Dear Editor: In response to: “Rep. John Nygren builds on more than five years of work on opioid crisis with new HOPE bills.”

As a future nurse in Wisconsin, I am acutely aware how drug addiction affects my career. I am glad to know that we have Rep. John Nygren, a strong advocate with his own personal ties to addiction, working to address the opioid epidemic. However, we need to take on a perspective beyond rules and regulations addressing prescribing practices and recovery services. We need every health care provider to become a better advocate for their patients who are linked to drug addiction. This means destigmatizing drug addiction, and going against the long-held belief that addiction is a criminal act. During my clinical in a rural community, there was a doctor who verbally assaulted his patient who was pregnant, saying that this interaction will motivate her to quit. This approach would be unacceptable for any other condition, and it is not acceptable with drug addiction.

Wisconsin legislators should model after Dayton, Ohio, a community that understands drug addiction to be a systemic problem that requires partnership between community members, government agencies, the business sector and local nonprofits, and requires a compassionate approach. They reduced the rate of overdose-related deaths by 63% within a year. Additionally, the health economics behind the issue must be exposed to show the millions of dollars physicians accept from opioid manufacturers to sell their product. Advocacy training should be promoted for all health care providers and should include the science behind stigma and addiction, the history of the epidemic and the role providers have played, and training on positive, inclusive language.

Shereen Massey


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