MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker is taking additional steps to combat the rise of opioid abuse in Wisconsin by creating a task force aimed at stemming the misuse of the powerful painkillers, which officials say contributed to nearly half of the 843 drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin in 2014.
Walker on Thursday signed an executive order setting up the panel tasked with making recommendations on fighting abuse of pain relievers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. He named Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren to lead the panel. Nygren, whose daughter has struggled with drug addiction, has been at the forefront of legislation to fight drug abuse in Wisconsin.
The task force includes the secretaries or designees from the state corrections, insurance, health services, safety and professional service departments as well as Attorney General Brad Schimel, several legislators, law enforcement, health officials and citizens. They are expected to meet in the coming months to map strategies, the governor said.
Walker signed his order at a Milwaukee Walgreens drug store to highlight the chain’s drug take-back program. Walgreens has installed medication disposal kiosks at 18 stores around the state where citizens can drop off unused or expired medications, including controlled substances.
“The more drugs we get out of people’s home and into places like this, the safer we’re all going to be,” Walker said. “Even if you’re coming in for a soda and a bag of chips, it’s easy to drop it off.”
The Walgreens stores with disposal bins are in Appleton, Brookfield, Greenfield, Janesville, Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison, Marinette, Menomonee Falls, Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, Racine, Sheboygan, and Wausau.
Walgreens has also made naloxone, an opiate antidote commonly called Narcan, available without an individual prescription at all of its pharmacies in the state.
Earlier this year, Walker signed a number of bills aimed at slowing opiate abuse by creating more guidelines on dispensing prescription opiates.
Nygren, a Marinette Republican, wrote the eight-bill package as part of his so-called Hope Agenda, a series of reforms to fight heroin and opiate abuse. He began the initiative after watching his daughter, Cassie, struggle with heroin addiction.