Assembly passes package of bills to combat state's opioid epidemic

Like every other state, Wisconsin has seen the number of overdoses, fatalities and arrests related to opioids skyrocket in recent years. Furthermore, much like its counterparts, Wisconsin has also struggled to find a way to combat what has clearly become a public health crisis.

As disturbing as all this is, the good news is that some much-needed assistance may be on the horizon in the form of a package of bills recently passed by the Assembly, which rather than adopting a punitive approach -- more arrests, more prosecutions, etc. -- instead focus on getting people the help they need.

Specifically, the Assembly passed the following opioid-related measures last week during a special session called by Governor Scott Walker in January:

  • Special Assembly Bill 1: Provides volunteers, school employees and residence hall directors with immunity from civil lawsuits relating to the administration of drugs designed to reverse opioid overdoses provided they have received the proper training and call 911 as soon as possible.
  • Special Assembly Bill 2: Provides over $2 million in annual grants to counties willing to provide treatment to individuals with substance abuse issues rather than putting them behind bars (i.e., diversion)
  • Special Assembly Bill 7: Provides $63,000 in annual grants to hospitals who hire more physicians specializing in addiction treatment
  • Special Assembly Bill 8: Calls for the creation of 2-3 new regional opioid treatment centers funded by $1 million per year
  • Special Assembly Bill 9: Allocates $500,000 to a new program designed to provide physicians with expert guidance on addiction treatment  

These bills now head to the Senate for consideration. Given the bipartisan support they enjoyed in the Assembly, their chances of passing appear promising.

Here's hoping we see this more progressive approach to fighting the opioid epidemic become the new norm.

If you've been arrested for any manner of drug-related offense, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can protect your rights, your freedom and your future as soon as possible. 

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