Opioid Crisis Demands Bipartisan Solutions
In 2015 more people in state died from drug overdoses than car crashes.
In 2015, more Wisconsinites died from drug overdoses than from car crashes. From suburban Milwaukee to the rural north woods, families in every community in the state are being impacted. Our state has received unwanted national attention for this problem, as have our neighbors around the Midwest. Death tolls are an extreme indicator, but more visible for our children and our neighbors are the broken homes, crashed cars, and irreparable relationships that have infected our biggest cities and smallest towns alike. As prescription opioids like Oxycodone have risen in popularity among addicts, so have the cost of drugs, driving users to seek out cheaper, widely available heroin.
Led by Representative John Nygren, the HOPE Agenda, a series of bills intended to address various aspects of this crisis passed the state Senate and Assembly unanimously last year. And the governor’s new bipartisan task force has already spoken out in 2017 about actions that can be taken to achieve new progress in this fight to win back our communities. As a former state and local elected official I know how rare it is these days to find consensus among the parties on any issue. Kudos to all involved for rolling up their sleeves and putting resources into the fight.
But all of this comes at a cost, one that’s a worthy investment for our state, but we should be sure that our actions provide the most medically and cost effective treatments and policy solutions available for our citizens. Responsible spending means more funding for outreach, treatment, doctors in rural areas and emergency clinics in inner cities. Irresponsible spending, on the other hand, means less of all the above. The price-gouging by one company, which manufactures a commonly-proscribed addiction treatment paid for by Wisconsin tax dollars, has been gaining attention around the state, and puts funding for all of these initiatives at risk.
Suboxone, a medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is widely used to help wean addicts off their cravings while allowing them to seek mental health counseling, job coaching and other recovery services. But the maker of the drug is being sued by 42 attorneys general, with Wisconsin’s own AG leading the effort, for price gouging and product hopping. It’s also been called “the king of the jailhouse drug trade” for its ease in smuggling into prisons and jails. MAT has proven to be successful in helping addicts recover, but there’s absolutely no reason a drug maker like this should be receiving “preferred” status from the state Medicaid agency, as it is now.
Last week, the state opioid task force put forward its recommendations for 2017. These included addiction fellowships for rural doctors, cracking down on cough syrup with codeine in it, and greater funding for in-house recovery coaches for hospitals. These proposals have merit, and should be strongly considered by legislators this session. But there are more steps our state must take. Rejecting the status quo, and moving forward with bipartisan solutions, must happen and happen soon. Wisconsin can be a national leader in finding solutions to this crisis. It just has to act, and quickly.
Jeff Plale is a former Democratic state senator who served the metro Milwaukee area.
- Wisconsin Drug Take Back Collection #2 in the Country; Collects Over 60,000 lbs. of Unwanted Medications to Fight the Opioid Epidemic - Josh Kaul - May 5th, 2021
- Baldwin Challenges Opioid Companies ‘Abusive’ Tax Deductions - Isiah Holmes - Apr 18th, 2021
- Overdoses Surge and Heroin, Opioid Cocaine Task Force Doesn’t Meet - Edgar Mendez - Apr 15th, 2021
- AG Kaul Highlights Need for Crime Lab Toxicology Positions, Technology to Address Evolving Drug Epidemic - Josh Kaul - Mar 10th, 2021
- A Medication Rescue for Opioid Overdoses - Corri Hess - Feb 22nd, 2021
- State Receives $10 million in Opioid Crisis Settlement - Jenny Peek - Feb 5th, 2021
- AG Kaul, Gov Evers Announce $573 Million Multistate Agreement with McKinsey & Company for “Turbocharging” the Opioid Epidemic with Purdue Pharma - Josh Kaul - Feb 4th, 2021
- Gov. Evers, DHS Announce Nearly $9 Million Awarded for Drug Treatment Services - Gov. Tony Evers - Jan 14th, 2021
- AG Kaul, Bipartisan AGs Push FDA to Examine Progress in Opioid Fight - Josh Kaul - Jan 11th, 2021
- Milwaukee County Surpasses Last Year’s Record Overdose Deaths - Edgar Mendez - Nov 27th, 2020
Read more about Opioid Crisis here