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Nygren Bills To Fight Growing Heroin Problem

On Friday, Oct. 4, State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) announced he is introducing a legislative package of four bills to combat heroin abuse and its tragic effects on Wisconsin families. 

“Citizens all over Wisconsin are alarmed by the rising use of heroin that has struck their communities,” said Nygren. “They are concerned with the crime and hardship that comes with this powerful drug and realize there is a need for action.”

At a news conference in Green Bay, Nygren also related to the devastation his family felt as the result of heroin use by his daughter.

The bills are Nalaxone, 911 Opiate Overdose Good Samaritan, Prescription Drugs and Drug Disposal

Nalaxone (Nalaxone Legislation)

Heroin use in on the rise in Wisconsin; with that increased use comes increased number of heroin overdoses. Heroin users are at risk of opioid overdose because of the fluctuating potency of street drugs, as well as changes in tolerance after a period of abstinence, such as time spent in jail or drug treatment. 

Nalaxone or Naloxone is a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose, such as heroin overdose. According to the Department of Health Services 110 of the Administrative Code, which covers the scope of practice for all Emergency Medical Technician’s (EMT’s), Basic EMTs are not allowed to carry Nalaxone. This legislation will allow all levels of EMT and first responders to be trained in order to administer Naloxone. This legislation will also include police and fire but use permissive language, leaving the decision up to the individual community to decide whether to allow other public safety officer’s the ability to administer the drug.

911 Opiate Overdose Good Samaritan Legislation

This year, the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Committee released a report on 911 Good Samaritan Recommendations. Scott Stokes, who is a Co-Chair of the Committee worked to help develop the legislation.  The Department of Justice, various other agencies, and sheriffs were consulted through the drafting process of this bill. 

Often times, abusers of heroin use this drug in groups, as friends often help each other “shoot up”. Sadly, however, if one of the users in the group overdoses from this powerful drug, the others in the group typically leaves them to die rather than call all to report in fear of being arrested.

The bill will provide limited immunity from certain criminal prosecutions for a person (aider) who brings another person to an emergency room or other healthcare facility or who calls 911 for a person who is having an adverse reaction (overdose) from the controlled substance. The aider, or person who called 911, may not be prosecuted for simple possession of a controlled substance under the circumstances that led him or her to call 911. Also under the bill, a person may not be prosecuted for possessing naloxone (Nalaxone) or for administering or delivering naloxone to another person that is experiencing an overdose. Naloxone or Nalaxone is a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose, such as heroin or morphine overdose.

Prescription Drug Legislation

Local law enforcement and Brown County Drug Task Force has recommended to introduce legislation which would require individuals to show proper identification when picking up Schedule II or III narcotic/opiate prescription medication. This would not disallow individuals from picking up these kinds of prescriptions for others; it only proposes tracking who is doing so. By doing so, pharmacies could help law enforcement resolve drug crimes by keeping a report to the state or keep a record of dispensed drugs and the name of the person picking them up. Law enforcement would not have access to this list unless they went through the proper legal channels.

This bill would require an individual that is picking up a Schedule II or III controlled substance that is also a narcotic or opiate to show his or her identification. Acceptable forms include a driver’s license, a state identification card, a US uniformed service card, or a US passport. This bill will require DSPS to add a field to the information that is collected for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, for the name of the person picking up the prescription narcotic.

Drug Disposal Legislation 

Community drug disposal programs accept and properly dispose of unwanted prescription drugs, which may include controlled substances. Such programs ensure that unwanted prescription drugs do not enter the water supply and that they are not available to those who may abuse them. Current state criminal law and regulatory provisions concerning prescription drugs and controlled substances do not account for the fact that community drug disposal programs are being conducted, which impede the implementation of such programs. The purpose of this legislation is to facilitate and encourage community drug disposal programs that are conducted by local units of government. 

This bill will update state criminal law and state regulatory provisions concerning prescription drugs and controlled substances in order to facilitate and encourage the operation of community drug disposal programs and other similar programs throughout Wisconsin. 

Nygren reported that according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a sample of Wisconsin data shows that over 160,000 Wisconsin adults report using heroin or another opiate this past year. As reported by the Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, the city and county of Marinette has had a significant heroin problem for the past five years. Countless business owners around Wisconsin are frustrated because they are unable to find employees to fill positions because of failed drug tests.  

In recent years, it is estimated the total cost of illegal drug use totals more than $193 billion in the United States. The direct and indirect costs attributed to illegal drug use are estimated in four areas: crime, health, medical care, and productivity. Wisconsin’s share of this cost is estimated to be at least $2 billion, based on admissions to drug abuse treatment.

 Co-authoring the bills are Representatives Scott Krug (R- Nekoosa), Kathy Bernier (R- Chippewa Falls), Warren Petryk (R-Eleva), and Lee Nerison (R- Westby). “Their communities, much like mine, have felt the effects of heroin and opiate abuse. It is a burden on local law enforcement and our court system, and has implications for our economy.  Together, the Attorney General, Legislature, Governor and affected state agencies will battle this latest drug epidemic,” said Nygren, “and we will win.”


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