Twelve more counties sued pharmaceutical companies late last week. They join nearly 50 other Wisconsin counties, all of them suing drug manufacturers that make opioid painkillers like Percocet and OxyContin.
They say those drug makers’ fraudulently marketed their products which led to the state’s opioid epidemic, an epidemic that has cost those counties thousands.
Meanwhile, a state task force is working on ways to help Wisconsin through the opioid addiction crisis.
On Friday, that governor-appointed task force approved recommendations aimed at easing the opioid crisis including one that would bolster care for pregnant women struggling with addiction.
Those recommendations come from studies by nonpartisan research group Pew Charitable Trust on the opioid crisis in Wisconsin.
Andrew Whitacre, who presented the recommendations in Wausau last week says treatment is their number one priority.
One recommendation focused on pregnant women grappling with opioid addiction. Children born to women who abuse opioids risk a host of issues including increased likelihood of premature birth and dependency on opioids.
Whitacre says part of the problem is the stigma those pregnant women face, along with a misunderstanding of the effect of opioid addiction.
“A lot of states have taken a punitive approach to treatment that produces poorer outcomes, so inhibiting access and driving women away from appropriate prenatal care.”
These factors make it even more difficult for those women to get treatment. Especially the specialty treatment women who suffer from opioid addiction need, Whitacre says.
Their recommendations to tackle that issue include early and more universal screening for pregnant women, medication-assisted treatment (access to medical treatments like methadone while pregnant), and an increase in access to postpartum and psychological support.
Other recommendations from Pew include increasing access to buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction, combating the state’s shortage of addiction counselors, and making it easier for recently incarcerated people to get treatment.
Pew has been studying Wisconsin for several months to develop the seven recommendations. The task force rubber-stamped the recommendations last week. Now it’s up the legislature to create policy to implement them.