Lawmakers tackle heroin epidemic in Wis. summit

Posted at 8:20 PM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-18 09:15:47-04
Wisconsin lawmakers are in Pewaukee Friday, tying to tackle a heroin epidemic facing our state, and nation.
And it's proving to be a war with many fronts.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any permanent solution to ending heroin use. It's cheap, easy to find, and painkiller abuse is creating more addicts every day. 
In fact, 80% of heroin users started with an addiction to painkillers, often stemming from a doctor's prescription for an injury.
But there are ways to curb the problem. 
It's rare to see the two agreeing on anything. But today, U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin were coming together to take on heroin.
"This is an enormous and serious problem, not only facing Wisconsin, but our nation," says Johnson, "this effects every corner of America."
"In 2014, 28,000 Americans lost their lives either to prescription opioids," says Baldwin, "or illegal opioids, such as heroin."
Lawmakers, in part, blame doctors for over prescribing painkillers, which Sen. Johnson says turns into heroin abuse when pills become too expensive.
"You can buy heroin, apparently, in Milwaukee today for $100 a gram, which equates to about $10 a hit," says Johnson, "which is the price of a good craft beer in a fancy restaurant."
"Ultimately, what it really comes down to is that we're trying to mend our community," says Anthony Alvarado, co-founder of Rise Together, which works to bring a face and voice to addiction recovery in the region.
Today's summit excites Alvarado, who says the state is "exactly where it needs to be" with discussions like these.
But he's urging lawmakers to seek evidence-based solutions at the risk of stalling any progress in partisan politics.
"Looking at prescription drug monitoring programs, evidence-based treatment, and interventional-based programs," lists Alvarado, "furthering that prevention effort into education and awareness."
Alvarado says, arguably the best way to defeat heroin, and opioid abuse, is take down the demand within our communities.
Alvarado is encouraging people to call their lawmakers, and push for bills like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
It's currently stalled in Congress.