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Gov. Walker calls special session on opioid bills: “This isn’t somebody else’s problem”

MADISON— Governor Scott Walker is calling a special legislative session to pass a package of bills designed to curb heroin and opioid abuse. Walker has a long list of plans, but one idea -- drug testing high school athletes -- isn't on it.

As the Legislature returned to Madison, top Republicans couldn't name what would become their top priority legislation.

With this executive order, Governor Walker is essentially saying "I've got some ideas for you."

"There`s a lot of time for members in general to focus on a legislative agenda. This is a legislative agenda," Governor Walker said.

Governor Scott Walker calls for special session on opiate abuse

Governor Walker's 11 requests came from a new report from a task force.

Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse

The Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse made a number of recommendations to lawmakers. The task force wants school nurses to be able to give the heroin-fighting drug Naloxone to students who are overdosing in school. The task force has called for more funding for "recovery coaches" in hospital emergency rooms. Walker would also require prescriptions for medicines containing codeine, and he backs limited immunity for people who overdose, to encourage friends and family to call 911.

Governor Scott Walker

Governor Scott Walker

Governor Walker said opiate prescriptions have fallen 10 percent in a year's time -- crediting lawmakers' previous efforts to fight addiction.

"Treatment works. It's not 100 percent, but it works," Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette said.

"This isn`t somebody else`s problem. This is an issue that at some point or another will affect all of us or the loved ones that we have in our own circle of friends or family," Walker said.

Rep. John Nygren

Rep. John Nygren

Additionally, Walker said he wants the University of Wisconsin System starting a recovery school; to allocate money for the rural hospital graduate medical training program; more state drug agents; and a consultation service to connect medical professionals with addiction medicine specialists.

Walker said he expects people to wean themselves off painkillers. He said his adult son used Advil instead of prescription drugs after getting his wisdom teeth out recently.

"As patients, we need to take on some of the responsibility of that as well and not just put the pressure on health care professionals to prescribe, prescribe, prescribe," Walker said.

Pills

The task force did not recommend high schools drug test their athletes as a Republican state lawmaker proposed before pulling back when Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said they didn't support the idea.

The Legislature is already in session, but a special session order allows lawmakers to operate under different rules that make passing bills easier.

The governor also typically uses a special session call to draw attention to issues.

Heroin

Heroin

According to a spokesman, Vos expects to have Assembly committees taking up Walker's bills by the end of January.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Below is a statement from Vos' spokeswoman, Kit Beyer:

"A special session puts a priority on the proposed legislation by allowing for a more expeditious legislative process.  It also draws more attention to an important problem that has become a health crisis in the state.

The Speaker looks forward to continuing to pass legislation to fight the opioid epidemic and hopes to have bills taken up in committee by the end of the month.

As you may recall, the HOPE Agenda produced 17 bills in the past two sessions, which received widespread support and have made an impact."

Peter Barca

Peter Barca

Top Assembly Democrat Peter Barca said the special session was "warranted" -- issuing this statement to FOX6 News:

“The opioid epidemic in our state is a very serious issue that requires a very aggressive response. I hope the committees will collect input from those who know this issue firsthand—from law enforcement, to educators, to medical professionals—as this will help us address this crisis in the most comprehensive manner possible.

The urgency of this special session is warranted, and I hope Gov. Walker takes the same approach to other incredibly significant issues facing Wisconsin families right now, including rebuilding the most diminished middle class in the country. As elected officials, we need to do everything we can to address those who are hurting.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said it could take some time before they get voted on.

Below is a statement from Fitzgerald's spokeswoman, Myranda Tanck:

"We look forward to working with the Governor to expand on the HOPE legislation passed over the last two legislative sessions to continue to fight to address Wisconsin’s growing heroin and opiate epidemic.

As far as timeline: we had a Senator call the Senate into special session today and adjourn until January 10 as the call began today at 11:00. The procedure will be relatively unchanged going forward; each of the enumerated bills appears to still be in LRB form and will need to be introduced, assigned bill numbers, circulated for cosponsors, and referred to committee. As that process continues we will have a better idea of when these bills will be on the floor. As of right now we have not scheduled any additional floor days but the special session does allow us to come in any business day until the special session is closed."

10 comments

  • Julie Arnold

    Hey Walker, why don’t you pass a bill that would give documented chronic pain patients easier access to the medicines that allow us to be functioning & contributing members of society? #PatientsNotAddicts

    • Chrisco

      Easy access to them created part of this problem. If you have legitimate pain, go see a doctor and they will prescribe what is needed. You are part of the problem asking to make them easier to get. They should cut you off. Do not tell me I do not know what pain feels like. Snap a collar bone, break your shoulder blade in half and tear half the tendons and ligaments in that shoulder. You need to weened off the junk.

      • 2017willbebetter

        Chrisco exactly. When did we become a nation of wawa i need more. We used to be a nation of ibuprofen or aspirin and ice. I’ve had several surgeries, 2 torn ACL , messed up shoulder-holding off yet-and filled but did not take the “pain” meds. Didn’t need them. Ibuprofen, ice, elevation, a lot of swearing, some sweating, but I had to work and did not want to be an addict. So easy to get “pain” meds even with dental work. Too easy. Rub some dirt on it and walk it off.

      • Jimmy

        Sorry, but you’re just hurting law abiding citizens. These junkies will always find a way to get their fix, whether it be from a store or your house.

  • Itsabouttime

    Couldn’t agree with you more Chrisco. Julie Arnold I live with chronic pain as well and instead of complaining about easier access how about doing some stretching or yoga exercises.

    • mary

      To all who think they have the rite to decide who suffers in physical pain and who does not,,,,its not your rite to force humanbeing to suffer in physical pain from medical illness,,,since it is literally impossible for anyone to physical feel the physical pain of another,,,and frankly its a little barbarically psychotic,,When people are forced to use death as their on;ly means of stopping physical pain,,we’ve gone to far as a society against humane decisions..For a attorney general seeking revenge for a daughter who choose to abuse MEDICINE.,,All of this is another ,

      pennhurst mentality in action.Anyone who suffer physical pain from a medical illness who wishes to jump on a ;lawsuit w/thee aclu of wisconsin let me know,,,It will be for violation of international laws of torture and genocide and discrimination,,,U don’t see diabetic on any watch list do uu,,or forced to pee in cups at 90 years old,,,,the more better,,,wishing all chronic pain people due to medical illness a lessen’d pain 24 hours,,maryw

  • Hard worker

    Legalize tax and regulate cannabis so we can keep it away from kids andballow responsible adults to use the far safer drug so people don’t get hooked on poison opioids to begin with. Duh, Wisconsin. It’s as if we have to drag these drooling cavemen out of the Dark Ages by their hair, I mean thinning baldspots. Legalize it.

  • Jimmy

    Once again, our government in Madison has failed us. Instead of fixing the issue, these politicians want to protect these criminals. No wonder why this state is going to the wasteland

  • Jean Price

    Wow, spoken like a man who has never had pain 24/7 for 365+ days in a row! And has no idea how this has negatively impacted those whose pain medication helps them be productive and have a tiny bit of quality to their lives! With senators like him, who know what’s best for ALL of us, guess we should be good, right?! Wrong…they are killing those in pain…swiftly and surely…by denying appropriate medication to help ease their life-limiting and VERIFIABLE PAIN. God help us, opioids are NOT the monster! Anymore than gasoline is the culprit in drunk driving! We have to do more than police abusers…with revised rehabilitation that actually works! And NOT keep those in pain from receiving the medications and care necessary for a functional life! So far, we are failing both!

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