Wis. Lawmaker Introduces Anti-Heroin Legislation

Posted at: 10/04/2013 4:36 PM
Updated at: 10/04/2013 4:48 PM

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - A northeastern Wisconsin lawmaker whose daughter is struggling with a heroin addiction introduced a package of bills Friday designed to combat the drug.

Press-Gazette Media reported that Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican, announced the bills during a news conference Friday at the Brown County Sheriff's Department. Nygren's 24-year-old daughter, Cassandra, has been struggling with a heroin addiction and was sentenced to a year and a half in prison in 2009.

One proposal would require people picking up opiate prescriptions at pharmacies to show identification to help investigators determine where the drugs are going, Nygren said.

Another would provide limited immunity for people who call 911 to report an overdose. The others would make it easier to drop off narcotics at community drug disposal programs and allow more first responders and paramedics to administer Narcan, a drug that counters the effects of a heroin overdose.

Nygren said in a statement that data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that more than 160,000 Wisconsin adults report using heroin or another opiate this past year. Business owners around the state are frustrated because they can't find employees who can pass drug tests, he added.

Douglas Darby, a former drug addict from Suamico who served 3 years in prison for a pair of pharmacy robberies to support his habit, appeared at the news conference alongside Nygren. Darby said he supports the legislation.

"I wasn't a junkie the first time I put a needle in my arm. It started long before with the prescription pills and marijuana use," he said. "The measures being taken here today are in need, and I'm telling you that as an addict."

Nygren said at the news conference none of the bills was a "silver bullet." But he promised more legislation would be coming, including measures to create more treatment alternatives in rural and underserved areas.

The state Justice Department launched a heroin awareness campaign last week featuring video testimonials from former dealers, addicts and their parents. Nygren appears in one of them, saying his daughter's story proves heroin is accessible, even in small towns.

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