ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) - Wisconsin's opioid epidemic is nothing new, but ways to help combat it are expanding.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed nearly a dozen bills into law Monday in hopes to prevent and treat opioid addiction.
The bills are part of the Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education agenda passed by the Wisconsin legislature during a special session.
Four of them were signed in Onalaska Monday in an effort to help those who are dealing with drug addictions, as well as give more tools to law enforcement and area hospitals in the fight against drug abuse.
"There is no one simple answer, part of it is law enforcement and the criminal justice system part of it is education and higher education," Governor Scott Walker said.
Prescription opioids contributed to 392 of 843 drug overdose deaths in 2014, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Walker says he wants to reduce those statistics.
"This is a crisis and we got to treat it as such."
The bills include measures that ensure someone who overdoses would be immune from probation if he or she enters a treatment program.
"I want to be at a point where we can see those who are addicted get the treatment that they need and we can see as we were talking about before a tremendous drop, but part of it is not just signing laws, a part of it now involves stakeholders," Walker said.
The bills will also allow school nurses to administer overdose antidotes and allow emergency and involuntary commitment for drug addicts.
Gundersen Emergency Physician Chris Eberlein says the bills will hopefully help struggling patients find ways to get off medications.
"We're going to have more options that we're going to refer them to, as far as getting them off the medications as well as elicit drugs which will be great."
Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen says the bills will hopefully make a positive change in La Crosse and the surrounding areas.
"These bills that he's signing today will give us additional tools to help in that fight."
The Governor's Task Force on Opioid Abuse was created in September of last year.
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