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Author: Tanya Kraege

SSM Health’s ED2Recovery program faces rising overdoses due to Fentanyl

This article originally appeared on and can be found here.
Colton Molesky | WMTV-Madison

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – An SSM Health St. Mary’s program is continuing to battle addiction and overdoses in the face of rising numbers due to the prevalence of Fentanyl in Wisconsin. The SSM Health’s ED2Recovery program partners with Safe Communities and works to give people who are suffering from addiction all the tools to fight back.

“It’s continued to be a significant issue for us; it’s many fentanyl and heroin at this point,” said SSM Health ED medical director Dr. Kyle Martin. “It’s just kind of a vicious cycle.”

According to a recent report from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 91% of opioid overdose deaths were attributed to Fentanyl, as were 73% of all overdose deaths. From 2019 to 2021, overdose deaths increased by 97% in Wisconsin. It is those numbers the program is battling, starting treatment right at the bedside in the emergency department.


“That allows them to form a close relationship, and that continues on after they’ve left the emergency department; the recovery coach stays on and keeps in touch with them and connects them to various resources in the community,” said Dr. Martin.

Because of the growing Fentanyl crisis, recovery coaches say there is even more pressure to help people struggling with addiction battle the disease before the worst happens.

“You might not get it on the second, third, or fourth time, but with this drug out here, it might be limiting your chances,” said recovery coach Tyrees Scott.

DPP peer provider team manager Tanya Kraege says the advantage the program has is the life experience of the coaches. The recovery coaches have battled addiction themselves, now turning around and showing others the route out.

“Lived experience is their superpower,” said Kraege. “Having somebody show up and say, ‘I’ve been there, I know what it’s like to struggle, I’m here to walk with you,’ there’s just some relief automatically in the eyes of that person.”

Kraege says the program currently serves 312 people. Despite the rising challenges, she says the success rate is 80%. Kraege explains the program measures success by the life goals accomplished while fighting substance abuse.

Recent Surge in U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths has Hit Black Men the Hardest

Black man upset holding head in hands

Oringinal article by John Gramlich
Original Article can be found here: Recent surge in U.S. drug overdose deaths has hit Black men the hardest

Nearly 92,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2020, marking a 30% increase from the year before, a 75% increase over five years and by far the highest annual total on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Preliminary figures suggest that the 2021 death toll from overdoses may be even higher.

While overdose death rates have increased in every major demographic group in recent years, no group has seen a bigger increase than Black men. As a result, Black men have overtaken White men and are now on par with American Indian or Alaska Native men as the demographic groups most likely to die from overdoses.

There were 54.1 fatal drug overdoses for every 100,000 Black men in the United States in 2020. That was similar to the rate among American Indian or Alaska Native men (52.1 deaths per 100,000 people) and well above the rates among White men (44.2 per 100,000) and Hispanic men (27.3 per 100,000). The overdose death rate among men was lowest among Asians or Pacific Islanders (8.5 per 100,000).

As recently as 2015, Black men were considerably less likely than both White men and American Indian or Alaska Native men to die from drug overdoses. Since then, the death rate among Black men has more than tripled – rising 213% – while rates among men in every other major racial or ethnic group have increased at a slower pace. The death rate among White men, for example, rose 69% between 2015 and 2020.

As has long been the case, women in the U.S. are less likely than men to die from drug overdoses. But death rates have risen sharply among women, too, especially Black women. 

Chart of drug overdose death among black men in the US

The overdose fatality rate among Black women rose 144% between 2015 and 2020, far outpacing the percentage increases among women in every other racial or ethnic group during the same period.

Despite the steep rise in the overdose death rate among Black women, American Indian or Alaska Native women continued to have the highest such rate in 2020, as has been the case for most of the past two decades. There were 32 overdose deaths for every 100,000 American Indian or Alaska Native women in 2020, compared with 21.3 deaths for every 100,000 White women and 18.8 deaths for every 100,000 Black women. Fatality rates were much lower among Hispanic women (7.5 per 100,000) and Asian or Pacific Islander women (2.7 per 100,000).

The racial groups in this analysis include people of one race, as well as those who are multiracial. All death rates are adjusted to account for age differences between U.S. demographic groups. For more information about the methodology, read the “How we did this” box.

Overdose deaths have risen sharply during the pandemic

While overdose deaths in the U.S. were on the rise long before the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, such fatalities have accelerated during the pandemic, the CDC has noted.

Nationwide, the monthly number of drug overdose deaths had never exceeded 6,500 before March 2020. Between March and December 2020, there were more than 7,100 such deaths each month, including nearly 9,400 in May 2020 alone.

Experts have pointed to several possible reasons for the increase in overdose deaths during the outbreak, including less access to treatment and a rise in mental health problems associated with the pandemic.

The opioid epidemic has also played an important role in the soaring number of overdose deaths, both during the pandemic and in the years leading up to it. Three-quarters of all fatal overdoses in 2020 involved opioids, with more than six-in-ten involving synthetic opioids – a category that includes fentanyl, a potent pain relief drug that is commonly manufactured and sold illegally.

 The overdose fatality rate involving synthetic opioids rose nearly sixfold between 2015 and 2020, from 3.1 to 17.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

Monthly drug overdose death chart

Earlier waves of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. involved heroin and prescription opioids, respectively.

Death rates have also risen sharply in recent years for overdoses involving stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The fatality rate for overdoses involving cocaine nearly tripled between 2015 and 2020, from 2.1 to 6.0 deaths per 100,000 people. 

The fatality rate for overdoses involving methamphetamine and other psychostimulants more than quadrupled between 2015 and 2020, from 1.8 to 7.5 deaths per 100,000 people. These deaths have disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minority groups.

Even as overdose deaths have soared, public concern about drug addiction in the U.S. has ticked down, according to Pew Research Center surveys. In early 2018, 42% of U.S. adults said drug addiction was a major problem in their community, but that percentage declined to 35% in October 2021.

Around four-in-ten Black (42%) and Hispanic adults (41%) said in the 2021 survey that drug addiction was a major problem in their community, compared with smaller shares of White (34%) and Asian adults (20%).

Drug addiction chart

CORRECTION (Jan. 21, 2022): An earlier version of this analysis, including a chart headline, incorrectly said that Black men were the demographic group most likely to die from drug overdoses in 2020. The fatality rate among Black men in 2020 was similar to the rate among American Indian or Alaska Native men but did not statistically exceed it.

New Helpline Reduces Stress Related Alcohol and Drug Use During Coronavirus

Media Contact:
Cheryl Wittke, Executive Director
Safe Communities
(608) 256-6713



Safe Communities 24-7 Recovery Coach Helpline: (608) 228-1278
if incarcerated, call:  888-811-3689 x 1


A new 24/7 helpline is available for Dane County residents thinking about using alcohol and/or other substances or struggling with substance use issues during the coronavirus epidemic. For help, call (608) 228-1278. Calls are free. No insurance is needed.

This service, sponsored by the nonprofit Safe Communities, is for previous alcohol and/or other substance users, those now in treatment or those tempted to start, and those concerned about a loved one. Callers talk confidentially with Recovery Coaches who are not professional therapists but in long-term recovery from their own alcohol or other substance use and have training in how to help others as advocates, peers and confidantes.

“This is a very stressful time for everyone. People are worried about social isolation, getting sick themselves or losing their jobs and income.’ said Tanya Kraege, Manager, Safe Communities Recovery Coaching Program. “They can become vulnerable to alcohol or other substance use to feel better.”

“This is especially true for those who are working to be in recovery or are already in long-term recovery. Relapse rates increase with stress brought on by loss of income, social isolation and anxiety. They may face additional treatment barriers due to coronavirus-related closures of treatment programs and an overwhelmed health care system.”

People living with substance use disorder are overrepresented in the hospitality business, including restaurants. “Hospitality, travel and leisure employees make up 11% of the entire American work force with over 20,000 working in Dane County alone,” said Jason Illstrup, president of Downtown Madison, Inc. “The lives of many hospitality employees turned upside down with the onset of COVID-19. Many are furloughed, working on reduced hours or, worse yet, terminated. Programs like Safe Communities Recovery Coaching Program will provide instant help to those most in need during a time when any helping hand could save a life.”

Although talking to a recovery coach won’t change the circumstances, coaching is a proven strategy to prevent return to use of substances.
Coaches represent all ages and include African Americans, Latinos and LGBTQ. Coaches answer calls themselves and may refer callers to a different coach if someone better fits their experience and concerns.

Safe Communities Executive Director Cheryl Wittke encourages families and friends of persons in recovery to be especially attentive to warning signs that the person might be at risk of return to use. Some of the signs are listed at

The Recovery Coach 24-7 Helpline is an expansion of other highly impactful recovery coaching programs operating in Dane County. These include:

  • ED 2 Recovery: with an 88% referral to treatment rate among people who sign-on with a recovery coach after treatment for an overdose in the emergency room
  • Jail 2 Recovery: which has served nearly 300 people at high risk of overdose after a period of abstinence during incarceration
  • Pregnancy 2 Recovery: which matches pregnant women with coaches who used during pregnancy and are now in recovery
  • Family Coaches: parents who’ve gone through the struggle of navigating a child’s addiction and are now available to provide guidance to parents facing the same challenges.

Funding from Dane County and UW Health/UPH-Meriter/Quartz are making this helpline possible.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi stated: “Dane County is proud to be the first county in the state to support recovery coaching – a proven strategy to help people with addiction find recovery. Now as we work together to contain the coronavirus, we can’t lose sight of how our opioid overdose epidemic continues to threaten lives, particularly as these two epidemics converge. Through our sponsorship of Safe Communities’ 24-7 Recovery Coaching Helpline, Dane County is extending our commitment to support people through this crisis.”

“UW Health Is pleased to support Safe Communities 24-7 Recovery Coaching Helpline. This critical resource will help our patients and any community member struggling with addiction find help during these stressful times”, said Beth Lonergan, Director of Behavioral Health for UW Health.
Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin and SSM Health are also sponsoring the launch.

Safe Communities is a nonprofit coalition of over 350 organizations working together to save lives, prevent injury and make Dane County safer. Funding is provided by federal, local and foundation grants, project sponsors, memberships and individual donors. For more information and a listing of Sustaining Members, visit


Local recovery groups (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Smart Recovery) are also working to create virtual meetings to support people’s recovery.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, For Medical Emergency, Dial: 911
For community resources, call United Way: Dial 211.

Journey Mental Health Crisis Line: (608) 280-2600

National Suicide Prevention Line:

1-800-273-TALK (8255)
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
Veterans Press 1, En Español Oprima El 2

For people living with mental illness seeking peer support

Solstice House Warm Line: (608) 244-5077;

NAMI Dane County Peer Support: (608) 249-7188



Tanya Kraege, Manager, Safe Communities Recovery Coaching Program
and Safe Communities Recovery Coaches

Jason Ilstrup, Executive Director, Downtown Madison Inc

Steve Starkey, Executive Director, Outreach LGBT Community Center

Dr. Ruben Anthony, Executive Director, Urban League of Greater Madison



Dane County
UW Health/Quartz/UPH-Meriter
Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin
SSM Health
Outreach LGBT Community Center
Urban League of Greater Madison
Downtown Madison Inc.
Destination Madison
Sustaining Members of Safe Communities (see for listing)

Former Addicts Counsel Pregnant Women on their Road to Recovery in one of a Kind SSM Health Program

MADISON, Wis — In the fight to end opioid addiction, SSM Health is partnering with Safe Communities to match addicted pregnant patients with recovery coaches.

The Pregnancy2Recovery program is the first of its kind in the country. SSM Health doctors are identifying at-risk patients in Dane County, then pairing them with someone who has been through the same situation.

“I’m just like the women I work with. I’m 13 years sober now. I used drugs and alcohol maybe 20 years of my life,” said recovery coach Jewel Adams.

She said the coaches are not social workers or law enforcement officers, but trusted friends who don’t judge. They help patients navigate the challenges of carrying a baby who will go through withdrawal.

“I talk to my patients like how I’d want someone to talk to me, because when I was pregnant I didn’t have a program like this, which I really needed,” said Adams.

The 56-year-old used crack cocaine during three of her six pregnancies. But she said she doesn’t regret her past. Without it, she wouldn’t be able to help the two expecting mothers she is coaching.

“When I share my story with women, I’m giving them a hope shot really,” said Adams. “I’m letting them know that it can be done, you don’t have to live this way.”

From 2000 to 2009, the use of opioid drugs during pregnancy has increased from 1.19 per 1,000 hospital births to 5.63.

“Not only does it happen more often than you think,” said Dr. Susan Davidson, but it happens in all walks of life and to everybody in every socioeconomic class.”

Davidson hopes Pregnancy2Recovery will help solve the epidemic in a more holistic way and bring babies into a more stable home.

“Our patients need somebody positive. They need somebody who can encourage them, they need somebody who they can share their deepest feelings with without feelings like they’re being judged,” said Davidson.

Adams knows exactly what these women are going through. She encourages them to stop feeling guilty and talk to people, instead of suffering alone.

“There’s fear in being pregnant and using drugs. You don’t know for sure if your baby will be taken from you, you don’t know if your baby is going to come out sick. That’s the worst feeling a mom could have,” said Adams.

The program is free. It is funded through a grant given to Safe Communities.

Original Article:

Coaching Reduces Opioid Prescribing at UW Health Clinics

Opioid doses dropped 11 percent at UW Health clinics that paid special attention to urine drug testing and other monitoring of patients, while doses went up 8 percent at other UW clinics, a new study found. UW researchers hope to expand the program, which uses “systems consultation” to help primary care doctors follow opioid prescribing guidelines, to other clinics at UW and around the state.

That could help curb the opioid abuse epidemic in Wisconsin, where 827 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016, up 35 percent from the previous year and more than double the toll from a decade earlier. The fewer pills prescribed, the less chance for misuse by patients or others, experts say.
“Reducing the overall supply (of opioids) is important from the population health perspective,” said Dr. Randall Brown, an associate professor of family medicine at UW-Madison who specializes in addiction medicine.

“If we reduce ineffective or inappropriate prescribing, (opioid) dose will come down,” said Dr. Aleksandra Zgierska, an assistant professor of family medicine at UW-Madison who also specializes in addiction medicine.
Opioids include prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl, as well as illicit drugs such as heroin. As overdose deaths have soared around the country in recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board, among other groups, have issued guidelines for proper prescribing.

In 2016, Brown and Zgierska worked with Andrew Quanbeck, an industrial engineer researcher at UW, to coach teams at four UW family medicine clinics on how to adhere to the guidelines.

Over six months, they visited the clinics, conducting audits and providing feedback.
The program focused on a few recommendations for patients on opioids for non-cancer pain: mental health screening, which can identify conditions such as depression that should be treated separately; treatment agreements, which patients sign to acknowledge risks and commit to safeguards; and urine drug testing, recommended at least yearly for people on opioids.

“They can help physicians initiate conversations about dose reduction, if that’s indicated,” Quanbeck said.
Six months after the visits ended, or a year after the program started, the average morphine milligram equivalent, or MME, prescribed to patients dropped from 87.1 to 77.2 at the clinics involved, an 11 percent decrease, according to the study. It was published in January in the journal Implementation Science.

At four UW family medicine clinics that didn’t participate, the average MME went up from 62.0 to 67.1, an 8 percent increase.
MME calculates the relative potency of various opioids. The higher the dose, the greater risk of overdose. The CDC says doctors should use extra precaution if patients get more than 50 MME and avoid or carefully justify doses over 90 MME.

The program joins other efforts to combat the opioid epidemic through prescribing. In April, the state started requiring doctors to use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a database of drugs previously given to patients, before they write certain prescriptions.

Many doctors have started prescribing naloxone, the overdose-reversing drug, to patients on high doses of opioids in case problems arise at home.

The UW researchers have applied for a federal grant to expand their “systems consultation” program to 38 clinics around the state.

“Clinical guidelines are often difficult to interpret for practitioners, and hard to implement,” Quanbeck said. “This is meant to be a model that potentially could be used nationwide.”

Original Article:
By David Wahlberg

Addiction Life & Recovery

I started out just having fun with my friends drinking, smoking bud. Then things progressed slowly. I was around a lot of drug dealing and everything that comes with the really good and the really bad.

I was locked up in a court-ordered drug offender program at 15. I was arrested later at 18 with pills and pot. 2 felonies at 18. I felt like I had no choice but to live that life. I graduated and had an AA degree but I stopped the 2-year program I was doing at the hospital because I was using and selling Oxycontin seemed like better idea at the time. Obviously it wasn’t.

My addiction robbed me of a happy fulfilling life for 20 years. It took me leaving my family and having to live with people I didn’t really care for. I learned a lot about myself and why I kept doing the same destructive behavior for years. Life sucks sometimes and if you don’t react in the right way your f***ed. Its having the right tools and friends and support as well as perseverance. Without those things you will fail or be very unhappy.

I OD’d 4 times and by God’s grace I was found and brought back to life ever time. I thought opiates were my joy in heaven but they were my HELL. I will have to deal with this daily for the rest of my life.

I want to go back to school and finish up my degree to help people realize that drugs are a lie and they robbed me of a much happier better life. I’m very lucky I now have a home and, most importantly, I have a family that I almost threw away.

I would like to help anyone I can. You can have a life without drugs, its actually pretty cool.

How Does the Family Recover?

This story is about how my family has dealt with our child’s problem. We were lucky in that she went to a residential treatment center and got clean and sober. She goes to meetings and works her program.

But what about the family, how does it recover? All too often family members, significant others and spouses don’t understand that addiction is a disease. I discovered a support organization called Families Anonymous. It is a 12 Step Program for parents, loved ones and family members of people with substance abuse and emotional issues. I learned, among other things, that I did not cause my child’s problem, that I can’t control it and I can’t cure it. The program gave me a framework to deal with this situation regardless of whether my qualifier stays clean or not. Besides helping me find my sanity and serenity, attending FA meetings gave me common ground with my qualifier. It helped me reconnect and rebuild a broken relationship. You will not learn how to “fix” your loved one but you will learn how to improve your life.

If you are struggling with feelings or with a person that is active, check out for a meeting near you.

Drugs Led me to the Edge of My Life

When I was 12 I started smoking cigarettes. To this day I still wish I hadn’t started. When I was 13 I met this friend who had other mates including drug dealers. One time we thought it would be cool to just try one joint which we did. And although we weren’t physically addicted — it was very much emotionally addictive. This began the circle of what seemed like death.

I began doing cocaine just after my 14th birthday. Cocaine then took over my life. I thought I could control it but every day that I did it, the more it began to take over me. I had very bad withdrawal effects and I began to lose my mates over it. And that includes my best friend that I smoked weed with the first time.

When I was 17 it got so bad that I had to do it every hour. I also began drinking heavily. My life came to a stop when I was rushed to the hospital after a heavy dose of both cocaine and alcohol.

I had eaten very rarely and I just began slowly dying. I had passed out outside my house and my family found me there after 10 minutes of being unconscious.

After 2 months I was taken into rehab and I was clean of drugs until I started smoking weed again. But I brought myself into rehab again and did some more time in there.

Now I am fully clean.


Treatment Key

Safe communities has complied a list of abbreviation definitions for finding the right treatment for you.

MAT: Medication for Addiction Treatment.
OP: Outpatient Treatment – person lives at home or in the community, attends. individual and group therapy, these can include or not include MAT.
IOP: Intensive Outpatient Treatment – person lives at home or in the community, attends individual and extended groups, 9-12 hours a week.
Residential: person lives at the facility for a period of at least 14 days, some last as many as 45 days.
PHP: Partial Hospitalization Program is a structured mental health treatment program that runs for several hours each day, three to five days per week.
DBT: Dialectical behavior therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that integrates mindfulness techniques.