State Budget Must Prioritize Youth Substance Use Prevention

Statewide - Heroin and other drug use continue to rise across Wisconsin, yet the proposed 2015-17 biennial state budget fails to prioritize proactive solutions. As the Joint Finance Committee begins public hearings on the state budget, the Healthy Youth, Bright Futures coalition is calling on legislators to make heroin and other drug use a budget priority, especially solutions that have shown promise in preventing risky substance use among youth.

Statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Justice show heroin-related cases continued to increase in nearly every county in Wisconsin in 2014. Heroin-related deaths in Milwaukee County increased 72% in 2014, surpassing both traffic fatalities and homicides, according to recently released statistics from the Milwaukee County medical examiner's office.

“The budget is a reflection of our priorities as a state,” said Erik Kirkstein, coordinator of the Healthy Youth Bright Futures coalition. “And right now, early preventive drug screening and counseling should be at the top of our list. As Wisconsin’s heroin crisis reaches epidemic levels, noticeably absent in the proposed state budget is any serious investment in proven prevention strategies to reduce the number of young people falling victim to life-threatening addiction.“

Six school districts in Southern Wisconsin, including West Allis/West Milwaukee and Franklin school districts are combating alcohol and other drug abuse by implementing a solution called SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment). These follow two school districts in Washington County, the first to implement the solution in Wisconsin.

Serious state investment in SBIRT training is needed to make sure every Wisconsin middle school and high school student receives preventive screening, and follow up treatment if needed.  Medical research establishes early identification of dangerous substance misuse tied to effective follow-up counseling services if needed as a proven, evidence-based approach to preventing addiction among adolescents.

The SBIRT model has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (SCAODA) and other medical authorities across the country.

“Ensuring that access to life-saving preventive services are available to Wisconsin schools will provide young people with the tools they need to steer clear of risky substance use and stay on the healthy path to future success,” Kirkstein said.

The Healthy Youth, Bright Futures Coalition for the Prevention of Youth Addiction in Wisconsin includes Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyles, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, IMPACT, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund, Elevate, Inc, and Community Advocates.

Media Contact: Erik Kirkstein, (414)­ 520­-1377 erik.kirkstein@citizenactionwi.org

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