Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse Meets, Reviews Pew Recommendations

Gov. Scott Walker’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse met at North Central Technical College in Wausau on Jan. 5. The meeting began with a recognition of the Department of Health Services’ (DHS) recent announcement of nearly $500,000 in grants to 63 community groups for opioid abuse prevention. The committee then heard from Drug Free Communities of Marathon County, who emphasized the importance of community coalitions to address the opioid epidemic.

The bulk of the meeting was a presentation from Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew representatives informed the committee of their recommendations for substance use disorder treatment and prevention. The recommendations covered the areas of workforce, women’s health, data, and criminal justice:

  1. Implementing a “hub and spoke” model of care coordination, in which regional “hubs” would deliver initial acute care, then transfer patients to community “spokes” for patients’ maintenance and recovery process.
  2. Increasing access to medication assisted treatment via provider training during residency programs.
  3. Evaluating Wisconsin’s substance abuse counselor certification and criteria and processes for psychotherapists.
  4. Facilitating more effective treatment for pregnant women.
  5. Developing a database of treatment providers in Wisconsin.
  6. Developing data on the number of people in Wisconsin who want but have not yet received treatment.
  7. Suspending instead of terminating Medicaid enrollment for individuals who enter state correctional facilities.

At the Jan. 5 meeting, the task force unanimously passed a motion to adopt Pew’s recommendations.

Co-chairs Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) also presented a list of further ideas under consideration as legislative or executive policies. Their list included recommendations in law enforcement/criminal justice, workforce, and healthcare. Highlights include:

  • Creating a grant program for law enforcement agencies to fight drug trafficking and use.
  • Expanding drug treatment courts to additional counties.
  • Developing training and best practices around officer and emergency medical technician encounters with opioid-related incidents.
  • Mandating continuing education on opioids for physician assistants and dentists.
  • Adopting the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council’s opioid-related recommendations, included in this session’s worker’s compensation bill.
  • Ensuring individualized review for eligibility for occupational licenses for individuals with drug-related convictions.

Gov. Scott Walker issued two executive orders on Jan. 19 incorporating several of these recommendations.