Exec Farrow of Waukesha County: Waukesha County Focuses on Schools and Crisis Response During National Awareness Week

(Waukesha, Wis.) – This National Prevention Week, Waukesha County leaders announce new efforts to prevent substance abuse in the community. The Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has allocated additional grant funds to schools and the community to improve primary prevention of substance abuse; the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office will implement a pilot program that deploys mental health professionals to respond to crisis calls in real time; and peer support will increase at the community level.

“Prescription drug abuse, especially opioids, is devastating to our community,” said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow. “Prevention is an investment in the lives and safety of all of our residents, which is why the county uses several strategies to stop substance abuse before it starts.”

Expand prevention programs in schools

Waukesha County will provide approximately $200,000 in new Substance Abuse Block Grant (SABG) funds to expand prevention efforts in schools and the community. Grants can fund six primary prevention strategies: information dissemination, education, alternative activities, problem identification and referral, community process, and environment. Schools and approved prevention agencies each have the opportunity to apply.

Waukesha County has partnered with the Addiction Resource Council, Inc. to provide free technical assistance to develop, implement, and document programs to schools applying for grants. Fellows may collaborate with other approved substance use prevention agencies for activities not offered by the schools.

Ongoing implementation of the Integrated Mental Health Professionals Program

The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), in partnership with HHS, will implement the Integrated Mental Health Professionals Program, which began as a pilot program in November 2021. The sheriff’s office has experienced a improved response to mental health and crisis calls since the pilot program began. It will be fully implemented at the end of June.

“This program responds to the changing needs of the community,” said Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson. “Mental health issues continue to rise, and this program both protects the safety of our deputies and those in crisis, while maximizing our deputies’ time for public safety and criminal issues.”

Since WCSO became the first and only county agency to integrate a mental health professional into its office:

  • The average mental health professional response time to arrive on scene to meet with a person in mental health crisis is 22.1 minutes, compared to 45 minutes for similar responses with non-integrated mental health professionals.
  • The on-board mental health professional clears deputies on 38% of calls for service because the situation is not imminently dangerous and does not require the presence of law enforcement.

Mental health issues and contact with law enforcement continue to increase dramatically, both locally and nationally. In 2018, Waukesha County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to 236 calls for service related to a mental health and/or addiction crisis requiring the assistance of an HHS crisis clinician. These service calls have increased, with 691 calls in 2020 and nearly 800 calls in 2021.

More information on overdose prevention in Waukesha County

Waukesha County is using a collective impact approach through several programs to address the opioid crisis, including participation in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, the Injection Drug Use Prevention Project of the Wisconsin and its drug treatment court.

  • In 2022, Waukesha County will use grants to launch drug-assisted therapy awareness campaigns to highlight treatment options for those recovering.
  • HHS has added an additional full-time peer support specialist to the staff of its mental health and addictions outpatient services clinic.
  • The Waukesha County Heroin Task Force Prevention Action Team hosts community presentations to highlight the risks associated with prescription misuse.
  • HHS maintains a close relationship with Waukesha County AODA Volunteers, who provide valuable outreach, education, and support to those recovering from or considering abstaining from drugs or alcohol.
  • The Women’s Health and Recovery Project (WHARP), coordinated by HHS Waukesha County, helps women with substance use disorders and their children who have complex needs such as housing, employment, mental and physical health issues, transportation and child care.
  • Since 2017, more than 291 documented lives have been saved, of which at least 289 were naloxone reverse overdoses, thanks to the Waukesha County HHS Naloxone Project.

About the Addiction Resource Council (ARC), Inc.

ARC promotes substance abuse prevention and treatment and supports the recovery of individuals and families impacted by the chronic illness of substance abuse throughout Waukesha County. ARC works with local and state initiatives such as the Waukesha County HHS Board Substance Use Advisory Committee, Waukesha County Heroin and Illegal Drugs Task Force, Your Choice to Live, WisHope Recovery, the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (SCAODA,) and many more. Waukesha County supports ARC initiatives through community partnerships and substance abuse block grants. More information is available at www.addictionresourcecouncilwaukeshawi.org.

About Waukesha County

The mission of Waukesha County Government is to promote the health, safety and quality of life of citizens while fostering an economically vibrant community. More information is available at www.waukeshacounty.gov.

Follow us on Facebook at and Twitter for updates on county programs and events. More information about Waukesha County’s efforts to address the opioid crisis is available at www.waukeshacounty.gov/overdoseprevention.

About Rhonda Lee

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