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Assembly committee approves anti-heroin bills (UPDATE)

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin lawmakers moved closer Thursday to passing another round of legislation designed to combat heroin abuse, pushing the bills through an Assembly committee with overwhelming support.

The package includes four bills. One would require opiate dispensers to enter prescriptions into a statewide data within 24 hours — there is currently no deadline for reporting. Another proposal would require police who find an opiate prescription at an overdose scene to enter it in the database. A third measure would create methadone and pain clinic registries within the state Department of Health Services. The fourth bill would require treatment programs that use methadone to report the number of people receiving the medication annually to the DHS.

The Assembly health committee approved all four bills on unanimous votes during a brief meeting Thursday morning. Approval clears the way for the full Assembly to vote on the measures. Republican leaders haven’t scheduled any votes yet, however. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, didn’t immediately return a message inquiring about scheduling.

The state Senate’s health committee unanimously approved the 24-hour reporting deadline, the clinic registries and methadone reporting bills earlier this month. The Senate’s judiciary committee held a public hearing Thursday on requiring police to document prescriptions in the database. Scott Kelly, an aide to judiciary committee chairman Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said the committee plans to vote on that measure next week.

Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican who co-chairs the Legislature’s powerful budget committee, wrote all four bills. His daughter, Cassie, has struggled with a heroin addiction for several years; she was sentenced to 1-1/2 years in prison in 2009 and pleaded guilty last March to felony narcotics possession and was sentenced to drug court. He has said the legislation is designed to prevent prescription drug use from blossoming into heroin addiction.

Nygren introduced seven anti-heroin bills during the last legislative session. Those bills required identification to obtain prescription drugs; allowed emergency responders to administer the overdose antidote Narcan; and allowed physicians to give health centers, pharmacies and clinics general permission to dispense Narcan without specific prescriptions. Gov. Scott Walker signed all of the bills into law last spring.

Both the Assembly and Senate health committees unanimously approved a fifth Nygren bill Thursday clarifying that pharmacies can hand out Narcan under a physician’s general standing order. Nygren drew up the bill to address Attorney General Brad Schimel’s concerns that the law allowing general dispensation didn’t technically trump other statutes requiring prescriptions to include the recipient’s name, Nygren aide Jennifer Malcore said.

State Justice Department spokeswoman Anne Schwartz didn’t immediately return a message seeking details on Schimel’s stance.

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