In a statewide announcement, Gov. Scott Walker called the Wisconsin State Legislature into special session and issued new directives to state agencies January 5 in a continuation of the fight against the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic. Walker made the announcement during stops at three separate hospitals January 5, starting in Weston with a visit to Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital, part of Ascension, then in Green Bay at Aurora BayCare Medical Center and ending the day at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital, Chippewa Falls. Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren joined Walker at all three locations where he signed executive orders to implement these directives.
Ascension Health Senior Vice President/Wisconsin Ministry Market Executive Bernie Sherry, Aurora Health Care President/CEO Nick Turkal, MD and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital President/CEO Joan Coffman all welcomed the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Representative Nygren to their respective facilities for this announcement. In addition to hosting the announcement in Chippewa Falls, Coffman also serves alongside Kleefisch and Nygren as WHA’s representative to the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse.
"We’re grateful to have Gov. Walker here in support of those who struggle with heroin and opioid addiction," said Joan Coffman, president and CEO of HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls. "As WHA’s representative to the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, it’s encouraging to see these robust executive orders. The state’s response is a boost to facilities like ours that work with people during their day-to-day struggles."
One of the Governor’s executive orders (#228) directs state agencies to implement recommendations made in a report from Kleefisch and Nygren, co-chairs of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse. The report includes a wide range of recommendations, including initiatives proposed by WHA to expand physician training opportunities for addiction medicine and reform state regulations, specifically DHS 75, which have become a barrier to expanding treatment options for patients in need of substance abuse services.
A second executive order (#229) directs the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to apply for federal funding from the 21st Century Cures Act to support efforts to address opioid addiction in Wisconsin.
The final order calls for a special session of the state Legislature to pass various policy proposals (#230) recommended as part of the co-chair’s report, including investments for medication-assisted treatment, treatment and diversion programs and various other policies designed to encourage individuals with an opioid addiction to seek treatment.
In a statement, WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding said, "It is fitting that the recommendations be released at three hospitals across Wisconsin, recognizing the role hospitals play in delivering care to those suffering from substance abuse, identifying community needs and recommending proactive solutions to address Wisconsin’s opioid abuse epidemic."
"Additional steps are needed to help those struggling with opioid addiction," Borgerding said. "WHA is committed to continuing our work with Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch, Representative Nygren, and the Governor’s Task Force to develop additional recommendations that will help accomplish this important goal."