Opioid Bills Headed to Governor Walker's Desk

May 3, 2017

Another set of bills aimed at combating Wisconsin’s opioid and heroin addiction problem are now headed to Governor Walker. On Tuesday, the state Senate, in a special session, overwhelming supported the measures, even though Democrats argue the plans don’t go far enough.

Wisconsin’s Senate approved around 10 bills aimed at fighting the tragedy of people dying from opioid and heroin use. The bills would, among other things, authorize the Department of Justice to hire four investigators to fight drug trafficking, expand the list of drugs that require a prescription, create a recovery charter high school and create three additional treatment programs in underserved areas. Republican Sheila Harsdorf is from River Falls. She says the legislation that would provide $1 million a year additional for treatment options in northwest Wisconsin is crucial. Harsdorf says her district is not only being hit by opioids and heroine, but also meth.

“This legislation expands what we’ve already passed. It builds on what we know is working. To additional underserved needs of the state,” Harsdorf says.

“If we are talking about increasing two or three centers, two or three centers, right away, there's winners and losers.”

Democrat Janet Bewley insists the bills won’t do enough.

“We are injecting places around the state where we are choosing the winners in this bizarre lottery of who gets help,” Bewley says.

Bewley says the state has to find a way to establish treatment programs statewide.

Democrats introduced a number of amendments during Tuesday’s debate. One would have increased the amount of money the state uses to reimburse counselors so they locate in underserved areas. According to Senator Jon Erpenbach, Minnesota reimburses at a rate of around $70 an hour, Iowa $66, Illinois, $60 but Wisconsin - only $38.20. Republicans suggested that the reimbursement conversation be held for the state budget debate.

Democrats also put forth an amendment that would have provided pregnant women addicted to opioids with methadone.

All the amendments the minority party introduced, failed.