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H.O.P.E laws to help fight drug addiction, crime, deaths

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Gov. Scott Walker talking to Lillie Moe, who is Senator Julie Lassa's youngest daughter before signing part of the H.O.P.E. legislation.  Also pictured: members of the Stevens Point Police Department and Portage County Sheriff's Department, Rep. John Nygren, Mayor Andrew Halverson, Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink
Gov. Scott Walker talking to Lillie Moe, who is Senator Julie Lassa's youngest daughter before signing part of the H.O.P.E. legislation. Also pictured: members of the Stevens Point Police Department and Portage County Sheriff's Department, Rep. John Nygren, Mayor Andrew Halverson, Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Several new laws were signed Monday designed to help people with opiate abuse and addition. Governor Scott Walker signed seven bills that were part of the Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education (H.O.P.E.) legislative package during stops in Marinette, Stevens Point, Eau Claire, and Milwaukee.

As of yesterday, people calling 9-1-1 to report an overdose have limited immunity, addicts have expanded access to Vivitrol treatment programs, adds funding to treatment and diversion programs, and expands medication disposal programs like the Take Back program. The law also requires all paramedics to carry naloxone, also known as Narcan, for treating overdose patients. The new law also allows other emergency workers like first responders, police, and firefighters to carry the heroin antidote.

Walker says expanding the medicine disposal programs allows everyone to safely get unused medications to a place where they can’t harm people or the environment.  “This stop today, if nothing more, isn’t just about signing a bill into law, it’s about reminding, particularly parents and even seniors, that if you’ve got say, a pain killer out there and you’re done with your prescription, done with the time you need it, don’t keep that in your medicine cabinet. Lock it up if you continue to need it or find a way to bring it to a program like this.”  He added, “Part of the legislation we’re signing today opens up more programs, particularly out in rural parts, to help counties deal with the addictions, to help with alternatives to incarceration, because we know if you don’t treat the addiction, particularly when it comes to heroin, they’re going to be right back there again.”

Governor Walker says it’s important to keep medicines away from others, especially kids.  “We know time and time again, for people addicted to heroin, most of them didn’t start on heroin. Most of them took something like an oxycotin in the past or some other prescription painkiller. That opened the door to their addiction, and then they couldn’t stop. We need to stop it dead in its tracks.”

The H.O.P.E Legislation also allows short-term sanctions for people who violate conditions of extended supervision, parole, probation designed to help deal with the addition to prevent further crimes. Additional dollars in the TAD and drug court programs are also in the budget. Walker says, “In the budget, we already put a million dollars more in there for TAD, the Treatment, Alternatives, & Diversion as well as a half a million for drug courts. One of the bills we signed today adds to that as well, so that will particularly help counties. We want to partner with counties that are doing big, bold things things like that to help them do more of that because we believe for every dollar we spend on something like that, it’s about a dollar ninety saved of cost of the correction system and in law enforcement.”

Representative John Nygren of Marinette was the lead author on all seven bills. His family has personal experience dealing with heroin addiction.  “I think our personal story has been told. My daughter Cassie has been addicted to heroin for a number of years. We’ve had struggles like a lot of families have had, and I’ve heard from a lot of families throughout the state who have had similar stories and often times, even more tragic stories.”

Nygren believes two of the changes will quickly save lives.  “I think two of the components that I’m probably most proud of is the 9-1-1 good samaritan law and also the Narcan, and those are things that were personal experiences that we had as a family. Cassie had an overdose back in 2007. Her friends left her to die. Thankfully, her mom found her at a time where we were able to dial 9-1-1 and the paramedics in Marinette were able to administer Narcan.”

Senators Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Alberta Darling of River Hills were instrumental in getting Nygren’s H.O.P.E. package through the Senate, usually on a voice vote and often with unanimous support.

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