Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has called for a special legislative session to fight heroin addiction and ordered state agencies to ramp up their response to a drug that kills hundreds in the state each year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The Republican governor held events yesterday in three cities to announce the special session and orders to implement recommendations from a report by Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren. “This is a public health crisis, and that’s why I’m calling a special session of the Legislature and directing state agencies to ramp up the state’s response,” Walker said. “It is a crisis in this state. We need to tackle this problem head on.”
Addressing the issue will stem a public health problem and help the state’s economy, he added, “If we get this right, we can get those men and women back in the workforce.” The number of total opioid deaths topped the number of Wisconsin traffic deaths for the third straight year. Walker will seek up to $7.6 million a year in federal funding through the 21st Century CURES Act to fight the drug. He ordered the state corrections department to better identify and treat drug abusers during their prison sentences and after their release; another agency to ensure tight, uniform standards and practices on the prescribing of opioid pain medications; the Department of Veterans Affairs to guard against the overprescribing of such drugs in veterans’ homes; and the Commissioner of Insurance to survey insurers about their coverage of treatment for addiction to opioids. He wants legislators to give school workers legal immunity when administering the life-saving anti-overdose drug naloxone and to provide limited immunity for those who overdose on heroin so their friends don’t avoid calling 911 out of fear of later prosecution.