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MADISON (April 9, 2014) – The Wisconsin Medical Society honored State Representative John Nygren (R–Marinette) with the Legislator of the Year Award at its Annual Meeting in Green Bay on April 5. The award is presented to a person in government service who has made significant contributions to the development of health care policies that will benefit the people of Wisconsin and advance the art and science of medicine.
Rep. Nygren was honored for his tireless work during this year’s legislative session on the Heroin, Opiate Prevention and Education (HOPE) Agenda—a series of seven bills aimed at combating the state’s growing problem of heroin and other drug abuse. Nygren authored and shepherded the bills through the Legislature, which passed unanimously before being signed into law by Governor Walker on Monday. The laws will allow for greater use of the anti-overdose drug naloxone by emergency first responders, provide limited immunity for those making 9-1-1 calls following an overdose, make it easier for local government to create drug disposal programs and require identification when receiving certain prescription drugs.
“We needed to find ways to deal with things smarter,” said Nygren. “Our recidivism rate for opiate addiction in Marinette County over the last four to five years is 100 percent. If our end goal is actually to rehabilitate people, we can’t look at doing things the same way that we’ve always done.” The HOPE package removes the focus on prosecution and arrest, and makes it about prevention and education, which Rep. Nygren believes will help people who are addicted receive the treatment they need.
“Representative Nygren’s efforts to confront this problem head-on are remarkable,” said Mark Grapentine, JD, the Society’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations, during the award presentation. “He was a leader in every sense of the word, and Wisconsin will be better because of it.”
Rep. Nygren’s commitment to this topic is a personal one. His daughter, Cassie, overdosed on heroin five years ago at age 18, and together they have shared her story. He accepted the award on her behalf.
State Representative John Nygren has represented the 89th Assembly District since 2006 and is in his fourth term in the legislature. He is co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance.