CHIPPEWA FALLS – After repeatedly calling the opioid problem in the state a “crisis” and an “epidemic,” Gov. Scott Walker signed an executive order Thursday aimed to curb drug abuse.
“You have an urgent crisis in the state, really in the country,” Walker said during a stop at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital. “There are still far too many stories of addiction, and still far too many of overdoses. It’s not just a public health issue, and it’s not just law enforcement that have brought it up. It’s also employers.”
Walker accepted a 20-page report about combating opioid abuse, which covers all drugs, ranging from heroin and meth to prescription drug abuse. He also signed three executive orders Thursday – one in each of three stops to discuss an opioid task force. HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is a recipient of Heroin Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) dollars.
The executive orders included applying for $7.6 million in federal funding for health services to augment state services for drug abuse prevention. Walker said another executive order calls for a special session of the Legislature to specifically address ideas in the report. Walker said he wants the Legislature to begin sending bills created from that report to appropriate committees immediately so those measures make it to his desk this session.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch joined Walker in the stop, saying the governor’s office is seeking $420,000 for more drug enforcement agents to crack down on drug dealers, and $60,000 for a recovery program for 20 drug addicts.
Kleefisch talked about a friend whose son struggled with drug addiction, and eventually died of suicide. She said the drug epidemic isn’t limited to a certain demographic or a geographical area.
“It’s really important we help those who desperately need it,” Kleefisch said. “This is a crisis with urgent needs, and we need urgent solutions.”
Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said one part of the executive order is conducting a survey of insurance providers throughout the state, seeing what each carrier covers in treatment costs. Nygren also shared a story about one of his children struggling with drug abuse, which is why he has focused on preventative measures in recent years.
Walker closed by reminding the crowd and media that it will take everyone to solve the drug abuse problem, not just law enforcement or social workers.
“This is all of our responsibilities,” Walker said. “Every one of us has a job to play in this.”
To read a copy of the report on combating opioids, visit dhs.wisconsin.gov/opioids/index.htm
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