Press Release: Gov. Evers Signs Senate Bill 875

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov. Evers Signs Senate Bill 875
LA CROSSE — Gov. Tony Evers today, joined by State Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse), local officials, and community members, signed Senate Bill (SB) 875, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 217, which decriminalizes the use of xylazine testing strips. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), xylazine is a non-opioid sedative or tranquilizer that is not approved for use in people, can be life-threatening, and is especially dangerous when combined with opioids like fentanyl.

“About two years ago now, I was proud to be in La Crosse to sign important legislation to decriminalize fentanyl testing strips, helping make sure folks can keep themselves and others safe by using the strips to identify if a substance is laced with fentanyl before ever taking it. Now, today, I am proud to be back to sign this bill and do the same for testing strips for the dangerous drug, xylazine,” said Gov. Evers. “There is currently no xylazine reversal agent safe for human use, which means prevention is key—by making these strips available, in addition to providing certain civil and criminal liability exemptions for people distributing or administering these products, we can help save more lives and help get folks on a successful path to recovery.”

Wisconsin has seen record-high rates of opioid use disorder and overdose deaths in recent years. According to the CDC, more than 109,000 individuals died of an overdose in the U.S. in 2022, including approximately 1,800 Wisconsinites. Many, though not all, drug overdoses in the U.S. and Wisconsin are related to the use of opioids, including those involving xylazine. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), in 2022, 1,464 Wisconsinites died by an opioid overdose, and between 2020 and 2022, the number of opioid-related deaths in Wisconsin increased by nearly 19 percent. Currently, there is no known xylazine reversal agents, and this bill will provide potentially life-saving tools by allowing people to test for its presence.

Act 217 builds on the work of the Evers Administration to combat the opioid epidemic in Wisconsin. In March 2022, Gov. Evers signed three bills to help address substance use and overdose deaths in Wisconsin. This included 2021 Wisconsin Act 180, legislation similar to Act 217, which decriminalized the use of fentanyl testing strips. Additionally, over the last few years, the Evers Administration has been working to distribute the state’s allocation of National Prescription Opiate Litigation (NPOL) settlement funds to combat the state’s opioid epidemic. In fiscal years 2023 and 2024, the administration allocated $31 million and $8 million, respectively, in settlement funds to support the distribution of Narcan and fentanyl testing strips, investments in new and updated treatment facilities, substance use treatment and prevention efforts by Native Nations in Wisconsin, and other statewide initiatives to address this crisis. DHS is currently preparing its annual spending plan for state fiscal year 2025 to submit to the Joint Committee on Finance for the Committee’s approval.

Individuals seeking substance use treatment and recovery services are encouraged to use the Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline, which is free and available 24/7.

Senate Bill 875, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 217:
  • Exempts materials to test for the presence of xylazine or a xylazine analog in a substance from the definition of “drug paraphernalia” under the state’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act; and
  • Creates certain civil and criminal liability exemptions for people distributing or administering such testing products.
An online version of this release is available here.