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Rep. Nygren announces continued HOPE efforts to battle heroin, opioid addiction

Wisconsin State Assembly Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) plans to expand on the successes of the HOPE agenda passed during the last legislative biennium by introducing four new bills this session. Rep. Nygren made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday in Madison.

Society member Timothy Westlake, MD, speaks to reporters Tuesday at a press conference held by State Assembly Rep. John Nygren (left). Doctor Westlake sits on the Society’s Opioid Task Force and is vice chair of the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board. Last session’s HOPE—Heroin, Opiate Prevention and Education—package included seven bills intended to help combat heroin and opioid abuse. Each received unanimous bipartisan support before being signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker. With the new bills, Rep. Nygren hopes to focus more on what he calls the root of Wisconsin’s heroin problem.

“I am authoring four bills that are aimed at fighting prescription medication abuse. Many people aren’t aware that, in many cases, heroin addiction begins with addiction to prescription medications. Whether these medications are obtained legally or not, we need to do our best to curtail the illegal use of these dangerous substances,” he said.

“The goal of these pieces of legislation is not to prevent people from getting the medications that they need. I have consulted many medical professionals, while drafting these bills, and I understand that there are legitimate uses for opiate pain killers. With this legislation, however, we will be able to help reduce instances of drug abuse like doctor shopping and pill mills.”

The bills will be officially introduced soon; Rep. Nygren said they will:

  • Require prescribers to review a patient’s record when initially prescribing a monitored prescription drug.
  • Require notifying a prescriber when a prescription medicine container is found in the vicinity of a crime scene involving a controlled-substance violation or an opioid-related overdose.
  • Direct the Department of Health Services to maintain a registry of the state’s pain management clinics.
  • Require methadone clinics to gather data such as staffing ratios, the number of patients receiving behavioral health services with the medication, and average mileage an individual is traveling to come to a clinic to help the state identify potential problems.

A number of physicians attended and participated in Tuesday’s press conference, including Society President Jerry Halverson, MD, and Society member Timothy Westlake, MD.

“As physicians, we see firsthand the devastating impact of heroin and opioid addiction, and we take the tremendous responsibility we have of prescribing opioids very seriously,” said Dr. Halverson in this press release. “That’s why the Society not only welcomes the opportunity to work closely with Rep. Nygren and all policymakers on this issue, but we also have convened a task force to further shape and focus our efforts around physician education and public awareness.

“Like so many issues that impact the health of our patients, fighting this epidemic requires a true team effort.”

More details about the proposed legislation are included in this press release. E-mail Mark Grapentine, JD, in the Society’s Government and Legal Affairs Department for more information.

Back to September 10, 2015 Medigram