Governor Scott Walker traveled the state Monday signing HOPE legislation in law. In all, Walker signed 11 opioid bills, aimed at combating the state's growing epidemic.
HOPE stands for Heroin, Opioid, Prevention, and Education.
One of the laws will increase funding for the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion program, giving the justice system increased options when dealing with drug offenders.
"We put money in the budget and this puts more on top of it," Gov. Walker said. "This will show up right in La Crosse County courts and give the judges and the system more options to help people with prudent diversions from going down the typical path of incarceration."
More than $2 million annually will be injected into the TAD program.
"The hope is always once we have people in the criminal justice system or the medical system that we have some opportunities to send them to some treatment alternatives, some alternatives to jail," La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke said. "Now we have the opportunity to pursue some of those resources."
According to physicians at Gundersen Health System, nearly 80 percent of heroin addicts begin addicted to prescription pain killers. While the ideas on how to combat the problem are constructive, financing is key.
"Like anything else we do, money really comes down to the bottom line of what we can do and this is a priority," Dr. Chris Eberlein, an emergency room physician at Gundersen said. "We're able to get our legislature to realize that they have to fund this and we're seeing that now, which is great."
Another law signed by Walker will expand the "Good Samaritan Law," which currently protects individuals who call 911 to help someone who is overdosing. Now, the person suffering the overdose will have limited immunity if they successfully complete a treatment course.
"Taking away that fear that exists by entering into the court system is what we're trying to do," Rep. John Nygren said."We'd rather them err on the side of saving a life than worry about if they're going to spend time in jail."
Additionally, a law signed by Walker in Wausau Monday will require the Department of Public Instruction to establish a mental health training program, helping those who are often left in the destructive wake of addiction: children.
In all, 28 bills have been signed into law as part of the HOPE agenda.