Evers slams GOP lawmakers after blocking state’s opioid settlement plan

Republican leaders on the Legislative Joint Committee on Finance on Wednesday blocked a state Health Department plan that would spend $31 million granted to the state as part of a settlement to deal with the opioid crisis.

The budget committee co-chairs did not explain why they delayed the plan, which the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) created to distribute Wisconsin’s share in settlement states reached with drug manufacturers. drugs accused of fueling a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction. .

Action by the finance committee on Wednesday means the agency cannot spend the $6 million the state has already received from the settlement. Without a panel-approved plan, the state also won’t be able to distribute an additional $25 million that Wisconsin will receive by the end of 2022.

In a statement Wednesday, committee co-chairs Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) and Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) said they were “working with stakeholders to ensure we invest in impactful programs without duplicating our efforts.

The statement did not identify the alleged flaws in the DHS plan, which was submitted on July 28. Born and Marklein added that they will “quickly improve the rapid distribution plan for these funds.”

Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul released a statement berating the delay.

“Wisconsins across our state have felt the effects of the opioid epidemic firsthand on their loved ones, friends and neighbors, and those families and communities need these funds now to fight the epidemic of opioids and providing resources to people who need our help,” Evers said. “The opportunity to invest millions to get people treatment, support and services doesn’t come along every day. That these lawmakers are turning their backs on the people of Wisconsin, especially given the rise in substance abuse and mental and behavioral health issues facing our state today as a result of the pandemic, defies just logic.

Kaul and DHS officials organized an information session earlier this month outlining details of the spending plan.

The finance committee co-chairs previously rejected a draft plan submitted in April, before Wisconsin received the dollar amounts from the state. Lawmakers have asked the agency to resubmit the plan once the amounts are finalized.

Legislation enacted in 2021 to govern the distribution of settlement money requires the Department of Health Services (DHS) to submit the plan to the Joint Finance Committee for a 14-day “passive review,” allowing any legislator to s oppose the plan anonymously. terms. Without objection, a spending plan subject to the passive review process can go into effect without further action by the legislature.

Wisconsin’s total share of the settlement is expected to total more than $280 million over nearly two decades, which will be distributed to 87 local governments that also took part in the lawsuit. An additional $120 million, along with $9.6 million in restitution, will go directly to DHS to address the opioid epidemic.

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