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Gov. Tony Evers signs three bills aiming to combat opioid overdoses in Wisconsin

Evers signed the bills into law Wednesday.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed three bills into law Wednesday aimed at preventing opioid overdoses in the state.

The bills would increase penalties for opioid distribution, encourage the use of drug testing kits and establish a data system on usage.

An announcement from Evers’ office cites data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that shows 2020 as the highest year on record in the U.S. for overdose deaths, with a total of more than 93,000. Of those deaths, 75% were opioid related.

And in Milwaukee County, the state’s most populous county, overdose deaths hit an all time high in 2021 with 643 deaths, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

“Substance misuse has ravaged families and communities across our state, which has affected not only many Wisconsinites’ own health and safety but the well-being of their families and loved ones, too. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only further underscored challenges for folks working to overcome mental health crises and substance use disorders,” Evers said in a statement.

“Tragically, fentanyl has played a serious role in overdose deaths across the country, and these bills are an important step toward reducing substance misuse and overdose deaths here in our state.”

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The first bill signed by Evers would create a “graduated penalty structure” for manufacturing, distributing or processing fentanyl with the intent to distribute.

According to the La Crosse Tribune, the bill is intended to align penalties related to fentanyl with those related to heroin.

The second bill specifies that kits used to test for the presence of fentanyl in drugs are not classified as drug paraphernalia.

And the third bill asks the state’s Department of Administration, along with the Department of Health Services and the Department of Safety and Professional Services to create a centralized data system on opioid and methamphetamines use.

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