Wisconsin Health News
The Legislature’s budget-writing committee is set to consider two bills Thursday that would support efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.
The bills include recommendations proposed in a January report by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, co-chairs of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse.
“It’s important that we get treatment to those who need it and punish those who are facilitating the flow of illegal drugs into Wisconsin,” Nygren told members of the Joint Finance Committee during a public hearing Wednesday.
One of the proposals would create grant programs to combat drug trafficking, support substance abuse prevention and establish juvenile and family treatment courts. The proposal would also fund grants to provide medication-assisted treatment to inmates leaving jail and create two attorney positions in the Department of Justice to help with drug prosecutions.
It would allocate $2.75 million in general purpose revenue and $500,000 in federal funding during the biennium.
It also allows courts to order those guilty of drug violations to attend a victim impact panel or a similar program that shows how substance abuse affects an individual and their family.
An additional bill makes a series of changes to boost substance use disorder treatment and prevention. The task force has been working with Pew Charitable Trusts, which recommended parts of the proposal. Other parts of Pew’s recommendations were enacted through two executive orders Gov. Scott Walker signed in January.
“Wisconsin is a leader nationally on this issue, and these reforms will continue to push the state ahead,” Andrew Whitacre, senior associate for the Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Initiative at Pew, told lawmakers.
The bill would require prescribers to submit proof of completion of continuing education requirements on best practices in prescribing controlled substances when renewing their licenses.
It would also allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants who receive federal approval to dispense buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, even if their supervising doctor doesn’t have the same approval. The bill also prohibits the Department of Health Services from requiring prior authorization for buprenorphine combination products in Medicaid.
The bill would expand pathways for people to become substance abuse counselors and require school boards to incorporate drug abuse awareness and prevention into its health instructional programs.
It also aims to boost enrollment in the psychiatric mental health nursing program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, expand the program’s capacity and provide fellowships for students to participate in clinical rotations in rural communities or areas with shortages of mental health professionals.
The bill would provide $50,000 to the Department of Children and Families to develop and maintain resources for social services workers who deal with cases related to substance abuse.