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Wisconsin Health News
Lawmakers have brought back legislation that would align state law with federal law by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21, but health groups would like to see the bill amended to have a wider definition of vapor products.
The bill would align state law with the federal tobacco purchase age, enacted in 2019.
The legislation would allow state law enforcement to carry out the requirement since Wisconsin law otherwise doesn’t allow them to enforce non-criminal violations of federal law, bill author Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said at a Thursday public hearing.
If the state doesn’t comply with the federal law, it could also lose its federal substance abuse and treatment block grant funds, which amounts to $2.7 million annually, Marklein added.
He noted the bill has the support of business groups, convenience stores and the tobacco industry.
“We support this bill because raising the minimum age to 21 is one of the most effective ways to reduce underage use of tobacco products, a goal that we strongly support,” David Fernandez, vice president of public policy for Altria, told members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.
Health groups would like to see an expansion of the bill’s definition for vapor products.
Nicole Hudzinski, government relations director for the American Heart Association, said current state tax law defines e-cigarettes as devices and not liquids unless they’re sold together as one packaged item.
While the bill would apply to liquids with nicotine, it wouldn't for other liquids that also contain harmful ingredients, Hudzinski said. Accessories aren’t covered under the definition either.
And she added that some products are advertising themselves as gels and would not be included if the bill only specified liquids.
“We are really, really encouraging the committee to consider having a more comprehensive definition as we move forward,” Hudzinski said.
Committee Chair Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said he is working on the issue.
Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay, has a “philosophical problem” with the bill.
“And I certainly don’t like the federal government dictating us,” Wimberger said. “The arguments, I think, are kind of obvious, but I won’t have to reiterate them, all about what it means to be 18 and whatnot.”
Wanggaard said he supports the plan in part because of concerns with the health effects of vaping.
The Assembly approved the legislation in early 2020, but the Senate didn’t take up the bill after it canceled one of its final floor periods due to COVID-19.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
A Message from Paul Krupski, DHS Director of Opioid Initiatives
Living through the COVID-19 pandemic this past year and a half has been difficult for everyone. All of us have been affected in different ways.
It has been a trying time for people struggling with substance use. In 2020, 1,227 Wisconsin residents died from an opioid overdose, driven largely by fentanyl and fentanyl mixed with other drugs.
We are more committed than ever to our vision of zero opioid-related deaths. This may seem like an unattainable goal, but it is not. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in over a decade, we experienced a decrease in opioid-related deaths. With your support and partnership, we can prevent the consequences of opioid use.
We are working on several projects funded in part by new federal and state funding, as well as Wisconsin's share of settlements with the manufacturers and distributors of opioids. We'll provide updates on this work in future newsletters. For now, take a moment to review this newsletter to learn more about some of our current efforts to respond to Wisconsin's opioid epidemic.
DHS Renews Commitment to Reducing Drug Overdoses in Wisconsin August 31 is Overdose Awareness Day in Wisconsin
View the entire news release.
Governor Tony Evers has proclaimed August 31 as Overdose Awareness Day in Wisconsin, and the Department of Health Services (DHS) is urging residents to reflect on the impact overdoses have had on families and friends of people who use drugs in every corner of the state, and to renew our commitment to end overdoses in Wisconsin.
“There isn’t a community in our state that hasn’t been impacted by the opioid epidemic, and Wisconsinites who are struggling with substance use disorders deserve our kindness, compassion, and respect as they work toward recovery,” said Gov. Evers. “I’m glad to be declaring today Overdose Awareness Day in Wisconsin to remind us all of the work we have left to do to increase prevention and provide folks with the resources and support they need.”
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is launching a center to coordinate ongoing research and education in psychedelic compounds, including their use in treating substance abuse and psychiatric disorders.
The Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substances, housed at the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy, will study the science, history and cultural impact of psychedelic agents, including their therapeutic potential.
“Psychoactive agents are the new frontier for potential new therapies and medications,” Paul Hutson, founding center director and a UW pharmacy professor, said in a statement.
Four clinical trials are currently underway on campus, including studying the effects of MDMA, or ecstasy, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and psilocybin, also known as “magic mushrooms,” in treating depression and opioid addiction. Hutson anticipates federal approval for both substances within the next five years.
The center also seeks to increase participation in research by underrepresented groups.
And it will partner on the pharmacy school’s master’s of science program in psychoactive pharmaceutical investigation, the first accredited U.S. degree focused on the study and therapeutic development of psychedelic compounds and related drugs.
“We plan to continue being on the forefront of this field with innovation and development of novel therapies through our research and educational programs on psychoactive agents,” Hutson said.
The Usona Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization that supports work on consciousness-expanding medicine, also aims to be a center for psychedelic science and education. It broke ground earlier this month on a new campus in Fitchburg.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is collaborating with three health care providers in different areas of the state to pilot a new approach to treating eligible BadgerCare Plus and Medicaid members who have substance use disorders and at least one other health condition. These providers will use an innovative “hub and spoke” program design to expand beyond traditional substance use disorder treatment services. Wisconsinites served by this new program will include people enrolled in BadgerCare Plus and Medicaid who are struggling with substance use disorders and also have other health conditions that create barriers to their recovery from addiction. The pilot sites will use a “hub and spoke” model to provide integrated services that give eligible members rapid access to comprehensive addiction and mental health treatment, primary care, and other needed supports to assist their recovery.
“It is past time to get folks the help they need in the way they need it, and we are excited to bring this proven strategy to Wisconsin,” said Governor Tony Evers. “By connecting the dots between substance use disorder treatment and other services, this new model will help us move the needle on ensuring access and effective care for our Wisconsin neighbors who are currently struggling.”
Four Wisconsin organizations will receive $1 million each in federal funds to strengthen and expand substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery in rural areas.
The recently announced allocations come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration.
Recipients include Duluth Clinic in Ashland, MetaStar in Madison, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community and Hospital Sisters Health System St. Joseph Hospital in Chippewa Falls.
Marinette County Group Home Association will also receive $500,000 under a separate grant program to help patients who misuse psychostimulants.
Biden-Harris Administration Provides $90 Million to Improve Health Care in Rural Communities
The Biden-Harris Administration announced today that it is providing nearly $90 million to help rural communities combat opioid use disorders (OUD) and other forms of substance use disorders (SUD), and to improve access to maternal and obstetrics care. This funding is being distributed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
"These investments address a wide range of critical issues the Biden-Harris Administration is focused on to improve health care in rural communities across the country," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "Expanding access to substance use prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services, and improving the daily lives of mothers and children across America are priorities for the Department."
HRSA has invested nearly $384 million, including today's announcements, in community-based grants and technical assistance over the last three years through the Rural Community Opioid Response Program initiative to promote the establishment and expansion of SUD/OUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services in rural communities in 47 states and 2 territories. This includes supporting 30 existing grants focused on neonatal abstinence syndrome.
"At a time when overdose deaths are rising across America and improvements to maternal health are urgently needed, HRSA is working on multiple fronts to address the health care needs of rural Americans," said HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa. "Today's announcement furthers HRSA's commitment to improve the wellbeing of people in rural communities."
HRSA's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy is making these awards through four key programs:
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has announced the launch of a new, free, one-hour, online training module designed to educate medical professionals and students about prescribing buprenorphine to patients with opioid use disorder (OUD). The Buprenorphine Mini-Course: Building on Federal Prescribing Guidance module is presented by ASAM in collaboration with the American Medical Association (AMA) and Shatterproof.
Utilizing the chronic care framework of addiction treatment, the fully online module offers practical considerations for buprenorphine initiation, dosing, and ongoing patient management to prescribers seeking to initiate buprenorphine for the treatment of OUD. In addition, through interactive and application-focused learning, participants will explore the core principles of OUD treatment and the importance of language when treating patients with this chronic disease.
The brief training module is designed to expand on the Buprenorphine Quick Start Guide developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The quick start guide was released in conjunction with Practice Guidelines for the Administration of Buprenorphine for Treating Opioid Use Disorder issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Under the practice guidelines, which remove some of the often-cited barriers associated with the “x-waiver” to prescribe buprenorphine in-office for the treatment of OUD, eligible physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists and certified nurse midwives are exempt from federal certification requirements related to training, counseling and other ancillary services that are part of the process for obtaining a waiver to treat up to 30 patients with buprenorphine.
We encourage medical professionals and students to sign up for the module today. By taking this course, learners will help strengthen America’s medical response to OUD and increase access to life-saving medications. Plus, CME credit is available upon completion of the training module.
To sign up for the free, one-hour, online training module, please click here.
The training module will be available for free in the ASAM e-Learning Center and the AMA Ed Hub for the duration of the CME approval period (3 years). In addition, ASAM is offering its eight-hour, fully online Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder Course in the ASAM e-Learning Center for free through December 31, 2021. ASAM’s Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder Course provides eight hours of required education to qualify for a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine for OUD to more than 30 patients in an office-based setting. We encourage medical professionals and students to take advantage of these fantastic resources!
Wisconsin saw a 27.4 percent increase in drug overdose deaths last year, according to provisional federal data released this week.
There were 1,539 predicted drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin last year, compared to 1,208 the prior year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The total number is likely underreported due to incomplete data, per the center.
Nationally, drug overdose deaths rose over 29 percent, the largest single-year increase recorded. A total of 93,331 predicted deaths were reported in 2020, compared to 72,151 the prior year.
Overdose deaths rose in all but two states last year, with only South Dakota and New Hampshire seeing a decrease.
The Wisconsin Medical Society (Society) warned state legislators this week about a proposal that would remove two compounds from the state’s list of controlled substances that are found in leaves of the kratom tree and can have psychotropic effects. The proposal from State Assembly Representative David Murphy (R-Greenville) would also create a state regulatory system that would enable companies to sell kratom as a therapeutic product, including the ostensible ability to help people “alleviate their opioid dependency.”
Working with physician members of the Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine (WISAM), the Society sent a message to all 132 State Assembly Representatives and State Senators asking that they not co-author the proposal. The message from the Society included:
The proposal is spearheaded by the American Kratom Association, which has unsuccessfully lobbied the state’s Controlled Substances Board to remove the compounds from the state’s list of illegal substances. Once the proposal has circulated for legislative cosponsors, it will likely be officially introduced and assigned to a legislative committee.
Contact Society Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer Mark Grapentine, JD for more information.
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