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SCHIMEL: WISCONSIN LEADING THE NATION IN FIGHT AGAINST OPIOIDS
In an end of year interview with The Wheeler Report, Attorney General Brad Schimel said Wisconsin is leading the nation in being proactive against the opioid public health epidemic, but warns methamphetamines are moving aggressively across the state. Schimel said, “Expect to hear me talk about this more. It’s moving across the state. It is no longer isolated to the northwest part of the state. It is crossing the state. It is every bit, if not more, as addictive as opiates. It’s more physically destructive, it’s cheaper and it’s in plentiful supply from south of the border. We are not going to breath a sigh of relief if we resolve the opioid epidemic and turn around and replace it with a methamphetamine epidemic statewide. We will not feel better.”
When asked about the opioid crisis Schimel was quick to praise the work of everyone involved in all areas. Schimel started his discussion by highlighting that opioids are still his number one priority, saying it is the “biggest public health crisis.” Schimel emphasized that while the opioid crisis is getting better in Wisconsin, there is still a lot of work to do. Schimel praised the results of the drug take-back efforts going on in Wisconsin, relaying statistics from the most recent event. While Schimel was unable to give specifics on how much of the most recent drug take back were opioids, Schimel was able to say only two other states take back more drugs than Wisconsin: Texas and California. Schimel attributed the success of the drug take-back program to DOJ’s efforts to get the word out and the significant buy-in from local law enforcement. Schimel said Wisconsin has more law enforcement agencies involved in drug take-back efforts than anywhere else.
Schimel went on to explain that the Wisconsin physicians have worked together to place prescription drug writing guidelines in place; stronger guidelines than the CDC, without backlash from the doctors but with input. Schimel touched on the importance of the Treatment and Alternative Courts in approximately 50 counties. Schimel also highlighted the work DOJ has done to work with companies to lower the costs of Narcan for public safety entities in Wisconsin, and getting them all trained to use it and carry it on a regular basis.
Schimel said he has received questions about why Wisconsin hasn’t filed suit against the pharmaceutical companies yet, and said Wisconsin is working with 41 other states in an Attorney General coalition (Op-Ed by AG Schimel). “There’s a better way,” Schimel insisted. Schimel explained that a court case could take 8-12 years to see any type of financial payout and emphasized that was only if the state prevailed in a case proving the pharmaceutical companies did wrong doing. Schimel said with all the Attorneys General working together they had more opportunity to force the pharmaceutical companies to the table to negotiate and possibly come to a settlement. Schimel highlighted that there is a three-year statute of limitations on some of these claims, and most of the bad acting by pharmaceutical companies was almost 20 years ago.
When asked about human trafficking, Schimel was emphatic is saying, “We have to suppress demand.” Schimel highlighted the work being done by the new Human Trafficking Bureau at DOJ. Schimel said the people trafficking individuals in human trafficking were staying ahead of the system by constantly moving the victims into different territories and therefore different jurisdictions. Schimel said the new bureau has worked to put everyone in communication and prevent traffickers from simply moving to a new area. Schimel touted the work of the trucking industry and the Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association’s work to bring more awareness to truckers and hotel owners.
Schimel touched briefly on the area of open government during the interview to discuss the efforts of DOJ to more quickly respond to open records requests, to work with people making open records requests, to make open records requests available online, and to put more records online to eliminate the need for some open record requests.
Schimel said DOJ will be doing more to work on elder abuse issues in Wisconsin moving forward. Schimel acknowledged that the Wisconsin population is aging, and more offenders are using online means to perpetrate crimes against the aging and elderly. Schimel discussed the new positions at DOJ working on financial crimes.
Schimel said he will also work to help develop the pay progression for both district attorneys and public defenders, saying it is important to have experienced attorneys at the table to make sure the guilty are prosecuted and convicted and the innocent are not.
Schimel closed the interview by discussing his emphasis on wellness programs for people in and around the Department of Justice. Schimel emphasized the emotional toll law enforcement and public protectors take on a daily basis. Schimel said he has worked to make wellness discussion a part of everything that goes out from his office, highlighting the Public Safety Summit and its significant wellness component.