Real Talks Wisconsin

In October 2022, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS), in conjunction with the state’s department of justice (DOJ) and the Office of Governor Tony Ever announced the launch of the Real Talks campaign to help address the rise in substance use in the state. In recent years, much like the rest of the country, Wisconsin has seen a sizable increase in opioid-related deaths. In fact, between 2018 and 2020, the number of opioid-related deaths increased by 46.7 percent. In addition, alcohol misuse continues to be a problem. Data from DHS indicates that adults in the state rank third in the United States for alcohol use. Real Talks Wisconsin is part of a series of DHS programs aimed at preventing and reducing substance use or abuse within the state. Real Talks discusses community prevention programs and encourages harm reduction programs, such as free access to emergency opioid antagonists.

Real Talks Wisconsin promotes frequent and intense conversations to prevent and reduce substance use and abuse through supportive relationships. The inspiration for Real Talks came from the success of DHS’s Small Talk’s initiative which encouraged conversations with children and preteens on the hazards of underage drinking and from the DHS and DOJ’s Dose of Reality campaign which encourages conversations on the dangers of opioids. The agencies say that the goal of Real Talks is to promote “open, honest and caring conversations about drugs.” The program is named “Real Talks” because is goal is to encourage participants to be authentic and honest with one another in an effort to identify and help individuals who are dealing with substance use or abuse or anyone who knows someone dealing with substance use or abuse.

Real Talks Wisconsin focuses on three key strategies: (1) encouraging conversations that include facts about drug use; (2) taking action in the community to address substance use; and (3) finding ways in which an individual can get help with substance use or abuse. The Real Talks program can be applied to any substance with which a participant may be struggling. Real Talks Wisconsin is based on strategies that can be used to prevent or reduce any type of substance use or abuse. To learn more about Real Talks Wisconsin or the conversational tools it uses, visit the Real Talks website, here.


Alcohol Use in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services, (accessed December 13, 2022),

Dose of Reality: Opioid Data Summary Dashboard, Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services, (accessed December 13, 2022),

Press Release: State Agencies Launch Real Talks Campaign to Prevent and Reduce Substance Use, UW-Madison Prevention Research Ctr, (accessed December 13, 2022),

Real Talks: Wisconsin, Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services, (accessed December 13, 2022),