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Lawmakers advance heroin bills

By Jessica Arp,
Published On: Jan 09 2014 06:44:38 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 09 2014 08:17:53 PM CST

State lawmakers are fast-tracking a series of bills hoping to fight heroin addiction in Wisconsin.

Four of those bills were discussed and approved unanimously in committees Thursday. One bill, proposed by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, would allow all first responders with training to administer Narcan or Naxalone, drugs that reverse the effects of heroin. Under current state law only licensed paramedics can administer the drug, as they do in Madison, but volunteer EMTs and police and firefighters can't.

Families of those affected by heroin addiction testified that the bill was a step in fighting the drug and could save lives.

"On the way here I got a call about a man I met while my son's addiction was going on," Alex Hoffman said. "He overdosed and was administered a drug similar to what Rep. Nygren is proposing. He's alive today and he's very fortunate. My son was not as fortunate."

The state EMS Association testified they were concerned about the bill requiring new training and rigs to carry the drug and no funding being included for those measures.

Another measure also proposed by Nygren would give immunity from prosecution to those who call 911 for a drug overdose, which families strongly supported.

"My daughter was found dead at a Super 8 Motel in Hudson on May 18 because she went into overdose distress in the bathroom vomiting and instead of the young man calling for help to 911 they laid her on the bed and left her to die," Karen Hale said.

The bills are close to the heart of Nygren, whose daughter Cassie overdosed as well.

"In my personal story my daughter is alive and well," Nygren said. "She is still struggling with addiction but there is still hope for her to break that cycle."

Lawmakers also approved two other bills in committee, one allowing med-drop drives and another requiring ID to get some prescription drugs.

The bills are on the fast track, getting unanimous bipartisan approval in committee and headed to the full Assembly for a vote on Tuesday.

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