News from around Wisconsin at 5:28 a.m. CDT

Wis. AG launches new heroin awareness campaignMADISON, Wis. (AP) — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen launched a new heroin awareness campaign Wednesday, saying few people realize the stranglehold the drug has on Wisconsin.

Van Hollen described the drug as a scourge at a news conference outside a Madison fire station to announce the initiative. He said police across the state have told him the drug is the biggest problem they face.

“Heroin is a major problem people aren’t aware of that we need to deal with,” Van Hollen said.

Heroin use has increased dramatically in Wisconsin as prescription drug addicts look for cheaper fixes. The number of heroin-related arrests statewide has risen from 267 in 2008 to 673 in 2012, an increase of 152 percent, according to DOJ statistics compiled from local law enforcement agencies. Police made 408 arrests during the first six months of this year, according to DOJ data. The state crime labs received heroin samples for analysis from 56 of the state’s 72 counties last year, up from 22 in 2005, Van Hollen said.

Overdoses have been on the rise as well; Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis told reporters at the news conference his department responded to 300 last year, double the number in 2007.

The campaign, dubbed The Fly Effect after a nursery rhyme about a woman who swallows a fly and then downs larger and larger animals in hopes of killing it, focuses on heroin users’ downward spiral. The effort includes a television spot, an interactive website, radio ads and video testimonials from heroin addicts, their parents and former dealers.

One of the videos features Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican who co-chairs the Legislature’s powerful finance committee. His 24-year-old daughter, Cassandra, has been struggling with a heroin addiction and was sentenced to a year and a half in prison in 2009. He said after she was released she fled the state to avoid a court-ordered drug test and has since been arrested in Texas.


Committees created to study Common Core standardsMADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Legislature has created special committees to study the Common Core academic standards.

Wisconsin adopted the standards for math and English language arts three years ago and there are no other subject areas being developed.

Still, that hasn’t stopped opponents from arguing that the standards need to be revisited.

The Republican-controlled Legislature responded to that pressure from tea party conservatives who have called for a “full and immediate investigation” into the standards by creating the study committees announced Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker said he supports holding hearings and identifying more rigorous standards than those in the Common Core.

Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has described the Common Core standards as being “more rigorous, cohesive and specific” than what the state had in place prior to their adoption.


Wis. health insurance premiums higher than averageMADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin residents will pay more than the national average for health insurance purchased on the federal exchanges, according to information released Wednesday by the Obama administration.

The state’s average monthly premium costs are 14th highest based on information from the U.S. Department of Human Services that compared weighted average premiums among 47 states and the District of Columbia.

A mid-range benchmark insurance plan for an individual in Wisconsin will cost, on average, about $361 a month — $33 more than the national average. The plans range from a low of $192 in Minnesota to a high of $516 in Wyoming.

Costs revealed Wednesday do not take into account tax credits residents may be able to receive. Premiums will also vary based on an individual’s circumstances, including where they live, the level of plan picked, family size, age, income and tobacco use.

Starting Tuesday, Americans can begin enrolling for coverage under plans sold through online health insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges. In Wisconsin, about 400,000 uninsured people and about 92,000 losing their BadgerCare Medicaid coverage will be shopping for plans through the state’s exchange.

The coverage begins in January, when everyone will be required to have health insurance or face a penalty.

Gov. Scott Walker, an opponent of Obama’s health care law, deferred to the federal government to set up the exchange.


Green Bay interstate bridge closed due to saggingGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The bridge that carries Interstate 43 over the Fox River in Green Bay will remain closed indefinitely after a concrete support pier settled by a little over 2 feet, state officials said Wednesday.

The Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge was closed after a long, deep dip was discovered in the pavement about 5 a.m.

“Our No. 1 priority is public safety,” Gov. Scott Walker said. “We will fix this bridge,” he added, emphasizing its value to northeastern Wisconsin’s economy.

Walker spoke to reporters after getting a briefing from engineers, Press-Gazette Media reported ( ).

State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said the bridge is not in danger of collapsing.

The closure could last months, or even a year, DOT spokesman Kim Rudat said. Detour routes have been posted.

The dip is 400 feet long and 20 inches deep, and goes across all four lanes of the interstate. That portion of the bridge was last inspected in August 2012. Cracks were found in the piers, but were determined to be normal wear.

Comments are closed.