controlled) and over-the-counter medications, ointments, patches, non-aerosol sprays, inhalers, creams, vials and pet medications. Leave medications in original pharmacy containers and remove the label or cross off personal information or remove medications from pharmacy containers and place in a resealable bag.

Do Not Bring: Illegal drugs, needles/sharps, aerosol cans, bio-hazardous materials (anything containing a bodily fluid or blood), mercury thermometers, personal care products (shampoo, soaps, lotions, sunscreens, etc.), household hazardous waste (paint, pesticides, oil, gas).

Last fall, Dane County collected almost 400 pounds of medications.

There will be free medication lock boxes and at-home disposal kits available. The AAOC will also be hosting additional take back days on select Sundays in May and June in partnership with various churches. Visit Safercommunity.net for more information and additional collection locations that are available all year.

Traffic Crashes Down, Fatalities Up in 2022

Person driving in a car
For Immediate Release
For more information, contact: Cheryl Wittke, Executive Director, Safe Communities of Madison – Dane County,  (608) 256-6713

Traffic Crashes Down, Fatalities Up in 2022

 Forty-four persons lost their lives in 1,770 Dane County injury-related motor vehicle crashes last year, according to preliminary data from the Traffic Safety Commission (TSC), which reviews county crash data reported by police departments and the WI State Patrol. Compared to the previous 5 year average, in 2022 the number of crashes with injuries decreased 22% and the number of fatalities increased 24%. “This is an alarming trend,” said Cheryl Wittke, executive director of Safe Communities of Madison-Dane County and TSC co-chair. “It should be a wake-up call to everyone to think about how to stay safer when using Dane County streets and highways to ensure this trend doesn’t continue.” In 2022, Dane County experienced 8,914 total motor vehicle crashes, of which 20% involved injuries or deaths.

One positive trend from 2022 data reported at the recent TSC meeting was a significant decrease in injuries and deaths from motorcycle crashes. “Last year, two persons died in motorcycle crashes, compared to a five-year average of six. This bucks a national trend of increasing motorcyclist fatalities,” noted TSC member Randy Wiessinger, Law Enforcement Liaison/Consultant with Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Safety. Non-fatal injuries from motorcycle crashes were down 41%.

The 48-member Dane County Traffic Safety Commission conducts crash reviews quarterly. For October – December 2022, most fatal traffic crashes were outside Madison, consistent with the entire year. Four were in the City of Madison, and the others in the City of Verona, Village of Maple Bluff, and Towns of Sun Prairie, Burke, Roxbury, Deerfield, Rutland, Dunn and Dunkirk.

One notable quarterly trend was that an increasing number of Dane County drivers were killed in crashes when there was rain, snow, slush, or ice on the roads. Deaths also increased from driver failure to stop at red lights and stop signs. Nearly half (6) of the thirteen Dane County crashes resulting in fatalities last quarter involved poor weather-related road conditions or running a red light or stop sign. Wittke noted this increase is consistent with a trend in all of 2022. “Last year, thirteen people lost their lives in crashes when weather had negatively affected road conditions, compared to a previous five-year average of seven. Six died in crashes when a driver failed to stop at a stop sign or red light, significantly higher than the previous five-year average of one, and the highest number since 2016,” Wittke said.

Trends on running red lights in Dane County mirror those cited in a recent national survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, showing drivers self-reporting a 12% increase in red-light running from 2020 to 2021. 

 “Running a red light or stop sign is a driver’s choice,” noted Wittke. “And so is driving too fast around an icy curve or not fully cleaning snow off windshields and mirrors. We can control what we do as drivers, but we cannot control the behavior of others. This all points to the need for more defensive driving by each of us.” Wittke said in the 13 fatal crashes this past quarter, four of the deaths were of persons who were pedestrians or riding in a vehicle other than the one causing a crash. “Whether driving, running or walking, we need to be extra vigilant during inclement weather and at intersections.” She noted that in a previous traffic count at a busy Madison intersection, motorists ran red lights once every 30 seconds. 

“Dane County TSC members are collaborating with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Traffic Safety on new county-wide strategies to be announced shortly,” Wittke said. “By working together, we can have even a stronger impact.”


The Facts:

  • In 2022 there were 8,914 motor vehicle crashes in Dane County. Twenty percent (1770) resulted in injury or death.
  • In 2022, 38 crashes resulted in 44 fatalities. This was the second deadliest year in the last five.
  • The number of crash fatalities in 2022 increased 24% from the previous five-year average even while the total number of all injury-related crashes was 22% lower.
  • The most significant 2022 improvement was a decrease in injuries and deaths from motorcycle and bicycle crashes. Last year, two persons died in motorcycle crashes, compared to a five-year average of 6. Three pedestrians were killed compared to a five-year average of 7. All motorcycle injuries were down 41% and bicycle-related injuries down 27%.
  • In 2022, 6 persons died in crashes when a driver failed to stop at a stop sign or stop light, compared to a previous five-year average of only 1.
  • In 2022, 13 died in crashes when weather negatively affected road conditions, compared to a previous five-year average of 7.
  • Of the 13 fatal crashes during the fourth quarter of 2022 (October-December):
    • 4 fatalities were pedestrians or riders in vehicles other than the one causing the crash.
    • 3 involved drivers running a red light or stop sign.
    • 3 involved poor weather conditions (snow, ice, slush, water, fog).
    • 25% were unrestrained; 25% were teen or senior drivers; and 33% involved alcohol.

* * * * * * * * *

Potential Interviewees:

The following may be contacted for comment directly:

  • Crash trends and Traffic Safety Commission role/membership: Cheryl Wittke, Exec. Director, Safe Communities of Madison – Dane County and TSC co-chair. cwittke@safercommunity.net, (608) 256-6713
  • Motorcycle crash trends: Randy Wiessinger, WI Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Safety; contact through DOT Office of Public Affairs, exec@dot.wi.gov, (608) 266-3581.
  • Traffic crash data/trends: Jeremy Kloss, Program and Policy Analyst, WI Bureau of Transportation Safety and Technical Services; contact through DOT Office of Public Affairs, exec@dot.wi.gov, (608) 266-3581.
  • AAA study on red light running and tips for driving in bad weather: Nick Jarmusz, AAA Wisconsin, njjarmusz@acg.aaa.com, (608) 556-4744.

In treatment instead of in jail. Local initiative aims to help people fighting addiction

This article originally appeared on Fox47.com and can be found here.

By Brady Mallory  |  Fox47 News Madison

MAIDSON, Wis (Fox47) — Imagine a dinner table with an empty chair. Then think about the loved one who is not in that chair because he or she died from a drug overdose. That’s the reality for tens of thousands of families in the U.S., and it’s getting worse. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, fentanyl overdose deaths grew in Wisconsin from 651 in 2019 to 1,280 last year. That’s a 97-percent jump. Local police are seeing similar growth in fentanyl overdoses in Dane County. That’s why a local group is giving certain people, who struggle with addiction, some alternatives for help that don’t involve being treated like a criminal.

You never know how many people are walking around, carrying the weight of addiction.

“It’s just crept into areas of our community at an unprecedented level at this point,” Officer Tom Coyne, addiction resource officer with the Madison Police Department, said.

Coyne says Dane County is seeing a spike in overdoses. The main reason? Drugs secretly laced with fentanyl.

“We say all substances have fentanyl in them these days. There’s no real safe product to use anymore,” Seth Sanders, community paramedic for the Madison Fire Department, said.

Here’s a group that wants to help. You’ll find Coyne, Sanders, and a few others in a black mini van, hoping to make a huge difference. They are members of the Madison Area Addiction Recovery Initiative; MAARI. It’s a group that responds to people who are overdosing or survive overdoses. They come with life-saving equipment and Narcan, but they also offer individuals a second chance.

“Active addiction, substance use disorder is not a problem you can arrest away,” Coyne said.

Instead of facing criminal charges for overdosing or a drug offense, MAARI connects Dane County residents with treatment options and support. There’s a catch; any offense has to be a low level, non-violent crime.

“Charges are held, people are plugged in with recovery support in the community for six months and sometimes forward. Once they’ve successfully completed the program, charges go no further,” Coyne said.

“I’ve had a lot of friends and close family members suffer from addiction,” Joel Grunder, a peer support specialist and recovery coach, said.

Grunder says getting people in treatment instead of in jail can help them stay on a path to recovery and reduce relapses, and deadly overdoses.

“There’s no replacement for those we’ve lost,” Grunder said.

You never know who is walking around, carrying the weight of addiction. Members hope MAARI helps end the stigma, and allow individuals to step forward.

“It’s a disease and they need help with that. They deserve that help. If someone had cancer, we would help them with that sickness,” Seth Sanders said.

“This to me, legitimately feels like you’re there on the frontlines of helping people,” Coyne said.

The MAARI program began in September 2020. It is a three year grant-funded program. According to MPD, MAARI builds upon the successes of a previous pre-arrest program.


Dane County Approves $750,000 Emergency Initiative to Address Opiate & Fentanyl Epidemics

From the Office of Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive, November 18, 2022

The Harm Reduction and Prevention Act, a roughly $750,000 initiative to address opiate and fentanyl related emergencies, will soon infuse much needed supports into the Dane County community, County Executive Parisi announced today. A resolution to fund the legislative package, which includes school prevention and harm reduction curriculum, was approved at last night’s Dane County Board meeting.

“In Dane County, more residents are dying of drug poisoning than ever before. Just one pill laced with fentanyl or another synthetic opiate can take the life of a friend or loved one,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Our community must act. The Harm Reduction and Prevention Act builds upon our partnerships and invests hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community to distribute fentanyl testing strips, along with Narcan kits, and increase awareness about these deadly epidemics.”

Deaths involving opiates and fentanyl have steadily increased in Dane County since 2016. In 2021, 149 people in Dane County passed away due to opiate related overdoses—reflecting 86% of all overdose deaths in the county. Opiate related deaths have increased more than 30% in the past five years. Meanwhile, overdose deaths involving fentanyl are up close to 70% in that same timeframe. Fentanyl was determined to be a contributing factor in over three quarters of the county’s overdose deaths in 2021.

In recognition of the continued scourge of opiates and fentanyl in the Dane County community and the harm they continue to cause families, this initiative will:

  • In partnership with Safe Communities and Dane County school districts, pilot developmentally appropriate prevention and harm reduction curriculum through Life Skills and Safety First programing to better serve elementary though high school students. Using an evidence-based approach, Safe Communities will partner with local schools on debuting the new education courses, which focus on building resiliency, identifying risk, being safe, etc. and include interactive modules for older students.
  • Increase awareness and community education about the dangers of fentanyl and opiates.
  • Partner with community organizations to provide widespread distribution of Narcan and fentanyl test strips.
  • Create a dedicated prevention specialist position within the Dane County Department of Emergency Management to oversee the development of a Narcan “leave behind” program where EMS agencies can leave Narcan rescue kits at the scenes of overdoses.
  • In partnership with Safe Communities, embed Dane County Recovery Coaches within local hospitals and potentially the Dane County 911 Center to reduce the time between when an overdose occurs and when an individual first makes contact with a professional who can help them begin the path of addiction treatment/recovery.
  • Create a prevention coordinator at the OutReach LGBTQ+ Community Center to serve as a direct liaison to a number of communities, providing more awareness and prevention services to populations disproportionately impacted by overdoses/fentanyl poisoning.

This initiative totals around $750,000 and is in addition to the approximately $1.6 million Dane County currently allocates in opiate settlement funding for opiate treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts.

As part of the Harm Reduction and Prevention Act, Dane County will invest $159,900 in media and community outreach efforts. The following groups will receive funding to provide med lock boxes, Narcan, and/or fentanyl test strips: African American Opioid Coalition ($100,000), Pride in Prevention Coalition ($50,000), Recovery Coalition of Dane County ($10,000), Dane County Senior Focal Points ($15,000), and various housing providers ($10,000). $120,000 will also be allocated for school life skills/harm reduction curriculum.

A second portion of the Dane County Harm Reduction and Prevention Act—totaling $283,500—will be funded in the County Executive’s 2023 budget. Of that total, $115,000 will go to create a Prevention Coordinator position at the OutReach LGBTQ+ Community Center. Approximately $110,000 will establish a prevention specialist position within the Dane County Department of Emergency Management. This individual will work with local EMS agencies on opiate and fentanyl response initiatives in the coming years. $10,000 will go to the Narcan “leave behind” program, while an additional $40,000 will go to school life skills/harm reduction curriculum next year.