On February 17, several bills were introduced as part of the special session of the state Legislature called by Gov. Scott Walker to address opioid abuse. Executive Order #230
establishing the special session to pass various policy proposals recommended in the co-chairs’ report of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse was signed by the Governor at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls in January.
Eleven bills were introduced, including the following proposals:
- To address addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry physician shortages, dedicate an additional $126,000 in GPR funding over the biennium to provide grants to hospitals to expand graduate medical education training in an addiction specialty.
- Provide $1 million in GPR funding over the biennium for the creation of an addiction medicine consultation program. Currently, such consults are not typically reimbursable to the consulting physician.
- Provide funding for up to three additional opioid treatment programs in underserved and high need areas.
- Prohibit the dispensing of schedule V controlled substances that contain codeine (such as over the counter cough medicine with codeine) without a prescription.
- Extend voluntary and involuntary treatment services available to alcoholics to persons that are drug dependent.
The bills will now head to committee for hearings in the coming weeks.
Also on February 17, the Department of Health Services (DHS) announced they had applied for over $15 million in federal funds available in the 21st Century Cures Act to combat opioid abuse. In its application, DHS states it will use the funds to support recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse. DHS said this effort will include:
- Expanding access to treatment for uninsured and underinsured individuals.
- Establishing new opioid-specific treatment programs to reduce the distance people have to travel for those services.
- Establishing a hotline to provide information on treatment services and recovery supports.
- Developing training on proven intervention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and abuse.
- Supporting community coalitions focused on reducing the nonmedical use of opioids in adolescents and young adults.
- Establishing a network of recovery coaches.
The Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse will meet again March 24.