- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Monday he recently lost a nephew to a heroin overdose.

Johnson told reporters during a conference call that his nephew’s drug problems began when he became addicted to painkillers after a sports injury and that he later turned to heroin. He made the remarks about his nephew while touting the proposed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which would create more federal grants to fight opioid abuse, expand treatment programs and provide training to first-responders on how to administer heroin overdose antidotes such as Narcan.

Johnson said his nephew died of an overdose within the last two months. The Oshkosh Republican declined to offer any further details.

“I don’t want to provide specifics or a name,” Johnson said. “It is a private family matter. But it’s true. (Heroin) affects so many people in Wisconsin. I have firsthand experience with tragedy in the family. “

A spokesman in Johnson’s Washington, D.C., office also declined to elaborate.

Johnson faces a tough re-election fight in November against former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat. Johnson defeated Feingold in 2010.

The proposed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, calls for an anti-drug media campaign; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to work with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription drugs; and the creation of a task force to review and modify best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication.

The Senate passed the bill 94-1 on Thursday. Johnson and Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin voted for the proposal. It goes next to the House.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel joined Johnson in expressing support for the measure.

Schimel said he expects that heroin overdoses will be the leading cause of death by injury, overtaking falls, when data from 2015 is analyzed. He called the addiction bill “a well-done piece of legislation.”

State Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican, has introduced a slate of anti-heroin bills in the Legislature. His daughter, Cassie, has struggled with a heroin addiction for several years.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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