Skip to content ↓
Press Room

Juneteenth Marks Moment for Overdose Prevention as Overdose Deaths Skyrocket in Wisconsin and Black Community

Samad’s House, City of Milwaukee Office of African American Affairs, and Clean Slate Milwaukee to Provide Naloxone and Harm Reduction Resources to Festival Attendees

June 19, 2023 (Milwaukee, WI)—More than 105,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in 2022, according to provisional data released by the CDC. Notably, overdose deaths are rising most rapidly in Black and Indigenous communities. Wisconsin experienced a staggering 900% increase in opioid-involved overdose deaths from 1999 to 2020, with overdose deaths rising most rapidly in the Black community over this period.  

To combat the overdose crisis in the Milwaukee area, the grassroots harm reduction and recovery organization Samad’s House, the City of Milwaukee Office of African American Affairs, and Clean Slate Milwaukee, with support from public health organization Vital Strategies, will be offering overdose prevention education throughout the city’s upcoming Juneteenth parade.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved people in the United States. At Milwaukee’s 51st annual Juneteenth Celebration, these organizations will share information on opioids, overdose, and how to access naloxone (commonly known by the brand name Narcan) and, importantly, how to access harm reduction resources in Milwaukee.  

“Milwaukee County has seen over 200 drug overdose deaths from January to May of this year. Samad’s House is committed to providing awareness and education to our community on the importance of always having Narcan present to save a life. The Juneteenth event is an opportunity to reduce the stigma of addiction by educating festival-goers on recognizing the signs of an opioid overdose, reversing its effects using Narcan nasal spray, and using fentanyl testing strips,” said Tahira Malik, the Founder and Chief Operations Officer of Samad’s House.

“We are committed to continually normalizing the conversation on addiction and harm reduction practices.”

Samad’s House, the City of Milwaukee Office of African American Affairs, and Clean Slate Milwaukee will all provide free trainings on how to use Narcan, a life-saving opioid reversal medication, during the event. Festival attendees will be able to receive free Narcan when visiting any of the three booths.

In addition to providing Narcan, Samad’s House will have other overdose prevention and harm reduction resources available, including fentanyl test strips. In Milwaukee County, fentanyl is involved in an estimated 80% of drug deaths. They will also be providing community members with personal protective equipment if desired, as well as information about accessible health care services to support people who use drugs and those with substance use disorders.

“The more opportunities we have to save lives and prevent opioid overdose deaths, the greater the chance there is for a person with opioid use disorder to get on the path of recovery,” said Paul Krupski, Wisconsin Department of Health Services Policy Director and former Director of Opioid Initiatives. “We are grateful to the City of Milwaukee Office of African American Affairs, Clean Slate, and Samad’s House, for helping us reach this community with life-saving tools.”

From 2001 to 2021, fatal overdose for Black Wisconsinites increased ninefold. In 2021, the overdose mortality rate in Wisconsin for Black individuals was more than double the national rate. The Juneteenth event is supported by Vital Strategies Overdose Prevention Program, which is working to further support and strengthen evidence-based overdose prevention initiatives and promote racial equity in harm reduction. 

“Overdose can happen to anyone and is ravaging communities across the state of Wisconsin. Black people have been disproportionately impacted by the overdose crisis and have had the least amount of access to harm reduction resources to help them stay alive and safe,” said Diana Kumar, a program manager for the Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies. “We are excited to partner with Samad’s House, the City of Milwaukee Office of African American Affairs, and Clean Slate Milwaukee in their continued efforts to bring overdose awareness and prevention to Black communities in Milwaukee.” 

The Juneteenth event is part of ongoing efforts to make overdose prevention education and harm reduction interventions more accessible in Milwaukee communities. In February, Samad’s House partnered with Vital Strategies and local organizations to host a Better Ways To Cope Harm Reduction Drive-Through, during which community members received free harm reduction supplies, as well as basic health services. Additionally, in late 2022, Samad’s House worked with Vital Strategies to distribute harm reduction supplies to community members and with Wisconsin Voices for Recovery to install Nalox-ZONE boxes in local business establishments in the 53206 area code of Milwaukee County, including gas stations, restaurants, and bars.

People wanting to learn more about opioids, prevention of opioid use disorder, and treatment and recovery should visit the Dose of Reality webpages on the DHS website. Dose of Reality is a joint effort between DHS and the Wisconsin Department of Justice to end Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic.

Press Opportunities:  

Samad’s House, the City of Milwaukee Office of African American Affairs, and Clean Slate Milwaukee will be tabling at the Juneteenth Celebration street festival from 9am to 4pm, where community members can receive overdose prevention education and information about the upcoming training.  Tahira Malik will be available to speak with media members before, during, and after the event.

Media Contacts

Contact: Tony Newman, Vital Strategies: 646-335-5384:

Tahira Malik, Samad’s House: (414) 595-6501: