Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jan 2017
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2017 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Author: Jason Stein


Madison- Doctors will have to check a statewide database before
prescribing narcotics and other addictive drugs, under a broad series of
bills that Gov. Scott Walker signed Thursday to curb the abuse of heroin
and prescription painkillers.

"Wisconsin, like many other states across the country, is noticing a
dangerous trend - an escalating number of cases involving heroin and
opioid use, addiction, and overdose. The legislation we're signing into
law today as a part of our HOPE tour works to combat this trend," Walker
said in a statement.

Heroin and prescription drugs known as opioids combined for 608 overdose
deaths in Wisconsin in 2013, according to a state report last year.
Overdoses from all drugs now kill more people in Wisconsin than traffic

Joining Walker on a tour of the state Thursday was Rep. John Nygren
(R-Marinette), who has emerged as a national leader for addressing
substance abuse.

Nygren, the co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, has used the story
of his daughter Cassie's fight with heroin addiction to focus attention on
the broader problem and help pass a series of 17 bipartisan bills since
2013. He has dubbed the effort the HOPE agenda, which stands for heroin,
opioid prevention and education.

Lawmakers from other states and both parties have been contacting Nygren
about Wisconsin's proposals, learning about efforts here through groups
such as the Council on State Governments, the National Council on State
Legislatures and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Nygren said that the state is already saving lives through 2014
legislation to allow first responders and family members to administer
naloxone if they meet certain requirements. Known by its brand name of
Narcan, naloxone counteracts overdoses from heroin and other opiates. It
was previously available only to select emergency medical technicians.

Nygren said he's also constantly finding new opportunities and threats for
Wisconsin in the fight against substance abuse.

"Every time that you think you're making progress you hear about another
issue that you hadn't really thought about," Nygren said.

Attorney General Brad Schimel, who backs the HOPE measures, has called
heroin abuse the "biggest challenge that we've faced in law enforcement in
public safety in a quarter-century."

"Prescription painkiller and heroin abuse has no socio-economic, racial,
or gender boundaries," Schimel said in a statement.

The bills signed Thursday would require:

- -- Doctors to check a database whenever they write or refill a
prescription for drugs that have a potential for abuse. The requirement in
AB 364 would not take effect until the Department of Safety and
Professional Services determines the database is capable of transmitting
records to doctors.

Until now, pharmacies have been required to enter prescriptions within
seven days into a state database that catalogs prescriptions for narcotics
and other addictive drugs. Doctors haven't been required to check it,

Nygren said that as a devastating drug heroin often gets the most
attention from the news media and public. But prescription painkillers are
a key part of the overall problem and their abuse must be addressed as
well, he said.

"Nobody starts there," Nygren said of heroin abusers. "They start with
prescription drugs."

The requirement for doctors to check the database expires after three years.

- -- Require law enforcement officials to provide information to the
Prescription Drug Monitoring database when they find evidence of
prescription drugs being abused or stolen. That legislation is AB 365.

- -- Require pain clinics to get certified by the state Department of Health
Services under AB 366.

- -- Require methadone clinics to provide more relapse rates and other
information to the state. The data from AB 367 is aimed at ensuring more
effective treatment and minimizing the risk of methadone abuse.

Another measure, AB 658, would make it a crime to possess or use a masking
agent meant to foil a drug test. The state would also streamline its rules
for opioid treatment programs, under AB 659.
- ---
MAP posted-by: