Gov. Scott Walker signed two executive orders mid-January to continue the fight against opioid abuse in Wisconsin.

The orders are meant to implement recommendations created by the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse to create a Commission on Substance Abuse Treatment Delivery to study the “hub-and-spoke” model and to implement new practices among state agencies, according to a press release from Walker.

Walker commended Wisconsin as being a leader in addressing the opioid epidemic, referencing the 28 bipartisan bills signed into law so far to address many aspects of the statewide crisis.

“Too many Wisconsin families feel the painful effects of this crisis every day,” Walker said in the statement. “Through the guidance and recommendations of the Task Force, we’ve created reforms that will open the door to the best treatment outcomes for patients and their families.”

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Madison Police Department officer Daniel Swanson sees these measures as having the potential to benefit many.

The opioid misuse and abuse in Wisconsin is at a “dangerous” level, according to the press release.

“It’s considered a crisis at this point,” Swanson said. “Deaths are skyrocketing and similar trends are being seen all around.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 827 people died in 2016 from opioid overdoses. The number of deaths caused by prescription opioids has increased 600 percent from 2000 to 2016, going from 81 to 568.

Heroin overdose deaths in Wisconsin have also increased, going from 28 deaths in 2000 to 371 deaths in 2016.

Executive Order 273 calls for multiple strategies to be implemented through Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services. Walker ordered the department to convene a Governor’s Faith-Based Summit on Opioids for leaders of faith to help better confront prevention, intervention and recovery.

“We see many suffering from this epidemic go and seek help from their faith leader, but many of these faith leaders are untrained in how to help someone with, or in danger of, an illicit drug addiction,” Swanson said. “Training faith leaders in this area would do a great deal to help those abusing these drugs.”

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Walker ordered the Department of Health Services to apply for a federal grant to develop an application that tracks treatment capacity for substance abuse services. He also wants the department to work with the Department of Corrections to better facilitate the care for offenders re-entering society after their prison term ends by developing offender-only service units with contracted managed care organizations within BadgerCare.

The executive order also requires the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to updates its services standards and software program to better document and track substance abuse issues arising in child welfare cases.

The order insists Wisconsin State Patrol and Capitol Police incorporate an application into their officers’ technology to ensure accurate, timely reporting and response of overdose incidents. Walker ensured the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse will continue its work in combating the epidemic.

Executive Order 274 created the Governor’s Commission on Substance Abuse Treatment Delivery and orders the Commission to recommend to the governor whether the state should pursue a hub-and-spoke opioid treatment model —which will provide treatment options and sources of contact for addicts. 

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These executive orders have been met with support from members of the state Legislature and Wisconsin associations, including the Wisconsin Medical Society and Wisconsin Counties Association.

Attorney and general counsel with the Wisconsin Counties Association Andy Phillips said he believes great work is being done to combat the epidemic.

“[The Wisconsin Counties Association] really appreciates the work being done by the governor and his task force, and many of these policies will benefit counties a great deal,” Phillips said.

Swanson also believes the orders will have a positive effect on Wisconsin.

But, he also sees one downfall with Walker’s approach — a lack of funding.

“How will resources and education and awareness be increased if there is no increase in funding?” Swanson said. “Resources are stretched pretty thin and it can take a toll on officers.”