MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Republican attorney general candidate Brad Schimel on Monday unveiled a plan to combat heroin abuse that calls for more education and collaboration, saying Wisconsin is falling behind in addressing the problem.
Schimel, the Waukesha County district attorney, is the only Republican running for attorney general to replace retiring incumbent J.B. Van Hollen, also a Republican. Three Democrats are running and will face off in an Aug. 12 primary.
All four of the candidates, at a Saturday debate, agreed that heroin was the top public safety issue facing the state. The Democratic candidates are state Rep. Jon Richards, of Milwaukee, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ.
Schimel’s plan, which he introduced at news conferences in Green Bay and Madison, calls for additional training for local law enforcement officers and prosecutors and well as creating new partnerships with police, parents, teachers and medical professionals.
Schimel also wants to create a new coalition of states including Wisconsin’s neighbors to discuss solutions and share resources. He also wants to expand the use of drug courts and aggressively prosecute heroin and opiate drug traffickers.
Heroin is a problem in both rural and urban neighborhoods, Schimel said. Heroin on the streets now is more pure, and therefore more dangerous, than it has been in the past, he said.
Schimel says much of what he wants to do could be accomplished without legislative approval. He was joined by Republican state Rep. John Nygren, who spearheaded passage of a series of anti-heroin bills this year.
Richards issued a statement saying Schimel was speaking out on heroin to “distract us from his extreme positions at odds with most citizens of Wisconsin,” including not supporting the criminalizing of first-offense drunken driving.
Happ said in a statement that Wisconsin “is in the throes of a heroin epidemic that knows no bounds.” She pledged to attack it through aggressive prosecutions, education and treatment alternatives for the addicted.
Ozanne said Schimel was largely advocating for practices and programs that were already in existence. The focus should be on the root causes of the addiction and addressing the problem before the person is hooked and then commits a crime, he said.