A Dose of Reality for All AGs
As Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Midwestern Region, I recently hosted the regional NAAG conference in Milwaukee. Thanks to the hard work of a number of members of our DOJ staff and a roster of really fantastic presenters, most of whom are from right here in Wisconsin, the event was a great success.
The topic of the conference was "The Role of the Attorney General in Fighting Opiate Abuse." We undertook a comprehensive examination of the kinds of partnerships and initiatives that will be necessary to stem this public health crisis that is devastating lives across our state and the nation. In attendance were attorneys general (AGs) and executive level staff from AGs’ offices from around the country, as well as representatives of many of the industries and organizations that are partners in addressing this challenge.
I chose the topic not just because I have made the opiate epidemic my top priority, but because Wisconsin has been recognized as a leader nationwide in attacking the opiate and heroin crisis.
We started by examining the scope of the problem and how the state found itself in this position. We then went on to explore what we can do to solve the problem. Conference topics included: best practices in providing drug abuse treatment, including medication assisted treatment; building successful collaboration with professional associations and organizations; creating a successful Prescription Drug Monitoring Program; enacting helpful legislation and policy initiatives; building a successful drug disposal program; making effective use of local, state and federal law enforcement resources; changing the prescriptive culture within the medical community; organizing an impactful public awareness program; and promoting evidence-based treatment and diversion courts. The conference was capped by a powerful presentation by a family who has lived through the devastation of opiate addiction.
One of the best demonstrations of the collaborative approach Wisconsin is taking to fight the opiate epidemic was a panel of representatives from professional associations and organizations: Dr. Joe Best from the Wisconsin Dental Association, Mark Grapentine from the Wisconsin Medical Society, Danielle Laurent from the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin, and Steve Rush from the Wisconsin Hospital Association. These four professionals presented how building trust across disciplines - whether criminal justice, healthcare, public policy, or legal - creates comprehensive solutions that everybody can support and endorse. In addition, Representative John Nygren addressed the conference and discussed the Heroin, Opioid Prevent, and Education (HOPE) Agenda, which passed the Wisconsin State Legislature unanimously, and with the support of stakeholders across the medical profession.
At the end of the event, I challenged everyone in attendance to think about what they can do to help put an end to this epidemic. From my perspective, as Wisconsin Attorney General, the answer is "whatever it takes."
Last, don't forget that Saturday, October 22, 2016, is the next Drug Take Back Day. Clean out your unused prescription and over the counter medications and have them safely destroyed. Go to DoseOfRealityWI.gov/Find-A-Take-Back-Location for more information about the most convenient collection location near you. Last spring, we collected a record-breaking 64,000 pounds of unused medications. Let's work together to break the record again!