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Capitol Update

By Senator Howard Marklein
July 21, 2017
H.O.P.E. Bill Expands Addiction Specialist Training

Earlier this week, Governor Scott Walker signed January 2017 Special Session Assembly Bill 7 (SS AB 7), which I coauthored with Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) to expand graduate medical education in addiction specialty.
SS AB 7 is part of a bipartisan package of bills known as the Heroin, Opioid Prevention, and Education (H.O.P.E.) Agenda that is focused on combating Wisconsin’s heroin epidemic. Since the HOPE Agenda began in 2013, there have been 28 separate proposals that have been introduced, passed both houses of the legislature and signed into law.
One of the primary goals of this effort is to prevent addiction before it happens. We know from the medical community that in the majority of cases, heroin addiction begins with an addiction to prescription medications. Every person’s body reacts differently to pain and pain medication. While many seek temporary relief from pain through prescription medication, others cannot manage without strong pain relief and ultimately succumb to the addictive qualities of these drugs.
When prevention is unsuccessful, there must be options for treatment, and in order for treatment to be successful, you need qualified medical personnel trained in addiction specialties. SS AB 7 allows the Department of Health Services (DHS) to award grants to a hospital for the development of an addiction specialist training program with the graduate medical training programs in rural hospitals.
Graduate Medical Education (GME), often referred to as “residency training”, is the training that medical students receive after graduating from medical school, and is a key factor in determining where physicians practice. In fact, data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association shows that 86% of students from Wisconsin who attend medical school in Wisconsin and complete their residency training in Wisconsin then practice in Wisconsin.
Statewide estimates show that Wisconsin will need an additional 2,000 to 4,000 physicians by 2035. In addition to SS AB 7, the Joint Finance Committee has added $1.5 million in the proposed budget to expand the GME program for all specialties. Since 2013, the program has helped create seven new residency programs and trained 79 physician residents (including 31 new psychiatrists and 33 new family medicine physicians) in Wisconsin. The state contribution is matched dollar-for-dollar by the hospitals, health systems and medical schools to advance this public-private partnership.
This funding will help the Rural GME Training sites located in the 17th Senate District that serve Grant, Green, Iowa, Richland, and Sauk Counties. In addition, the UW Family Medicine Department also has training locations for the Wisconsin Rural Physician Residency Assistance Program (WRPRAP) that are located in Dodgeville, Lancaster, Monroe, Reedsburg, and Richland Center, along with developing programs in Mineral Point and Platteville.
Efforts such as these programs, and other initiatives are a proactive solution to help address the physician/health care shortage with home grown talent. Changing demographics also factor into the equation, Wisconsin’s population is expected to grow 12 percent by 2035, but within that growth the number of senior citizens is expected to increase by 69 percent. Seniors tend to go to the doctor three times as frequently as the rest of the population, which makes this need more acute.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative has a comprehensive site called the Wisconsin Collaborative for Rural GME, http://wcrgme.org/. Their site has a directory of current programs, information on how to start rural training site, and funding.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov.  Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.