The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) is hailing Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature for its adoption of the Heroin and Opiate Prevention and Education (HOPE) legislative package. The package of seven bills introduced by Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Senator Shelia Harsdorf (R-River Falls) were each adopted unanimously by both the Wisconsin State Senate and State Assembly. Click here to read our press release on the signing of this package.
Since 1994, The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin has been providing HIV prevention services to injection drug users across the state. At our core, we believe in the value of all life and work to keep people alive – by helping them avoid HIV or from unnecessary death resulting from overdose – until such point they are able to choose and follow through on eliminating drug use from their life. Our interventions with injection drug users include HIV prevention and testing, opiate overdose prevention and access to AODA treatment either directly at ARCW or through referral partners.
Unfortunately, heroin use and opiate overdose deaths are on the rise throughout Wisconsin. This has lead to an increase in the demand for HIV and overdose prevention services ARCW provides, and we now reach roughly 17,000 injection drug users in Wisconsin annually. The interventions we provide include training individuals who are likely to witness or experience an overdose in the use of Naloxone - an otherwise harmless drug that can immediately counteract the effects of an opiate overdose.
ARCW has trained 2,491 people in how to safely administer naloxone since starting our opiate overdose prevention program in 2005. Since that time, 2,134 individuals trained by ARCW have returned to ARCW to report that they have saved someone else's life because of our program.
By increasing the availability of Naloxone, successfully training individuals on how to use it, and reducing barriers that keep individuals from activating emergency services during an overdose, ARCW is confident that the overall impact of the HOPE legislative package will be to save more lives from opiate overdose and provide individuals with more time to find a path to treatment and sobriety.
Research and experience demonstrate a strong connection between increased availability of opiate-based pain medications and the potential for addiction. Often times, addiction to pain medications will lead to heroin use as individuals find prescription drugs harder and more expensive to purchase. By helping to stem the tide of prescription drugs that are obtained through unscrupulous means, AB 445/SB 353 will help reduce the chances for addiction to develop.
Under the bill as amended, individuals who are picking up a prescription for a Schedule II or III controlled substance (either for themselves or someone else) will have to show a photo ID unless the pharmacist personally knows the individual picking up the mediation. If illegal diversion activities take place, this bill will give law enforcement a starting point for their investigation. The bill will also create a chilling effect by discouraging criminals from falsifying prescriptions because picking them up will require a photo ID.
This legislation will help increase the number of individuals who are equipped with and trained in the safe use of Naloxone. In doing so, it will increase the chances someone experiencing an overdose will receive this treatment early enough to save their life.
Under the bill as amended, physicians, physician assistants and nurse prescribers will be able to issue prescriptions for naloxone, either directly of by standing order, to individuals in a position to assist someone who is experiencing an overdose – including injection drug users themselves.
The bill also allows any person to possess naloxone and may transfer naloxone to another person.
Often times, individuals who witness overdose are reluctant to call emergency services for help out of fear of criminal prosecution. This bill, in specific and limited ways, provides immunity from prosecution for possession of a controlled substance if the individual calls for aide, or brings someone to receive care.
The bill also provides immunity from prosecution for individuals who possess or administer Naloxone.
This bill will make it easier for communities to establish programs that allow for the safe disposal of unused or unwanted medications, thus reducing the chances that opiate based medications will end up in the hands of people who were not prescribed them.
On January 14, 2014 the Wisconsin State Assembly unanimously passed the HOPE package. The four bills were adopted by the Wisconsin State Senate unanimously on February 18, 2014 and now await the Governor's signature. Click here to read the ARCW press release on the adoption of this package.