THU AM News: Groups fighting drug abuse getting $3.1 million in federal grants over five years; Health officials warn that COVID-19 deaths will continue to rise

— Five organizations working to reduce youth substance abuse in Wisconsin are getting a total of over $3.1 million in federal grants from the Office of National Drug Policy over the next five years. 

Each recipient is getting $125,000 in grants per year, supporting efforts to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco and alcohol among young people in the state. 

A total of $13.2 million in grants is going to 106 Drug-Free Communities Support Programs around the country this year, a release from the agency shows. 

Recipients in Wisconsin include local governments at the city and county level and the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program. The community coalitions that will be using the funding include Volition Franklin, Better Brodhead, the Sauk County Partnership for Prevention, La-Crosse-based Alliance to Heal and the Milton Youth Coalition. 

Regina LaBelle, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, says federal evaluations have found youth substance abuse “significantly decreased” in communities with DFC-funded coalitions. In a statement, she says every dollar spent on “effective school-based prevention programs” leads to $18 in avoided medical costs and improved productivity. 

“We know that delaying substance use until after adolescence significantly reduces the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder,” she said. 

The funding comes as drug overdose deaths in the state and around the country are on the rise, according to the most recent available data. Wisconsin had 6,845 drug overdose deaths between 2014 and 2020, according to the Department of Health Services. The number of drug-related deaths in the state increased from 851 in 2014 to 1,189 in 2019, the latest DHS findings show. 

Meanwhile, the number of drug-related overdose deaths on the national level increased from over 40,000 in 2014 to over 70,000 in 2019, statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show. 

A report from the state Department of Health Services last month found the state’s opioid epidemic worsened during the pandemic, based on related ambulance activity and emergency department visits. 

See the full list of grant recipients: 

See the DHS report: 

— Wisconsin health officials are warning that COVID-19 deaths will continue to increase as the state experiences a surge in cases driven by the delta variant. 

But they noted vaccinations are keeping the number of deaths from rising as sharply as the case numbers have been in recent weeks. 

“It is certainly true that as we have more people contracting COVID-19, we should expect that we will see — as we are seeing — more hospitalizations, and we will see an increase in deaths,” said Karen Timberlake, secretary-designee for the Department of Health Services, during a call with reporters yesterday.

She said all of the COVID-19 vaccines are “extremely effective” at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. She added that “you are much, much less likely” to be hospitalized due to the virus after being fully vaccinated. 

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, noted the seven-day average for confirmed COVID-19 deaths has already seen a significant increase in recent weeks. 

“We’re already losing people to COVID-19 because of this current surge,” he said. “People are going to continue to die from this disease until we get low levels of cases.” 

The latest seven-day average for new cases has reached 2,857, the DHS site shows. The cumulative total for cases in the state is 707,074. 

And the seven-day average for new confirmed deaths remains at 11 deaths per day, which is nearly double the rate from one month ago. A total of 7,876 people in Wisconsin have died from the virus. 

Meanwhile, Timberlake noted hospitals and health systems in the state are “feeling the strain” due to the current surge. The DHS site shows 90.6 percent of hospital beds and 93.3 percent of ICU beds are currently in use. The Wisconsin Hospital Association site shows 1,085 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 332 in intensive care units. 

Register now for a related upcoming virtual event: “Lessons from the Ongoing Pandemic” on Oct. 13: 

— The Madison Metropolitan School District has reported 745 students and staff have quarantined due to COVID-19 since Aug. 18, which is hundreds more than other school districts in south central Wisconsin. 

Meanwhile, schools in Madison have reported 162 positive COVID-19 cases over the same period. The majority of those quarantines and cases have occurred in the past 14 days, according to the MMSD dashboard. 

During the DHS media call, Timberlake noted that cases among children in the state are on the rise, especially among kids ages 9-13, most of whom are too young to be vaccinated against the disease. 

“What we need to remember is that kids live in families and families live in communities,” she said yesterday. “When kids get sick from COVID-19, they can spread it to others like family members and friends and relatives who may not be vaccinated even if the kids themselves don’t have symptoms or don’t become terribly sick.” 

See the dashboard here: 

— UW Health has announced all of its pediatric care services and locations will be grouped under a new name — UW Health Kids. 

“We’re bringing 100 years of expert care under one umbrella to simplify health care for the families we care for, better represent the scope of our leadership in kids’ health and pave the way for our next 100 years of specialty care, preventive health and primary care for the kids,” said Nikki Stafford, vice president and COO of American Family Children’s Hospital. 

The new name covers 25 clinic locations offering specialty pediatric care, 17 primary care locations, 41 specialty care programs, a Level I pediatric trauma center and burn center, two urgent care centers and more. It also covers the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, though the hospital will keep the same name. 

Also, doctors and other staff at the pediatric facilities will now include UW Health Kids in their titles. 

See the release: 

— Enrollment across UW System schools dropped by 1 percent for the fall semester with only three schools seeing increases, according to initial estimates.

UW-Madison, UW-Green Bay and UW-Superior saw increases in enrollment while student populations dropped at the System’s 10 other universities. Enrollment at UW-Madison increased by 6 percent, the biggest jump across the 13 schools, while UW-Platteville enrollment decreased by 11 percent, the biggest loss.

“We think it’s because they didn’t get the kind of experience they expected as freshmen going to college, from what they’d read, what they’d heard from their older brothers and sisters and their friends,” UW System President Tommy Thompson said on a call with reporters.

Here are the initial estimates for campus by campus enrollment changes:

*UW-Madison: increased by 6 percent

*UW-Milwaukee: decreased by 3 percent

*UW-Eau Claire: decreased by 4 percent

*UW-Green Bay: increased by 3 percent

*UW-La Crosse: decreased by 2 percent

*UW-Oshkosh: decreased by 1 percent

*UW-Parkside: decreased by 7 percent

*UW-Platteville: decreased by 11 percent

*UW-River Falls: decreased by 8 percent

*UW-Stevens Point: decreased by 1 percent

*UW-Stout: decreased by 4 percent

*UW-Superior: increased by 2 percent

*UW-Whitewater: decreased by 4 percent

See the press release:

— SHINE Technologies is dropping the word “medical” from its name to reflect the Janesville business’ new focus on broadly developing nuclear technology. 

The company in April merged with another nuclear technology company called Phoenix, which provides industrial inspection services for the aerospace, defense and energy industries. 

Greg Piefer, founder and CEO of SHINE Technologies, says the company has a long-term goal of creating and deploying systems that produce “clean fusion energy” and is currently commercializing near-term applications of fusion. 

In the meantime, the company is working toward production of diagnostic medical isotopes for heart disease and therapeutic isotopes for certain cancers. Isotopes are variations of elements that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. SHINE plans to produce the isotopes at its campus in Janesville. 

“The change in name to SHINE Technologies really represents, I think, a little bit more accurately what our core competencies are within the company,” Piefer said in a video posted to the company website. “Our medical mission is still crucially important to millions of patients who will depend on having a stable supply chain as the years go forward, but when you really look at the company under the hood, we’re primarily a technology company.” 

See the release: 

— The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is hosting a “virtual trade venture” in December to help companies connect with export partners in African markets. 

Due to the pandemic, WEDC has shifted its trade ventures to a virtual format for the time being, connecting Wisconsin businesses to potential trade partners in other countries through virtual meetings. 

In a release, the agency notes that Africa represents a relatively untapped set of markets for exporters in the state. The continent contains seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, but no African countries are among Wisconsin’s top 30 export destinations. WEDC says the state’s largest African export destination in 2020 was South Africa, ranked 32nd with imports of $100 million. 

Meetings will be held between Dec. 6-10 and Dec. 13-17. A release shows Wisconsin’s trade representatives are located in 13 African countries. 

See more on the virtual trade venture here: 

— Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has announced the top 16 products in the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin Contest that will compete in a tournament-style bracket called Manufacturing Madness. 

The top 16 products include an outboard boat engine, construction machinery, aircraft parts, travel trailers, beer, soda, donuts, chicken filets and a number of other products. In the next round of voting, these products will be narrowed down to the final eight, with voting between Sept. 23-28. 

“These products showcase how vibrant and diverse this industry truly is, and that is why we do this contest,” said Kurt Bauer, WMC president and CEO, in a release. “Not only are we thrilled to highlight these cool products, we want to honor the hardworking people in manufacturing who have been so critical over the last year.”

Watch a reveal of the top 16 here: 

See the release: 


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– Applications available for 2022 Wisconsin Honey Queen Program


– World Beef Expo set to kick-off in West Allis


# Wisconsin wage growth among the 10 slowest in the nation over the summer


– Madison schools report hundreds of new COVID quarantines in last week

– Pollinator grants offered to Wisconsin schools

– New We Energies STEM Center allows MSOE to grow its outreach


– Wisconsin hunters urged to submit samples for CWD

– Wisconsin DNR asks hunters for help with CWD sampling this fall


– DHS: 5 percent of Wisconsin’s ICU beds are available. COVID-19 is partly to blame.


– Advocate Aurora Enterprises leads $24M funding round for Xealth Inc.


– Milwaukee Common Council president wants to create city DOT to curb reckless driving


– Milwaukee Bucks play-by-play announcer Lisa Byington on becoming a role model for all: Q&A


– Aviation services firm to break ground on $11M facility at Mitchell International


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

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