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Assembly to consider heroin-fighting bills next week

MADISON (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Four bills aimed at stopping the rise in heroin use and overdose deaths will be up for approval in the state Assembly on Tuesday.

The Assembly's criminal justice panel unanimously endorsed bills yesterday to let trained emergency responders give the antidote drug Narcan to those who O-D. Those reporting overdoses to 9-1-1 would be immune from prosecution in most cases. The third bill would expand collection drives for prescription drugs. The Assembly health committee endorsed the fourth measure, requiring I-D's to obtain prescription drugs.

Assembly Republican John Nygren of Marinette proposed all four measures, after his daughter Cassie almost died from a heroin overdose in 2009. At a public hearing by the justice panel, some officials said the bills create too many levels of immunity -- and a local E-M-T group called the training for Narcan an unfunded mandate.

Alex Hoffman of Menomonee Falls, whose son died of a heroin overdose in July, told lawmakers the concerns are understandable but quote, "Doing nothing is unacceptable. We fail if we don't try." He said if nothing's done, lawmakers wouldn't recognize Wisconsin in five years. Doctor Mike Miller of the State Medical Society said fears about liability over Narcan are unsubstantiated. A substance abuse coordinator said fellow users throw overdose victims in a shower instead of help, so they don't expose themselves to prosecution.