Governor Calls for Special Session to Combat Opioid Abuse

On Thursday, Jan. 5, Governor Walker issued Executive Order 230, calling the Wisconsin State Legislature into special session to combat opioid abuse. In addition to calling for a special session, the governor directed his state agencies to take various administrative actions.

The announcement came after the release of a report from the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse. The Taskforce, co-chaired by Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefish and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) was first convened in September 2016 and includes representatives from health care providers, law enforcement, public health officials, tribes and state agencies.

The report recommends various legislation, administrative action and private sector action to combat opioid abuse in the state. In Executive Order 228, the governor directed nine different state agencies to take actions immediately.

The Department of Health Services (DHS) has been tasked to work with stakeholders to increase the number of physicians familiar with Medically Assisted Treatment. The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) will conduct a survey of opioid addiction treatment coverage for major insurers in Wisconsin. The Executive Order also directed the Taskforce on Opioid Abuse to continue their work and through Executive Order 229, the governor directed the Secretary of the Department of Health Services to apply for State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant funds.

Some additional recommendations that may be drafted for legislative action or receive funding include the following:

  • Permit appropriate school personnel- such as school nurses – to administer an opioid antagonist if a student overdoses at school.
  • Allow UW’s Office of Educational Opportunity to charter a recovery school so that students who need in-patient care can receive it without missing a semester of school.
  • Extend limited immunity for certain criminal prosecutions to people who overdose.
  • Annually train 20 recovery specialists to serve at substance abuse and peer support sites.
  • Dedicate two million dollars to allow up to 25 hospitals with high rates of drug overdose to hire in-house recovery coaches and $500,000 to support these coaches and peer specialists in community corrections settings.
  • Expend just over two million dollars to fund new medically assisted treatment centers.
  • Operate an Addiction Treatment & Recovery Hotline, staffed by trained specialists, to connect people to resources in their region.
  • Increase funding for drug courts.
  • Create a director-level position in the Secretary’s office at DHS to develop the statewide needs assessment and strategic plan to fight against addiction.

The time frame for legislation to be introduced and scheduling committee and floor action is currently unclear, but it is expected the Assembly will take action on this package prior to the Senate.