Drug addiction and abuse continues to plague communities across our state. Here in western Wisconsin, we have seen meth and heroin ravage our communities and destroy far too many promising lives. While there remains much work to be done, I am pleased that the State Legislature continues to work with stakeholders in an effort to come up with solutions that seek to save lives and prevent addiction.
In speaking with law enforcement, public health officials, and medical professionals, one of key areas they reference in combatting addiction is the role of prescription drugs. Easily accessible prescription drugs can be dangerous in their own right, but they also are frequently a gateway for young people into illegal drugs. Finding ways to keep highly addictive prescription drugs out of the hands of our youth and those that are susceptible to addiction is a priority of those working to fight drug abuse.
One of the most effective ways to remove the potential of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs is through proper disposal. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has worked together with local law enforcement agencies for several years to conduct Prescription Drug Take-Back Days. These events, which are usually held once in the spring and once in the fall, provide the opportunity for families and households to dispose of unused prescription medications in a secure and environmentally-friendly manner. It is important to never flush or pour unused prescription drugs down the drain, as the pharmaceuticals can enter our drinking water supply or affect our lakes and streams.
The next Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is scheduled for Saturday, October 17th. In addition to the Department of Justice’s efforts, a number of local law enforcement agencies sponsor drug take-back programs year-round or provide permanent prescription drug drop boxes at their offices. I encourage those interested in getting rid of old prescription drugs to contact their local police or sheriff’s departments to find out about local drop-off sites for Prescription Drug Take-Back Day or to find out if there is a permanent prescription drug disposal program in your community.
As a follow-up to a number of bills the State Legislature passed last session in our fight against drug abuse and addiction, I am working with Representative John Nygren on legislation seeking to improve prescription drug dispensing in Wisconsin to prevent highly addictive and powerful medications from being abuses. The two bills I will be authoring in the State Senate propose changes to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), a tool used by physicians and pharmacists to prevent the overprescribing of medications and to keep individuals from “doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions. One of the bills changes the requirement that the PDMP be updated within 24 hours of the dispensing of a monitored prescription drug, rather than seven days under current law, to ensure doctors have the most up-to-date information. The second bill would improve communication between law enforcement, health care providers, and the PDMP when a prescription medication is found at a crime scene or drug overdose.
Two additional bills on prescription drug medication will also be brought forward that would improve oversight of pain clinics to prevent “pill mills” and that would provide tools to better assess the effectiveness of methadone clinics. Methadone is a drug assisted treatment option for those addicted to heroin. These four bills are an extension of the HOPE package passed by the State Legislature last session that began addressing the heroin epidemic, which included enacting a Good Samaritan law and authorizing emergency responders to administer medication that counteracts heroin overdoses. It is expected that these new bills will be taken up by the State Legislature in the coming weeks as the fall legislative session begins.