Evers signs bills designed to combat substance abuse

Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday signed into law four measures designed to combat substance abuse and help people who are struggling to recover following an overdose.

All of the measures passed the Legislature unanimously with bipartisan support. Evers was expected to take action on dozens of other bills Tuesday that the Legislature passed last month.

Evers said the substance abuse bills he signed at the Coulee Recovery Center in La Crosse are a "step in the right direction" toward fighting opioid abuse, but that more work needs to be done.

One bill Evers signed requires the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to create and run an overdose treatment program that encourages providers to take a number of steps to help patients. Those include using peer recovery coaches to encourage individuals to seek treatment following an overdose; providing access to medications to reverse an overdose; coordinating and continuing with a treatment plan after an overdose; providing follow-up services; and collecting and evaluating data on patients who receive services.

The state will also be required to provide peer recovery coach services as a benefit under the Medical Assistance program.

Another bill Evers signed allows county jails to enter into agreements to obtain naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and requires training for guards on how to administer it. The new law also requires the state Department of Health Services to study the availability of medication-assisted treatment for inmates in county jails and prisons who are abusing opioids.

Another measure Evers signed prevents state employees from being disciplined for using or possessing a controlled substance if they are using it under doctor’s orders as part of a treatment plan for dealing with addiction.

A fourth bill Evers signed extends the life of a prescription drug monitoring program that requires pharmacies and health care practitioners to generate records documenting the dispensing of monitored prescription drugs. The program was scheduled to end in April but the new law keeps it operational until April 2025.