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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


How a federal bill will help combat Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic

Federal bill would push state drug abuse treatment programs forward, have ‘positive impact’ on treatment initiatives
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Though Wisconsin’s legislators have worked on several bills to address the statewide opioid epidemic, a federal bill could push their initiatives further, streamlining funding for treatment programs and drug courts.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 is a federal bill that would divide grants worth more than $300 million among state attorney generals. Attorney generals can then use these grants to fund opioid and heroin treatment programs that involve providing Narcan, a drug that counteracts the effects of opiate addiction, creating drug courts, issuing stricter guidelines on prescriptions and providing alternative treatment options for drug addicts, among other programs.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, said the bill, which he cosponsored, would expand Wisconsin legislators’ initiatives and programs already in place in the state. It would increase education efforts, access to treatment and recovery opportunities. He said the bill takes a “comprehensive approach” and focuses on the overall improvement of education, prevention and treatment within the state.


“As a cosponsor and strong advocate for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, I believe it takes a needed evidence-based approach to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating our communities,” Pocan said.

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Financial support for Wisconsin’s treatment programs

Department of Justice spokesperson Johnny Koremenos said several of Wisconsin’s legislators’ initiatives can be difficult to finance, and place a burden on resources. He said the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would help lessen this burden through grants.

Koremenos said having greater financial support from the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act could also encourage passage of more legislation and initiatives addressing Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic.

According to a statement from Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, 16 bills that were part of his Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education Agenda were signed into law in March. The HOPE Agenda is a prominent piece of legislation that sets limits on prescriptions of opioids as pain medication, criminalizes cheating drug tests, improves data collection and reporting on drug usage and increases treatment programs for addiction, among other things.

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Alternative treatment programs like Treatment and Diversion Programs give addicts the opportunity to bypass jail and seek treatment for their addiction instead. A HOPE Agenda bill currently awaiting Senate approval would expand drug courts that manage these programs through $2 million grants, Koremenos said.

Koremenos said 80 percent of people in prisons were there because of drug addiction and related problems. He said alternative treatment programs would keep Wisconsin’s prison population low because they divert inmates struggling with addiction to treatment opportunities.

“Having access to alternative treatment programs statewide incentivizes good behavior for addicts,” Koremenos said.

Wisconsin United We CAN spokesperson Lori Cross Schotten said the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would give Wisconsin’s existing programs a financial boost and “expand on what we already have.” She said this would enable more people to be treated.

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Improving drug abuse education outreach

In addition to funding more treatment programs in Wisconsin, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act looks toward educating medical professionals and patients about safe drug usage.

According to Nygren’s statement, one law will require methadone clinics to collect data on patients receiving care for addiction, and report it to the Department of Health Services. DHS will then use this data to educate public health and treatment professionals about patient outcomes.

Another law would require medical-affiliated boards under the Department of Safety and Professional Services to prepare guidelines highlighting best preventive practices for opioid addiction, which will help control over-prescribing and opioid misuse.

Cross Schotten said education initiatives such as the ones highlighted in these laws would have a positive impact on drug addicts. This combined with the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act’s education component could educate more doctors and patients in Wisconsin on the risk of opioid medications, she said.

“The education component for both doctors and patients is key to prevention,” Cross Schotten said. “Understanding the risks of opioid medications allow a patient to have an educated discussion on the risk-benefit factor of using these drugs.”

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed in the Senate March 10. It now heads to the House of Representatives.

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