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Harsdorf Column: Building drug abuse prevention alternatives

Sheila Harsdorf

Drug addiction and abuse is a plague on communities. In northwest Wisconsin, we have seen meth ravage our communities and destroy far too many promising lives. I am pleased that the state Legislature continues to work with stakeholders in an effort to come up with solutions that seek to save lives, provide treatment options and prevent addictions.

During 2013-14, the Legislature began working with those on the frontlines fighting heroin and drug abuse, including law enforcement, first responders and medical professionals who helped develop legislation to respond to the increase in drug abuse across the state. The H.O.P.E. (Heroin, Opioid, Prevention, Education) agenda includes numerous changes in law, including the Good Samaritan Law, which offers immunity for anyone that calls 911 in a drug overdose situation, the drug disposal program, prescription drug registration to track the legal sale of controlled substances, and to allow Narcan to be readily available to EMTs and other first responders to administer in overdose situations. These bills are the foundation on which we have built the Legislature's response to drug addiction and abuse.

This year, the Gov. Scott Walker called for a special session to further combat opioid abuse in Wisconsin. The governor's Task Force on Opioid Abuse completed its work in 2016 and legislation was developed and introduced. These bills include: the emergency administration of Narcan by school personnel which includes all institutions of higher education; increased funding for treatment and diversion programs; authorization to establish a recovery charter school so high school students may complete high school away from triggers and potentially unhealthy routines.

I am pleased to be the senate lead on several other bills that resulted from the Task Force work. While rural residents often lack access to drug treatment programs, Special Session Assembly Bill 8 will authorize three more treatment centers in addition to three existing underserved areas of the state. Special Session Assembly Bill 10 will add more drug investigators to combat the influx of drug trafficking. These proposals have passed both houses of the Legislature and await action by Walker.

Given the complexity the opioid epidemic presents, we need to continue to work together to fight drug abuse and addiction in Wisconsin. If you are interested in more information regarding the H.O.P.E. agenda bills, or other legislation before the Legislature, you may visit my website at, or contact my office in Madison at 608-266-7745. I welcome your comments and questions.