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Milwaukee – Governor Scott Walker announced the creation of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse today in Milwaukee. The announcement follows Governor Walker issuing Executive Order #214, which appoints several agency secretaries, or their designees, to the task force. The task force will meet in the coming weeks and months to further the great work already being done to combat opioid abuse, as well as to make additional recommendations to end the opioid crisis in Wisconsin.

“We’ve recently seen opioid use and abuse escalate throughout Wisconsin,” Governor Walker said. “The bottom line is this has become an epidemic and every year we see more people dying from opioid overdose. We’ve taken serious steps in the past to combat opioid abuse in Wisconsin, including signing Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education, or H.O.P.E., legislation into law last spring, and issuing a standing order allowing naloxone to be dispensed without individual prescriptions. These efforts are saving lives and helping people get the support they need to recover. Our announcement today about the creation of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse demonstrates our unified efforts and brings us closer to our goal of ending opioid abuse and overdose in Wisconsin.”

Executive Order #214 appoints the following agency secretaries, or their designee: Secretary of the Department of Corrections (DOC), Commissioner of Insurance (OCI), Secretary of the Department of Health Services (DHS), and the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). The task force will be co-chaired by Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Representative John Nygren (R – Marinette).

The task force will also include Attorney General Schimel, Senator Leah Vukmir (R – Brookfield), Senator Janet Bewley (D – Mason), Representative Jill Billings (D – La Crosse), a representative from law enforcement, a public health official, a representative from the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin, a representative from the Wisconsin Hospital Association, a representative from the Wisconsin Medical Society, a representative of the Wisconsin Coalition for Prescription Drug Abuse Reduction, and will include members of the public.

“Coming together as a state to address heroin and opioid abuse will make our communities healthier and safer,” said Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. “As the co-chair of this task force, I look forward to working with my friend John Nygren, legislators, and stakeholders to build upon the foundations of past legislation. This scourge is affecting our kids, our schools, and our neighborhoods, and we can’t let up in the search for solutions.”

“We, in Wisconsin, need to change the conversation and our attitudes towards addiction,” said Representative John Nygren (R – Marinette). “Addiction affects all; rich, poor, republican, democrats, rural and urban, it knows no boundaries. Governor Walker has taken a giant step to change the conversation, and I applaud his efforts and look forward to working on this task force and continuing our conversations on a statewide level.”

In addition to the task force, Governor Walker’s Executive Order #214 also requires DOC, DHS, OCI, DSPS, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), and the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to create Agency Steering Committees to develop strategies to combat the crisis. The Steering Committees will be led by the deputy secretaries.

Governor Walker also highlighted the Walgreens Drug Take Back Program, which includes the installation of medication disposal kiosks allowing citizens to safely and conveniently dispose of any unused, unwanted, or expired medications, including controlled substances. The program makes disposal of medications easier and is available year-round in an effort to reduce the misuse of medications and the rise of overdose deaths. Kiosks were installed in 18 Walgreens stores throughout the state, including in Appleton, Brookfield, Greenfield, Janesville, Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison, Marinette, Menomonee Falls, Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, Racine, Sheboygan, and Wausau.

Walgreens has additionally made naloxone available without an individual prescription at all of its pharmacies in the state. Both programs are part of Walgreens’ ongoing efforts to fight drug abuse in Wisconsin.

In 2014, more citizens of Wisconsin died as a result of drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes. Drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin doubled from 2004 to 2014 and prescription opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone contributed to 47 percent of 843 drug overdose deaths in 2014, while heroin contributed to 32 percent. Governor Walker continues to work with DHS and the legislature to bolster Wisconsin’s drug abuse prevention and treatment efforts, and the Executive Order issued today is an important step towards ensuring those who face drug addiction receive the help and support they need.

A copy of Governor Walker’s Executive Order is attached.