Lt. Gov. Kleefisch Praises Local Opioid Abuse Prevention Efforts

Jul 15, 2017

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren
Credit Dean S. Acheson photo

MINOCQUA -- Marshfield Clinic Health System’s efforts to reduce its opioid prescribing drew praise Friday, July 14 from Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who was at the clinic’s Minocqua center to co-chair the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse meeting.

“I was astounded by the numbers that you guys are putting out,” Kleefisch (R-Wisconsin) told Marshfield Clinic representatives in her opening remarks. “Your moving on the forefront of combating opioid abuse is significant.”

Marshfield Clinic has seen nearly a 30 percent reduction in its opioid prescribing (morphine milligrams equivalent) since its peak in 2012 due to internal monitoring and education program, according to Dr. Mike Larson, pain psychologist and director of Scheduled Medication Policy for the health system.

Their data from the first part of 2017 show even more substantial reduction in opioid prescriptions, he said. Overprescribing synthetic opioids such as Vicodin and OxyoContin has led many to turn to heroin and methamphetamine (“meth”) when they can’t get the prescription drugs. Deaths from overdosing has soared in Wisconsin, totaling 622 in 2014. Opiate addiction has become an American epidemic, says the lieutenant governor. “It’s affecting all demographics, all geographic regions. “We know that America represents about four or five percent of the world’s population and yet about 90 percent now of the world’s opioid prescriptions,” she said. “If we reduce the number of prescriptions that are issued we basically are reducing the number of folks who can actually get their hands on a very, very addictive drug.”

Too often, patients either give the opioids to friends or family, or sell them. Part of the state’s efforts to curb such abuse has been measures similar to those taken by Marshfield Clinic, she said. All providers and staff at Marshfield Clinic now have immediate access to a state validation system called Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The one-source database compiles prescribers and pharmacists information to detect when a patient is potentially pill shopping, she said. Marshfield Clinic also tests urine samples of patients on prescription pain medicines to help identify those people who may be underusing, overusing, diverting or misusing opioid medications, including Suboxone, which is used to treat narcotic addiction, Larson explained.

Tom Maulson, former Lac du Flambeau tribal chairman.
Credit Dean S. Acheson photo

Former Lac du Flambeau tribal chairman Tom Maulson urged the panel to help channel state and federal dollars to tribal communities for their substance abuse programs. “I know what goes on on my reservation,” he said, “because I declared war on drugs. It’s hurting our people. We need help. Our law enforcement needs help.” He noted that illegal drugs are coming into tribal communities from outside. “How many people sitting here in this audience have a community that sell drugs to Indians?” he asked. Task force co-chair Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) assured Maulson that the task force is listening to those concerns. “There are no barriers in this issue, it affects Indian County just like it affects all corners of the state, whether it’s a populated community or a small town. Rich, poor.”

The task force met throughout the afternoon to hear about substance abuse in tribal communities, state and national substance abuse trends, treatment programs, and law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. Taking cues from task force meetings, Nygren authored 11 pieces of legislation targeting opioid addiction that Gov. Scott Walker will sign into law on Monday, July 17 during a swing through the state. Among the measures is a new program to provide doctors with expert guidance on treating addiction, two or three new regional treatment centers for opioid and meth addicts, a charter school for up to 15 high school students recovering from addiction, and more than $2 million annually for diversion programs to treat drug and alcohol offenders instead of jailing them.

The state Department of Justice will get $420,000 annually for four new drug investigation agents to track and take down drug traffickers.