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Sen. Tammy Baldwin Discusses Opioid Epidemic with Douglas County

Taylor Holt
Updated: May 25, 2018 07:31 PM

 U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin was in Superior Friday to talk with community leaders about the opioid epidemic and the continuous efforts to address it. 

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The last time the Senator was in Superior hosting a roundtable on the issue was back in 2016. Friday, she said this meeting was really about following up on the progress that's been made since then and where the gaps still lie.

Superior and Douglas County law enforcement, first responders and health officials attended the roundtable. Among the issues discussed was the continuous need for more resources and funding for mental health, treatment and education. Law enforcement officials say there's been an increase in Fentanyl on the streets in Douglas County. Recent data from the Centers for Dosease Control and Prevention also show Douglas County had a 30 percent increase in emergency room visits for opioid overdose from July 2016 to September 2017. Emergency responders also stressed the need for more direct funding for Narcan and prevention in high schools. One idea was creating a lesson plan aimed directly at opioid education.

"We need to start to take a different tactic on when we start to discuss opioid related issues with them. With the younger generation, they always want to know why, so I thought of creating a lesson plan that dives into the pathophysiology of why," said Cory Larson, Medical Service Director with the Superior Fire Department.

"This is another avenue on the prevention side of it that we could be a resource for getting that education out but if they wanted to expand the prevention, this would be a funding source to the actual schools," said Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger.

Senator Tammy Baldwin agreed prevention is key.

 "We can not treat our way out of this. We have got to prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place and that takes a lot of strategies," said Baldwin.

Besides education, she says looking at more training for the prescribing workforce is a solution. In 2016, the senator helped pass CARA or the comprehensive addiction and recovery act, which is a policy legislation aimed at addressing drug abuse. She says that was followed by another act that increased funding in their grant programs. Right now, Baldwin says they are in the process of renewing one of their grant programs to increase funding for states so she's hoping feedback from Friday will be help in that process.

"The key issues are we a lot more work to do to turn the corner on this epidemic," said Baldwin. "There's some really encouraging news with regard to what's happening in Superior for people to get crisis intervention services and treatment, and yet the county itself is overwhelmed in terms on needing resources."

Friday, Baldwin also called on a Senate vote on new bipartisan legislation that she helped pass in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee. The Opioid Crisis Response Act would help prevent the flow of illegal fentanyl and opioids from other countries, support first responders with naloxaone, and provide more resources to combat the growing meth problem in the state. 

The act is currently awaiting a Senate floor vote.

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Taylor Holt

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