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Local officials see potential positive impact of bills
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MONROE - The implications of a proposed bill intended to curb drug abuse in Wisconsin are still unknown for Green County.

The bill, proposed Thursday in a special session of the State Legislature convened by Gov. Scott Walker, proposes several provisions to mitigate legal punishments for victims of drug overdoses and would allow family members to sign drug abusers into civil commitment.

Green County Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Kohl said the latter provision could allow more people to find help for their drug addictions, but did not wish to speculate on the consequences of an unknown bill.

Monroe Police Chief Fred Kelley was tentatively supportive of the bill, calling it a potentially useful tool to help alleviate the problem of drug abuse in rural Wisconsin.

"Drug use is harder to test for than alcohol, since we need to do more definitive tests," Kelley said. "So we have to look for people who are obviously incapacitated or rely on witness testimony."

Kelley compared the provision to a current process called a three-party petition, which enters drug addicts into civil commitment with, among other things, the approval of a doctor.

With the new provision, Kelley said people could more efficiently get help for their loved ones.

Kelley also pointed to a provision that will grant legal immunity to people who bring an overdose victim to law enforcement.

"People are sometimes afraid that they'll get arrested if they bring in a friend who's overdosed," Kelley said. "We had one incident a while back by the parking ramp in Monroe where somebody had an overdose so his friend left him by the parking ramp and somebody else found him and brought him to us."

Both Kelley and Kohl said that the proposed bill would have to allow for commitment longer than the standard protective detainment of 72 hours.

"There needs to be long-term effective treatment," Kohl said. "These people have too big an albatross around their neck for it to work otherwise."

- Michael Brestovansky