WEST BEND – Three southeastern Wisconsin counties, Washington, Waukesha and Milwaukee counties, will share in almost $2.1 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice to help fight the ongoing opioid crisis.

Washington County will received $500,000, Waukesha County about $376,000 and the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division will receive nearly $1.2 million. Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen said earlier his office is grateful for the grant. Bensen’s office, along with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Judges, the State Public Defender’s Office, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Elevate, the Washington County Human Services Department and others have been working toward this goal for years.

Washington County Sheriff Martin Schulteis said the money is all part of a four year grant that the county will use to integrate evidence based substance abuse treatment, mandatory drug testing, sanctions and incentives and transitional services through a drug treatment court.

Various courts and programs have been funded and supported by the county, including a treatment and diversion program, with which this drug court will collaborate.

Public Affairs Coordinator Ethan Hollenberger said the grant assists with the collaborative effort of several organizations throughout the county, without which this pilot program would not be possible.

Logistically, the grant provides financial backing for four years, after which the county can reapply or search for another funding source. The pilot is on schedule to begin during January of 2020 and after its temporary implementation period, be adjusted as necessary and made permanent.

The slightly more than $2 million will help public safety and public health professionals in the Eastern District of Wisconsin combat substance abuse and respond effectively to overdoses. Office of Justice Programs Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan made the announcement during a visit with local, state  and federal officials in West Virginia, one of the states hardest hit by the epidemic.

“The opioid crisis has destroyed far too many lives and left too many Americans feeling helpless and hopeless,” said Sullivan. “This epidemic— the most deadly in our nation’s history — is introducing new dangers and loading public health responsibilities onto the public safety duties of our law enforcement officers. The Department of Justice is here to support them during this unprecedented and extremely challenging time.”

With more than 130 people dying from opioid-related overdoses every day, the Department of Justice has made fighting addiction to opioids— including heroin and fentanyl — a national priority. The Trump Administration is providing critical funding for a wide range of activities — from preventive services and comprehensive treatment to recovery assistance, forensic science services and research — to help save lives and break the cycle of addiction and crime.

The awards support an array of activities designed to reduce the harm inflicted by these dangerous drugs. Grants will help law enforcement officers, emergency responders and treatment professionals coordinate their response to overdoses.

Funds will also provide services for children and youth affected by the crisis and will support the nationwide network of drug and treatment courts. Other awards will address prescription drug abuse, expand the capacity of forensic labs and support opioid-related research.

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