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  • March 14, 2022 10:39 AM | Anonymous

    NASW | The Wisconsin Social Worker Journal | Winter 2021 | Pg. 15 | Ritu Bhatnagar, M.D., M.P.H.

    What is Wisconsin’s Unborn Child Protection Act? Passed in 1997, Wisconsin’s “Unborn Child Protection Act” — also known as Act 292 and previously known as the “Cocaine Mom Law” — permits the jailing, forced medical treatment, or house arrest of a pregnant person on a suspicion that they have consumed or may consume alcohol or a controlled substance during their pregnancy. While the law is enforced differently across the state, according to statistics published by Wisconsin’s Department of Children & Families, each year for the past 5 years, between 400 and 500 Wisconsin women are subject state intervention under Act 292. The law was not supported by any medical organizations and has been challenged in court. In 2018, a judge found it to be unconstitutional because the language was so unclear, but the law still stands. Read more about the law and its history here

    What role do social workers play in the enforcement of Act 292? Social workers play a unique role in the enforcement of Act 292. Often, it is the hospital-based social worker making the report to the county or local law enforcement. Social workers may report a pregnant person out of fear of losing their license, presumed obligation, or misplaced assumptions about drug use. It is important to know that the way the law is written does NOT mandate reporting while the person is pregnant. Reporting is considered “permissive” in this situation, and it is important to ensure that your decision takes into account the situation of the woman and the potential for far reaching legal consequences of reporting (see story at right).

    If you have further questions about this law, please contact Afsha Malik at

    In 2014, Tammy Loertscher had a medical problem that caused depression if left untreated. After losing her job and consequently her health insurance, Tammy started to use methamphetamine regularly to manage her depression. Tammy made sure her drug use did not negatively affect other aspects of her life. As soon as Tammy realized she was pregnant, she stopped using methamphetamine. However, pursuant to Act 292, Tammy was ordered into drug treatment that she did not need and was incarcerated in Taylor County’s jail for 20 days for refusing that treatment, where she was held in solitary confinement, refused access to a lawyer, and denied access to her previously-scheduled prenatal care. To learn more about Tammy’s story visit us here.

  • March 14, 2022 10:35 AM | Anonymous | Ritu Bhatnagar | Op Ed

    Some are interested in using legislation to modify cannabis laws to address certain health conditions and inequalities in drug law enforcement. They also want to increase tax revenue.

    As an addiction psychiatrist, I’ve seen previously healthy young people with cannabis-induced psychosis that continued even after the cannabis use didn't. This led to significant life-long negative impacts. With more potent cannabis forms available, my colleagues are also reporting that they are also treating challenging outcomes related to cannabis use.

    What we know about the impacts of cannabis on the developing adolescent brain is the drug can negatively affect attention and focus, anxiety and impulse control. Unfortunately, studies show a change in perception of safety of cannabis products: People think because the products are “natural,” they are “safe.”

    Recent reports of severe lung infections have been linked to cannabis products.

    My concern, after reading a recent bill allowing medical marijuana, is that it seems to be quite far reaching, and was written without much input from the medical community.

    Lawmakers should meet with addiction health professionals with expertise in this area to craft legislation that prioritizes public safety over profits.

    Dr. Ritu Bhatnagar, Madison, Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine 

    Read here.
  • March 11, 2022 10:33 AM | Anonymous

    NBC News | Ben Goggin

    If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol, drug or other substance abuse problem, call any of these numbers for help: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's national helpline is 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357); the National Drug Helpline is 1-844-289-0879; and the American Addiction Centers' hotline is (866) 464-3073.

    In December, Paul went home for the holidays. Like many people, he hadn’t seen his family for almost a year.

    But instead of spending time with his loved ones, he said he stayed in his room and injected methamphetamine. While his family was downstairs, Paul said he pretended to be sick while he relapsed in a multiday meth binge.

    Though he was alone in his room, he was using drugs with other people. As he was injecting methamphetamine, he connected with hundreds of other individuals doing the same thing over Zoom.

    “There is no meth without Zoom, and there is no Zoom without meth,” Paul, whom NBC News is identifying only by his first name to protect him from professional harm, said in an interview. “That is where I found a forum, like a tribe, where I could be my authentic self with no fear of judgment.”

    Paul, who said he’s been addicted to meth for about eight years, is part of a sprawling online community of meth users, hidden in plain sight on nearly every major social media platform and digital communication tool, from Facebook to Zoom to Reddit to Twitter.

    As nearly all social media platforms and tech companies have trended toward increased platform moderation amid heightened scrutiny from watchdogs, meth users have attracted little attention as they build online communities of tens of thousands of people. With a mixed bag of policies pertaining to drug content that varies by platform, users have found numerous venues where they can post photos and videos of themselves using methamphetamine, sell drugs and encourage other people to use meth.

    Read more.
  • February 08, 2022 2:04 PM | Anonymous

    WISAM was a 2022 sponsor for Wisconsin Doctor Day, which was held virtually on Tuesday, February 8. Click on the documents below to view.

  • February 02, 2022 2:46 PM | Anonymous

    Featured in the Wisconsin State Journal | Stop criminalizing opioid addiction | Ritu Bhatnagar | Published January 21, 2022

    Over 1,000 Wisconsinites died of opioid overdose in 2020. One of the most effective interventions to reduce these deaths is treatment with medication for opioid use disorder. Sadly, too few people with opioid use disorder have been able to access treatment.

    Rather, these often-young people end up in the legal system because of punitive laws that direct people to jail rather than treatment. Their lives are negatively impacted for years to come because they now have a felony on their record and are unable to pass background checks or get a job.

    As an addiction medicine professional, I frequently hear of patients who experience an overdose, and because of their overdose end up with criminal possession charges. This approach means that many people are now afraid to call 911 for help when someone is experiencing an overdose -- out of fear of legal involvement.

    Currently, Wisconsin law (911 Good Samaritan Act) does not do enough to protect individuals who experience an overdose. At a time when opioid overdoses are at an all-time high, it is critical that the Wisconsin Legislature update and strengthen the existing Good Samaritan Law.

    Read more.

  • February 02, 2022 2:13 PM | Anonymous

    Wisconsin Department of Health Services

    Preventing Opioid Harm in Wisconsin Starts with Real Talks
     Updated Dose of Reality initiative now online

    Governor Evers today joins the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) in announcing  the launch of the updated Dose of Reality initiative today. The goal of this information and education campaign is to change the conversation around Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic. The Dose of Reality initiative provides the tools for all Wisconsinites  to prevent or reduce the risks of opioid use through open and honest talks about the dangers of opioids and ways to save lives.

    “We know that many Wisconsinites struggle with opioid use, and that’s a problem that tragically has only gotten worse over the last few years,” said Gov Evers. “Opioids have ravaged families and communities across our state, and this initiative is just one of the ways that my administration is working to tackle this issue head-on to help folks get on the road to recovery.”

    The updated Dose of Reality initiative is a series of webpages found at that:

    • Provide information on the risks of opioids.
    • Provide information about safe storage and disposal of medications to keep them out of the hands of people who may misuse them.
    • Offer strategies to support people at risk of or experiencing an opioid use disorder.
    • Provide information on naloxone, its availability, and how to use it to reverse an opioid overdose.
    • Help people find treatment and recovery services for an opioid use disorder.

    Read full press release here.

  • January 26, 2022 10:35 AM | Anonymous

    APA Headlines

    Bloomberg Law (1/25, Hansard, Subscription Publication) reports, “Health plans and insurers are failing to deliver parity in mental health coverage as required by law,” according to the 2022 Report to Congress on the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (PDF) issued on Jan. 25 by the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury.

            According to Fierce Healthcare (1/25, Minemyer), the report also “highlights one of the feds’ largest enforcement activities to date on mental health parity: a $15.6 million settlement with UnitedHealthcare.” That insurer “would routinely lower reimbursement rates for out-of-network behavioral health services and would flag members with behavioral health needs for utilization reviews.” Included in the August 2021 settlement were “$13.6 million in wrongfully denied claims and $2 million in lawyer fees and penalties.” 
  • January 26, 2022 10:28 AM | Anonymous

    Department of Health Services | January 2022 Newsletter

    A Message from Paul Krupski, DHS Director of Opioid Initiatives

    Our work to address Wisconsin's opioid epidemic is more important than ever. Provisional data for 2021 show that the number of opioid-related deaths last year is on pace to meet or exceed the record number we experienced in 2020. 

    Our work to save lives this year will be bolstered by new funding that will allow us to create new programs and services to address gaps in our continuum of care. 

    One new funding source will be settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors. We anticipate several settlements to be finalized in the coming months. Unlike many of our current funding sources, these settlements are not focused on specific parts of the continuum of care. We look forward to maximizing the flexibilities afforded by these funds to support programs and services we have not been able to support in the past due to funding restrictions. 

    Another new funding source is a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies. Wisconsin was one of five states selected to be part of this program. We will receive $10 million over the next five years. The Bloomberg Philanthropies partnership includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Vital Strategies. We will be working with these organizations to enhance our existing programs and services and implement new strategies. This work also includes advocating for federal policies to expand treatment access and harm reduction services. We are in the planning stage for this funding. We'll share more on our specific plan for this funding later this year.  

    We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has made our collective work to address the opioid epidemic more challenging. Thanks in large part to your work and support, we were making progress in reducing opioid harm prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were building healthy communities by advancing prevention strategies, increasing the availability of and access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone and other harm reduction services, and improving access to and retention in treatment and recovery services. Staying the course and working with all of you, our statewide partners, we can again begin to see a reduction in opioid-related deaths. 

    Visit the DHS website for more information on opioids. 

  • January 13, 2022 10:47 AM | Anonymous

    The WISAM 2022 Annual Conference is scheduled to be held on October 13-14, 2022 at the Pyle Center in Madison, WI. WISAM is looking for experts in their fields to submit proposals for posters or presentations based on the conference theme "Resilience" to educate and inspire our attendees.

    Presentations will be accepted until May 1. We estimate that all applicants will be notified of the status of their applications by June 1. 

    Addiction medicine professionals, physicians, social workers, nurses, counselors, and more from Wisconsin will gather virtually to learn innovative strategies, cutting-edge ideas, new concepts and best-practice approaches to their work. If you can offer this type of expertise, we want you to share your poster presentation. Share your experience and insights with your peers, while increasing your visibility and enhancing your professional growth.

    For more information and to submit your proposals, please visit our website.

  • January 07, 2022 3:46 PM | Anonymous

    DHS | Opioid Prevention

    The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is hosting a series of virtual listening sessions with stakeholders in January to hear ideas about how the State of Wisconsin could use future opioid settlement funds.

    Currently, four opioid settlements are in process, each with varying and undetermined timelines. While we don’t yet know how much money the State of Wisconsin will receive from these opioid settlements, these listening sessions offer an opportunity for stakeholders to think big about what could be possible with settlement dollars.

    Come with your ideas about what you would like to see happen with settlement dollars. The comments gathered in these sessions will help inform planning once the settlements are finalized.

    We want to hear from all stakeholders, including opioid treatment providers and those with lived experience or who support individuals with opioid use disorders.

    Share your ideas and comments at the listening sessions listed below or by filling out this survey by January 31, 2022.

    Please join us by registering below for one of the 12 public listening sessions in January. (Please note that each session date has a unique link.) Participants can join the Zoom meeting online or call in using a toll-free phone number. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

    If you need a translator or other accommodations, contact at least five business days prior to the session. Interpretation for the listening sessions is available by request in Spanish, Hmong, and American Sign Language.

    Register in advance for all sessions by following the link.

    Partners and stakeholders sessions are scheduled for:

    Public and consumers sessions are scheduled for: Evening sessions scheduled for anyone:

Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine
563 Carter Court, Suite B,
Kimberly, WI 54136

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