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New Heroin Laws Get High Marks in Rural Wisconsin

Walker Signed Package Of Bills Into Law On Monday

Heroin abuse has become one of rural Wisconsin’s most pressing problems. Photo: Michael Valerdo (CC-BY)

New laws designed to fight Wisconsin’s growing heroin problem are getting positive reviews in rural parts of the state, with drug treatment and prevention specialists saying the laws will help save lives.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the package of seven bills into law on Monday. For Deb Piskoty, who treats heroin addicts at Prevention Solutions Counseling of Wausau, the focus on rural parts of the state is overdue.

“That has been a big deal here in Wausau,” said Piskoty. “We’re kind of in the middle of no man’s land, in the middle of Wisconsin.”

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The new laws allow heroin users to report an overdose without fear of prosecution, something Piskoty says will keep local addicts from dying.

“I know they died as a result of the lack of response from the people around themthe other people that were using drugs around them — because they were terrified of being caught, said Piskoty. Because they knew if they called authorities, they could very well be charged themselves.”

Deb Piskoty also gives high marks to other parts of the legal package, such as allowing emergency responders to administer the anti-overdose drug Narcan and giving addicts a place to turn in drugs.

“Narcan is what brought them back, said Piskoty. You know, that’s somebody’s child we’re talking about. Drug drop offs? I love it. I love the fact that somebody who wants to quit using can have a safe place to go.”

But even more legislation is still needed, according to Melissa Dotter, the Drug Free Communities program coordinator for Marathon County: “Primary prevention. There’s some relapse prevention in here, there’s some overdose death prevention, but there’s really not any primary prevention: How do we get people to not make that choice in the first place?” said Dotter.

Heroin is now viewed as the most serious drug problem facing the Wausau area and other rural parts of Wisconsin.