opioids

Marti Mikkelson

Milwaukee County continues to fight an opioid crisis. Overdose deaths peaked in 2017, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner. But fatalities could be trending down — as the number recorded last year dropped more than 10%, to 302. In the hope that the numbers continue to decline, the Milwaukee Fire Department recently rolled out a unique approach to stemming the opioid crisis.

Parker Schorr

Jess Przybylski had never really dealt with loss. Then the father of her children was killed in a car crash. In 2011, her friends offered her methamphetamine to distract from the grief.

Soon after, Przybylski lost her job. Her two children were taken from her once, then once more when she was caught faking a drug test. A growing rap sheet eclipsed her college degree as she lost cars, relationships — and nearly her life.

"It was a one-time thing, and that was it," Przybylski, who lives in Chippewa Falls in northwest Wisconsin, says of her meth addiction.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 24

Make no mistake: The legal fight over liability for the U.S. opioid crisis is only heating up.

Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET

Confronted with a torrent of lawsuits across the U.S., several major drug companies are in discussions with authorities to resolve thousands of opioid-related suits filed against them. A government source close to the negotiations tells NPR that Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Endo International and Allergan are looking to cut deals.

Louis Morano knows what he needs, and he knows where to get it.

Morano, 29, has done seven stints in rehab for opioid addiction in the past 15 years. So, he has come to a mobile medical clinic parked on a corner of Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood, in the geographical heart of the city's overdose crisis. People call the mobile clinic the "bupe bus."

alfa27 / stock.adobe.com

The Latino population faces many challenges when it comes to barriers to care for addiction — including English proficiency, lack of insurance, and the stigma surrounding the issue. But the programs at Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, including its Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction (AODA) and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), are especially geared toward the population it serves.

In his 40 years of working with people who struggle with addiction, David Crowe has seen various drugs fade in and out of popularity in Pennsylvania's Crawford County.

Methamphetamine use and distribution is a major challenge for the rural area, says Crowe, the executive director of Crawford County Drug and Alcohol Executive Commission. And opioid-related overdoses have killed at least 83 people in the county since 2015, he says.

Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers / Facebook

In general, an estimated 80%  of people needing treatment for substance abuse in Wisconsin are not either seeking it or receiving it.

Allison Dikanovic

From alcohol to the misuse of opioids, addiction issues are a national crisis. In 2017, more than 900 people died from opioid overdoses in Wisconsin alone.

Lindsay Bunker woke up from a nightmare.

The 32-year-old lives with her sixth-month-old daughter on the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian Reservation in northern Wisconsin. She's struggled with addiction for over 10 years, mostly to heroin. Then came the nightmare: She dreamt two men were attacking her baby while she could think only about drugs.

"In my mind I was thinking, 'If I can just get one hit, if I can get one line, I can save her,'" she recalls, pausing before continuing, "I woke up and I was panicking. How can a mother think like that?"

Victor Moussa/Fotolia

The number of Wisconsin deaths caused by drug overdoses is expected to be well into the hundreds again this year, after totaling more than 900 last year. Health officials say most of those deaths were due to opioid abuse. Some businesses and medical experts say they have innovative ideas for reducing the opioid crisis.

More than 40 percent of the people who die of opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin are from Milwaukee County. The Medical Examiner estimates the number of local deaths will be down this year, but only about 5 percent from 2017.

Victor Moussa/fotolia

Recommendations from a Milwaukee city-county committee that's trying to reduce the opioid crisis were announced Friday during a meeting at Milwaukee City Hall.

The ideas come as the number of local opioid-related deaths is down a little this year but is still a sizable problem.

It may be rare for people seriously affected by substance abuse to get a chance to start over. However, Milwaukee County’s Family Drug Treatment Court is helping families do just that – and has been for several years.

Drug court, veterans court, mental health court… these are just a few examples of the types of specialty, or problem-solving courts, that seek to address specific problems in the justice system on an individual level.