Governor Signs Special Session Opioid Bills

WHA-backed GME funding for addiction specialists included in bills

July 21, 2017

Gov. Scott Walker signed 11 bills into law June 17 that were passed by the Legislature as part of the Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education (HOPE) special session agenda. The bills include funding and regulatory components to help treat opioid addiction and to prevent opioid addiction.

"The bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor will help to further sustain and expand access to treatment to help those addicted to opioids," said WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding. "Supporting graduate medical education to address shortages of addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry physicians was a key recommendation by WHA to the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, and we are pleased to see the Governor and Legislature taking steps to address physician workforce shortages in Wisconsin."

The bills signed into law include:

Additional GME Funding
Act 26 adds $64,000 annually to Wisconsin’s graduate medical education (GME) grant program to support hospitals’ fellowship programs for addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry specialties. The establishment and expansion of Wisconsin’s GME grant program has been championed by WHA as a key strategy to expand physician workforce in high need specialties.

Additional Treatment Centers
Act 27 provides $1 million annually to create two or three additional regional comprehensive opioid and methamphetamine treatment programs in rural, underserved or high-need areas. This funding would double the number of such programs first established in 2013 Act 195.

Creation of Addiction Medicine Consultation Program
Act 28 provides $500,000 annually to create an addiction medicine consultation program for physicians. The Department of Health Services will be seeking proposals to provide services through this consultation program, which is intended to provide consultation and referral support to clinicians treating patients with a substance abuse disorder. 

Emergency Commitment for Drug Dependence
Act 34 expands Wisconsin’s emergency and involuntary commitment program under Chapter 51 for alcoholics and intoxicated persons to persons who have drug dependence, who are incapacitated by the use of drugs and who habitually lack self-control as to the use of drugs. 

Prescription Requirement for Schedule V Substances Containing Codeine and Other Substances
Act 25 will now require a prescription for certain Schedule V controlled substances. Most notably, cough syrup and medication containing codeine will now require a prescription. However, the bill also impacts Schedule V controlled substances containing dihydrocodeine, ethylmorphine, diphenoxylate, opium, or difenoxin. 

In October 2016, Joan Coffman, president/CEO of HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls and WHA representative to the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, presented to the Task Force a WHA summary of steps the Task Force could take to help Wisconsin sustain and expand access to treatment for opioid abusers, as well as a summary of education programs, examples of collaboration, and local efforts hospitals and WHA are undertaking to address Wisconsin’s opioid abuse epidemic. Those summaries and their accompanying memo can be found at

WHA will provide members a full summary of the 11 opioid bills on the Members Only portion of WHA’s website in the coming days.

This story originally appeared in the July 21, 2017 edition of WHA Newsletter