Wisconsin Assembly OKs more money for drug treatment, diversion programs

MADISON — The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill that would funnel more money to drug treatment and diversion programs.

The bill would shift $2 million annually from the state Department of Health Services' mental health hospitals account to grants for county programs designed to keep drug users out of prison by placing them in treatment programs.

The measure is part of a package of legislation Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican, has introduced to help heroin users and slow the drug's spread.

The Assembly passed the measure unanimously Tuesday, February 16th. It now goes to the Senate.

Below is a statement from Rep. Nygren:

Tuesday, the Assembly unanimously approved five new Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Agenda bills, Assembly Bills 657, 658, 659, 600, and 766.

Representative John Nygren (R- Marinette) released the following statement regarding the bills’ passage: “I am proud that we are continuing to work towards addressing our state’s prescription opioid epidemic. The legislation approved today builds upon the foundation we’ve laid with the HOPE Agenda over the last three years.”

The following is a short summary of each of the five bills:

AB 657: This bill allocates $2 million each fiscal year to go toward Treatment and Diversion (TAD) programs. These programs are alternatives for individuals charged with certain crimes to prosecution and incarceration. The individuals enrolled in the program will have the chance to receive the help and support they need in order to become and remain contributing members of society.

AB 658: This bill criminalizes the use, possession, manufacture, distribution, and advertisement of any substance or device that is intended to defraud, circumvent, interfere with, or provide a substitute for a bodily fluid in conjunction with a lawfully administered drug test. Given that many employers subject their employees to lawfully administered drug tests, this bill will help ensure that people are not defrauding or interfering with the test results.

AB 659: State regulations regarding opioid treatment programs are much more stringent than federal regulations. In order to afford more people accessibility to the treatment they need, this bill streamlines Wisconsin’s state regulations to align with federal regulations. With these changes, more Wisconsinites will be able to have access to opioid treatment.

AB 660: This bill allows a number of medical-affiliated boards under the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) to issue guidelines regarding best practices in prescribing controlled substances. These best practices will help reduce instances of overprescribing and, in turn, lessen prescription opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction.

AB 766: This legislation creates reporting requirements for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The data collected will be reviewed and evaluated by the Controlled Substances Board (CSB) to determine the effectiveness of the PDMP and to compare actual outcomes with projected outcomes.

“Our goal with these pieces of legislation is to expand access to treatment, gather information on prescribing practices, and ensure that tools like our state’s PDMP are helpful and functioning properly. With the implementation of these bills, it’s my hope that we can stop addiction before it begins, offer people addicted to opioids the help they need in lieu of incarceration, and gather information that will help us make informed decisions in the future. Thank you to everyone who has helped formulate these important pieces of legislation. I look forward to continuing conversations with the medical community, law enforcement, my fellow legislators, and advocates statewide on these significant efforts.”

All five bills have been sent to the Senate for final approval.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the WI DOJ's "Dose of Reality" campaign to fight prescription drug/heroin abuse.