Brown County declares fentanyl a Community Health Crisis

Brown County is using settlement money from pharmaceutical companies to raise awareness of the danger
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 10:53 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2022 at 6:06 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Brown County has declared the powerful opioid fentanyl a Community Health Crisis.

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach and Public Health Officer Anna Nick made the announcement Thursday during a news conference.

“We don’t do declarations lightly. We do this when we feel there is an emergency in our community,” Streckenbach said. “This is kind of scary in terms of what’s happening and how easily one pill can take a life that fast.”

It coincides with Recovery Month.

Streckenbach is directing Public Health to use opioid settlement funds to support programs, advocacy, and awareness. The county is establishing the Brown County Overdose Task Force to focus on prevention, response, and recovery.

Sandra Ranck lost her son to a fentanyl overdose.

“We need to do an emergency fentanyl awareness campaign so these young people don’t pick it up. You pick it up once, accidentally... you don’t come back. My son’s dead. He’s never coming back,” Ranck said. “My son at every opportunity–he was loved, gifted, an amazing human being. If someone like that can’t escape it… I don’t know who can. And there are many people today who say these drugs are so powerful they don’t know if you can overcome them.”

Ranck hopes community involvement and discussions on the danger of synthetic drugs lead to solutions.

“It can be in everything. You get one chance. You try it one time. You’re toast. You’re done. You don’t come back. It’s a one-way street to death... Educate yourself. Educate your family and be protective.”

In August, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services issued a public health advisory regarding overdose deaths linked to drugs laced with fentanyl. It is inexpensive to produce. Fentanyl can be added to pills, heroin, cocaine, meth and other drugs.

DHS says in the last year, synthetic opioids like fentanyl were identified in 91 percent of opioid overdose deaths in Wisconsin.

Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. The Drug Enforcement Administration considers 2 milligrams of fentanyl a lethal dose.

Brown County drug agents warned back in 2017 they were seeing a rise in fentanyl being added to meth, cocaine, and marijuana. That same year, Wisconsin passed a law adding fentanyl to the list of controlled substances, making manufacturing, possessing or delivering a fentanyl analog a felony. Penalties were increased earlier this year with laws specific to fentanyl.

In 2021, Brown County sheriff’s deputies saved 21 lives, a department record, using Narcan on overdose victims.

Brown County is holding a community listening session for people to share their experiences with fentanyl, overdoses or substance abuse.

The session, hosted by Tom Farley, is Sept. 12 from 5-8 p.m. Backstage at the Meyer.

Brown County Public Health Officer Anna Nick talks about the rise in overdose deaths and what the declaration accomplishes