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Jefferson County Board Meeting Article – 3/14

Posted by Ryan Baker on March 22nd, 2023

The opioid pandemic continues

The opioid pandemic continues to plague not only the United States but also Jefferson County in major ways. According to 2015 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over one third of United States citizens had admitted to using prescription opioids.

The issue behind is who is manning this operation. Lawsuits have been filed in other states surrounding the idea that pharmaceutical companies knew their profits would see a major increase if they could push the agenda of opioid use for the long-term. This was researched by The Wisconsin Counties Association.

Having a first settlement occur in 2022, lawsuits continued to hit because these companies were idealizing a marketing campaign to medical personnel and the public with a false light on long-term opioid use.

In the continuation of the opioid settlements belonging to Jefferson County and the state of Wisconsin, there has been more advanced on said settlements to help diminish the pandemic that has been brought to streets of Wisconsinites’ neighborhoods.  The resolution authorized Jefferson County into settlement agreements with five different pharmaceutical companies. Also, to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Wisconsin Attorney General for Allocation of Opioid Settlement Proceeds.

This will be Jefferson County’s second settlement with an allocation after attorney fees of $2,548,187. This money is coming from the five companies over the given years: Allergan of six years, Teva of 13 years, Walgreens of 15 years, CVS of ten years, and Walmart of five years. The money will be directed to Attorney Fees first then will go into the County’s Opioid Abatement Account.

“We’re looking ahead to the future as to how do we use these various funds to really help get after a pandemic that’s been going on related to the opioid and fentanyl and all the other things that have been impacting that area,” said County Administrator Ben Wehmeier. “We hope that it’s going to provide the care that we need. We hope it is going to be able to provide some more education out there.”

Youth mental health center

The creation of a Youth Crisis Stabilization Facility is in the works now to help provide short-term residential care for youths, ages 10-17. The facility will help those kids who are going through mental health crisis over a three to five day period. The goal is to help the patient come back to ground zero and to prevent them going to more serious treatment.

“One of our biggest goals with this was to work with our partners to find a place that was close to family, close to friends as the kids are working through these situations in a safe place as well,” said Wehmeier.

The location of the facility is on the former Bethesda grounds in Watertown. The site of grounds was bought from the Greater Watertown Health Foundation to help the area in a variety of needs, with one building in particular being said facility. Other agencies involved with Jefferson County are the Human Services Department, Greater Watertown Health Foundation, and the State Department of Health Services.

In a fiscal aspect, one grant was approved in the amount of $800,000 through the Consolidated Appropriations Act which is going to be applied to startup and staffing costs. In another grant that was the Program Revenue grant with the amount of $578,737 which will be used for remodeling and construction costs. Finally, Jefferson County expects to be given a Youth Crisis Services Facility Program Revenue grant worth $498,000 per year for two more years applied to operational costs.

Noteworthy discussions

The Jefferson County Parks Department is looking to build a recreation trail known as Interurban Trail. The 10.96 mile trail was passed to begin construction and it is located on the former Interurban Trail that connects the cities of Watertown and Oconomowoc. 80% of the funding will come from grants from The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Transportation Alternatives Program of a total of $1,609,692.95. Meanwhile, the other 20% will come from the County with a total of $321,938.59, and Jefferson County will be responsible for maintenance which will cost $600-$900 per mile per year going forward.

Wehmeier as the county administrator appointed a brand new position that being the county’s facilities manager. Ryan Hayes was appointed as said county’s facilities manager. Hayes has a bachelor’s in architectural design and worked the past nine years in the private and public sectors of Milwaukee. His most recent work belongs on the police and library facilities in Milwaukee.

An ordinance with no fiscal effect was passed on E-bikes given the go-ahead to be on County bike paths. A few regulations of the E-bikes are that it needs to be 750 watts or less, it will be properly regulated by County ordinance, and the speed limit will not exceed 15 miles per hour.

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