Evers signs three pieces of anti-opiate legislation in La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — In La Crosse County, 34 people died from drug overdoses in 2021, most of which included a lethal amount of fentanyl. On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers signed three bills to combat opioid abuse statewide.

Drug use nationwide has increased.

“There are clearly some factors created by the pandemic that have led to increased substance use,” said Paul Krupski of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

It has become even more dangerous.

“It’s been on a rise where dealers have been lacing drugs with fentanyl, and people are ingesting it without even knowing what they’re ingesting. I believe this is a part of a rise in overdoses,” said State Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse.

The three bills Evers signed had bipartisan support.

Bill 352, which was brought to the floor by several local representatives, identifies fentanyl as a dangerous drug.

“It is creating a graduated penalty system for manufacturing, distributing and possessing fentanyl, just like any controlled substance,” Evers said.

Bill 600 decriminalizes fentanyl testing strips, which previously were considered drug paraphernalia.

“We need people to be aware that whether it’s heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and even marijuana; fentanyl is likely present in the substance you are using. Fentanyl test strips save lives,” Krupski said.

There’s also bill 49. In an effort to understand drug use going forward, that bill will support research on what programs are working within the state.

“While it’s great that we’ve created all these programs, we don’t have one central place where this data is collected,” said State Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point. “That way, we can have a more targeted approach in the future.”

Evers hopes these laws curb opioid use and deliver help more effectively to people who need it.

“With these bills we can continue to build a healthier and safer Wisconsin, and I want to thanks the bipartisan collation that brought these bills to my desk,” Evers said.

Local resources are also available if you’re struggling with addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration line is (800) 662-4357 if you or someone you know is in need.

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