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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s second-most populous county is expanding a program that tries to get people with addictions into treatment after they land in jail or the emergency room.

Most Dane County hospitals currently use a program the county began in 2016 to connect opioid users who come to the ER with state-certified recovery coaches. Area police departments and emergency medical service agencies starting this summer will also begin making referrals to recovery coaches, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

“With this expansion we will be the only county in the nation with this comprehensive of an approach to connect people in need to the help they need,” County Executive Joe Parisi said Thursday.

The recovery coach program is a partnership between Safe Communities, Dane County and local hospitals. The coaches are former users who help connect people with addiction to available treatment options and determine if there’s insurance or another way to pay for it.

“We are incredibly excited to expand these services. Peer support works. Our evidence continues to show that it works,” said Sky Tikkanen of Safe Communities. “We are very targeted in our responses. We try to get people the support they need at those crucial moments.”

Intervention can occur when a user is brought to the ER after overdosing, having pregnancy complications, being suicidal or having trouble with the law.

“I think the thing that has been increasingly and painfully clear over the last 10 years is that this opioid epidemic is not going away,” said Dr. Michael Lohmeier, medical director of Dane County EMS.

The program expansion comes as health officials in the county and state work to stop what is still a growing opioid crisis.

“This is not a young person’s disease, this not an old person’s disease. This doesn’t care about socioeconomic status; it doesn’t care where you come from or where you’re going,” Lohmeier said. “It hits everybody equally.”


Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio,