Pubdate: Sun, 08 Jan 2017
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2017 Journal Sentinel Inc.


Walker rightly noted that addressing the issue will stem a public health
problem and help the state's economy.

Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday called for a special legislative session to
fight heroin addiction and ordered state agencies to ramp up their
response to a drug that kills hundreds in Wisconsin each year.(Photo:
Associated Press)

Gov. Scott Walker has it right: Heroin addiction is a public health crisis
in Wisconsin, and state officials must ramp up efforts to respond more
urgently and effectively to a killer that takes hundreds of lives each
year. His leadership will be key in making that happen.

The governor is off to a good start: Last week, he called for a special
session of the Legislature and issued executive orders aimed at
implementing recommendations from a report on the crisis issued by Lt.
Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette). It's not just
the right thing to do, it's the necessary thing to do: This challenge
requires an all-out, coordinated effort from federal, state and local
officials, and Walker's initiative offers a great starting point.

Walker rightly noted that addressing the issue will stem a public health
problem and help the state's economy. "If we get this right, we can get
those men and women back in the workforce," he said in a speech Thursday.

Walker also on Thursday ordered the state Department of Health Services to
apply for up to $7.6 million a year in federal funding to fight the drug,
the Journal Sentinel reported. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin had pushed to get
that anti-addiction money included in the broader federal law and wrote to
Walker last month to urge him to make use of it in Wisconsin. As Baldwin
noted, this is a bipartisan issue requiring a bipartisan response.

The crisis is real: According to a USA TODAY Network-Wisconsin report,
heroin's death toll rose for the ninth straight year in 2015, and "the
total of 281 deaths was triple the number killed by heroin in 2010.
Meanwhile, the number of total opioid deaths -- which includes heroin and
prescription opiates -- topped the number of Wisconsin traffic deaths for
the third straight year."

State Attorney General Brad Schimel, who launched a "Dose of Reality"
campaign in 2015 has called heroin abuse the "biggest challenge that we've
faced in law enforcement in public safety in a quarter-century." And it's
a statewide challenge that afflicts rural and suburban areas just as much
as it does the state's urban centers.

But it's not just heroin: that deadly drug is intimately linked to
prescription painkillers. The DOJ reports that four out of five heroin
addicts start by abusing prescription painkillers and that "70% of people
who are addicted to prescription opioids got their first pills, not from a
street dealer, but improperly from a family member or friend."

Those familiar with the crisis recognize that dealing with heroin means
also dealing with the prescription painkiller crisis. It's time everyone
came to that same realization and joined the fight against all opioid
- ---
MAP posted-by: