Legislation announced to combat Wisconsin’s heroin/opioid epidemic

State Capitol - At a Capitol news conference this morning State Representative LaTonya Johnson announced a new bill to prevent dangerous substance addiction among young people in Wisconsin.

The legislation offers school staff in Wisconsin access to training in early screening and intervention tools to both identify and intervene for illicit drug and alcohol use. This training will be available by request for any Wisconsin school district to be administered to all pupils in a chosen grade level 6-12 on an annual basis.

“Early prevention of drug and alcohol misuse will ensure Wisconsin’s young people are free to pursue their dreams without the risk of life-threatening addiction putting their future success in jeopardy,” said Erik Kirkstein, health organizer with Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Dangerous substance use by youth in Wisconsin is a public health crisis demanding a public health solution. As Wisconsin’s drug crisis reaches epidemic levels, having honest conversations with young people early about risky drug and alcohol misuse is proven to both identify potential use early and guide follow-up counseling to put young people back on a healthy path.”

According to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Wisconsin ranks above the national average in both youth illicit drug use and binge drinking. Statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Justice show heroin-related cases continue to increase in nearly every county in Wisconsin.

Medical research establishes early identification of dangerous substance misuse tied to effective follow-up counseling services as a proven approach to preventing addiction. Research shows that 9 in 10 American adults who meet the medical criteria for addiction began using risky substances before age 18, underscoring the need to meet young people where they are in places like schools.

“Our schools are on the front lines of the battle against youth substance abuse, and they need trained personnel who can identify and assist students struggling with drugs and alcohol in a non-confrontational and non-punitive way,” said Rep. LaTonya Johnson. “By expanding access to universal SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) to our public school districts, more young people will be able to benefit from this evidence-based public health screening tool, and, ultimately, move Wisconsin towards a healthier, safer, and more successful future.”

The Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment model (SBIRT) has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Medical Association (AMA), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (SCAODA) and other medical authorities across the country.

 Media Contact

Erik Kirkstein, (414)­ 520­-1377 erik.kirkstein@citizenactionwi.org 

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