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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

 3:04 PM 

Assembly passes heroin bills

The Assembly has passed a package of four bills aimed at combating heroin abuse, each by 96-0 votes. The bills include:

*AB 445, which would require an ID to acquire certain prescription drugs;

*AB 446, allowing first responders to carry Narcan, which reverses the effects of opiates;

*AB 447, allowing for immunity from simple possession of controlled substances for aiding a person who has overdosed; and

*AB 448, allowing communities to establish sites to dispose of unused medication.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette and the author of the bills, said the problem of prescription drug and heroin addiction affects communities of all sizes and people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

“We simply cannot arrest our way out of the problem we face as a state,” said Nygren, who has chronicled his daughter’s fight with opiate addiction during his advocacy of the bills. He also said the bills are “only a beginning” of the state’s fight against heroin.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the proposals offer “real solutions” to a problem confronting communities statewide.

“This addiction is so strong that it turns good people into criminals,” Vos said.

Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, praised Nygren’s efforts but said lawmakers should not pat themselves on the back for initial steps. She said the stigma of addiction still remains in society, saying, “This is a mental health problem.”

She also said expanding BadgerCare could have bolstered access to primary care providers -- often a first step for addicts to get help.

“Addiction is on the continuum of physical and mental health,” Pasch said.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, called the bills “the equivalent of Kleenex if you have a cold,” asking lawmakers to note that “none of them have an appropriation.”

“We need an absolute bold investment in treatment for young people suffering from addiction,” Goyke said.


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