Ending Deaths from Despair, new task force discusses crises in Dane County

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 12:29 PM CDT|Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 6:44 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Ending premature and preventable deaths in the Dane County community is the mission of a new coalition.

Wednesday morning, officials gathered for the first meeting of the Ending Deaths From Despair Coalition. The group is focusing on ways to prevent death by suicide, alcoholism, and drug overdoses.

Leaders said the pandemic has only emphasized the need to provide better support to those struggling with mental health or addiction issues.

The task force is made up of 26 people, including mental health providers, first responders and court and community advocates. They aim to take a hard look at the current resources available in the county and fill in the gaps.

“Are we coordinating, are we communicating as well as we can to provide services that may already be available, but people aren’t aware of?,” said Dane County Executive, Joe Parisi.

Executive Director of Safe Communities, Cheryl Wittke, said certain populations within the county appear to be at a greater risk now than they were in decades past.

“The opioid overdose epidemic is increasingly effecting African Americans in Dane County. We’re seeing higher rates there than we had seen earlier in the pandemic. The same with suicides, we’re seeing an increase in suicide rates among African Americans and Latinos,” told Wittke.

Another task force member, Charles Tubbs, is the Dane County Emergency Management Director. Tubbs lost his son following a battle with mental health issues and addiction.

Tubbs said he knows that countless others are struggling to get the help they need. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of suicides or attempted overdoses that are going on just in the Madison community. That does not include the entire Dane County. It is mind boggling. People are hurting, people need our help,” told Tubbs.

This initial meeting was primarily centered around introducing all the task force members to one another and establishing which areas of expertise each has in either suicide prevention or substance abuse.


  • Emily S. Anderson: RN-BC BSN William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital Pain Care Resource Nurse
  • Chief Liza Tatar: Madison Fire Department and Chair, Stop the Overdose Epidemic Steering Committee of Safe Communities
  • Chief Aaron Chapin: McFarland Police Department, Dane County Police Chief’s Association and Member, Dane County Criminal Justice Council
  • Judge Susan Crawford: Dane County Circuit Court District 1, OWI Court
  • Charlestine Daniel: Founder, African American Opioid Coalition of Safe Communities
  • Sarah Dunn: Vice President CG Schmidt
  • Veronica Figueroa: Executive Director, UNIDOS
  • Hannah Flanagan: Director, Crisis Services, Journey Mental Health
  • Katrina Hickle-Koclanes, MD: Member & Executive Council, Wisconsin Psychiatric Association
  • Nyra Jordan: Social Impact Investment Director, American Family Insurance
  • Keith Gennuso, PhD: Lead Scientist, County Health Rankings, UW Population Health Institute
  • Beth Lonergan, PhD: Director of Behavioral Health, UW Health Health Care
  • Kyle Martin, MD: St. Mary’s Emergency Department, Madison Emergency Physicians
  • Kara McCaffrey: Epic Systems
  • Jill McHone: Executive Director, Fitchburg Senior Center Nonprofit
  • Anna Moffit: Executive Director, NAMI of Dane County
  • Lupita Montoto: La Movida Radio

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