Governor Orders New Actions in Fight Against Opioid Abuse During Stop at Ministry Saint Clare's

January 5, 2017

Governor Scott Walker called the Wisconsin State Legislature into special session and issued new directives to state agencies today in a continuation of the fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic.

The Governor made the announcement today in Weston during a visit to Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital, part of Ascension. The special session call and agency directives were given through Executive Orders #228, #229, and #230. The orders implement recommendations made in a report issued today by Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Representative John Nygren, co-chairs of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

“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,” said Governor Walker. “I thank Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and Representative Nygren for making these recommendations, the work of the task force, and the many first responders, medical professionals, and family members who are on the front lines of this effort.”

Governor Walker held signing ceremonies of these executive orders at a series of events in Weston, Green Bay, and Chippewa Falls with Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and Representative Nygren.

Executive Order #228 directs Wisconsin state agencies to take further action to combat opioid abuse and addiction based upon the recommendations of Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and Representative Nygren included in the report sent to Governor Walker today.

Executive Order #229 directs the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to apply for federal funding recently made available with the passage of the 21st Century CURES Act. The act makes available up to $7,636,938 per year for two years to Wisconsin for programs responding to the opioid crisis through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant.

Executive Order #230 requests a special session of the Wisconsin State Legislature to commence at 11:00 a.m. on January 5, 2017, to consider and act upon a series of legislative proposals to further support the initiative.

“All of us know someone personally affected by a heroin overdose or drug death,” said Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch. “It has been an honor to work with John, who is a nationally recognized policy leader on this issue. Together, we’re going to continue this initiative as we look for new ideas and evaluate the impact of the policies we’ve adopted the past several years.

“I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken to start addressing our state’s opioid epidemic,” said Representative Nygren. “We’ll continue to prioritize this issue by expanding upon treatment and diversion programs, working to reduce instances of overprescribing, and further destigmatizing addiction. Thank you to all of the recovery advocates, members of the medical community, law enforcement, my fellow task force members, Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch, and Governor Walker for helping to bring this issue of addiction to the forefront. The recommendations included in this report are not the silver bullet; I look forward to continuing the fight against Wisconsin’s prescription opioid and heroin epidemic as we begin the 2017-18 Legislative Session.”

“We appreciate the commitment of the Governor, Lt. Governor and Rep. Nygren to lead the way on this issue,” said Bernie Sherry, Senior Vice President and Ministry Market Executive, Ascension Wisconsin. “Ascension is committed to providing personalized, compassionate care to all, especially those who are most vulnerable. The steps taken today will help us do just that. We’re especially excited about the investments to increase the number of providers available and in telemedicine. This is a good day for Wisconsin.”

Governor Walker created the Task Force on Opioid Abuse in September 2016. The task force has met several times across the state, and the agency steering committees conducted a number of internal and external engagement meetings. This report and recommendations are from the co-chairs and were issued on an expedited basis to ensure inclusion in the state budget process as the task force’s work goes on.

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