Is This Really What Wisconsin Needs?


This week Governor Walker signed two executive orders. The first order will create a Governor’s Commission on Substance Abuse Treatment Delivery. The commission will be made up of co-chairs of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, or their designees, as well as folks from the health care industry. The panel will study the feasibility of regional resource centers for addiction treatment and submit recommendations by Nov. 30.

The second order will require the state Department of Health Services to create the Governor’s Faith-Based Summit on Opioids for pastors and priests, develop best practices for police and emergency workers responding to overdoses, and develop statewide standards for data submission on people seeking addiction treatment.

So we will have another ‘committee’ that itself will cost a bunch of money while addicts continue to die at an alarming rate. We need to wait 11 months for this ‘committee’s’ recommendations about treatment facilities? Why don’t we start a treatment facility instead? We know how to treat addicts, what we don’t have is enough resources to treat them. Once their recommendations are received, how long will it take to implement them? Probably another year or more. In 2016 827 people died from opioid overdoses. How many more will die while we wait to hear what the committee says? Obviously we can’t open a treatment center overnight, but I bet we could have one open and helping people by November instead of just having some recommendations on what to do next. Let’s DO something, not wait for a bunch of politically motivated people to tell us what we might need to do.

The second order sounds great, clergy and emergency people need to know how to treat addicts when they are working with them. We need data in order to understand the scope of the problem. Those clergy and emergency responders know how to care for addicts, what they lack is a place to send them for care. Mental health hospitals are full, they often don’t have the beds to accommodate the need. So we have to send them back to where they came from, telling them to stay clean. They are given resources of course, but how many can manage to reach out for that help? Best of luck to you.

What if we had treatment facilities where we send addicts who would otherwise have gone to jail? What if we told them, “If you complete treatment, we will drop your charges, if you don’t, you will need to serve your sentence in jail”? It wouldn’t work for everyone of course, but we could collect data to see what kind of impact such a system would have on addicts. It just seems to me like we are forming committee after committee to study this and that and collect data on this and that, but not actually doing much to effect change. We need less talk and more action.

What do you think?

About the Author

Kristin Waite-Labott is a registered nurse and recovering addict who has firsthand experience with the challenges of addiction. She now works as the Head Nurse Coach at Veritus, a virtual treatment program for nurses with substance use and mental health disorders, and is dedicated to helping nurses overcome addiction and making a difference in the lives of others. Kristin is passionate about addressing the growing problem of addiction among healthcare professionals and encourages open discussions and action to prevent it from spreading further.

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