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Home / Legal News / Lawmaker readies quartet of anti-heroin measures (UPDATE)

Lawmaker readies quartet of anti-heroin measures (UPDATE)

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker whose daughter has struggled with a heroin addiction announced Tuesday he plans to introduce another round of legislation focusing on opiate prescriptions that can lead to heroin abuse.

Rep. John Nygren of Marinette spearheaded seven bills designed to curtail heroin abuse and help addicts recover last session. He told reporters during a news conference Tuesday he has four more bills ready to go. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Dr. Tim Westlake, vice chairman of the state Medical Examining Board and a member of the state’s controlled substance board, and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel all stood with Nygren in a show of support.

Nygren said the new bills are designed to attack the root of the problem — addictions to opiate prescriptions that pave the path to heroin.

“As we said last session, there were no silver bullets contained in those seven pieces of legislation,” Nygren said. “We knew that we had more that needed to be done.”

The new legislation would require anyone who dispenses opiates to enter the prescriptions in a statewide tracking database within 24 hours rather than the seven days currently allowed under state law. Doctors would be required to check the database before prescribing opiates. Nygren said those moves could help identify addicts and doctors who are overprescribing.

Police who discover an opiate prescription at the scene of an overdose would have to enter the prescription in the database and notify the prescribing physician of the incident.

The package also would create registries for pain and methadone clinics. Nygren said little is known about how such clinics operate.

Nygren’s daughter, Cassie, has battled a heroin addiction for several years. She was sentenced to a year and a half in prison in 2009. She pleaded guilty this past March to felony narcotic possession and was sentenced to drug court.

Nygren has often cited her story in his push to advance anti-heroin legislation. His bills last session included measures that funded additional treatment facilities; established immediate punishments for parole and probation violators and immunity for anyone who reports an overdose; and allowed first-responders with training to administer Narcan, a drug that counteracts heroin overdoses. Gov. Scott Walker signed the proposals into law last spring after all seven bills passed the Assembly and Senate unanimously.

Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Fitzgerald hasn’t discussed the new bills specifically with his caucus but supports efforts “to fight narcotic abuse in Wisconsin.”

Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-Hudson, appeared at the news conference to support Nygren, calling the bills “common sense reforms.” Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, who co-chairs the Legislature’s powerful budget committee with Nygren, issued a statement saying she stands with him, too.

A Walker spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Nygren’s bills.

Nygren said he still wants to address a shortage of treatment beds, detoxification centers that won’t accept active drug users and help recovering addicts stay sober and remain employed. He didn’t offer any details.

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