A growing Ohio public health crisis is ravaging our families and our communities. Over 17,000 Ohioans died of drug overdoses from 2010-2016, many attributable to abuse of prescribed opioids. Researchers at OSU now estimate the cost of the crisis to Ohio at somewhere between $6.6 billion and $8.8 billion every year.
This crisis is killing about 14 Ohioans every day. Many others are effectively disabled by addiction, unable to function or to qualify for many jobs. The number of opioid-related deaths among African-Americans has more than tripled since 2010. Also unconscionable is the fact that 28% of children taken into the state’s protective custody over this period had parents using opioids. Of the children in state care under the age of one, 70% had opioid-involved parents.
We must get illegal drugs like heroin and meth off our streets. But as many local law enforcement leaders have made clear, we cannot simply arrest our way out of this problem. Overprescription of painkillers must be restricted. Treatment and prevention efforts must also be front and center. Recent activity forcing the closure of opioid pill mills without adequate human service resources in place have undercut our efforts to address these issues effectively.
Local first responders must have the resources and tools they need for prevention, education, and law enforcement efforts stemming from this crisis. Cutting local government funding for first responders has been shortsighted and detrimental. Naloxone continues to be seen by experts as a constructive approach to preventing overdose deaths. Treatment bed availability continues to be a central challenge.
After years of inaction, state officials have only recently begun to take any steps to address this crisis that ballooned to epic proportions on their watch. Many cities and counties and states are now belatedly suing pharmaceutical companies and distributors that have directly contributed to Ohioans’ addiction to narcotic painkillers. We must have an all-hands-on-deck effort to stem the crisis plaguing our state.
What the Cordray-Sutton Administration Will Do
- Implement “State of Emergency” Coordination – This crisis is like a non-stop hurricane. As Governor, Rich would immediately declare a “state of emergency” requiring the strategic coordination of federal, state, and local government resources and community-based efforts – for both the short run and the long run. We will create clear, reliable channels for information flow about local needs and recommendations, supporting implementation of community-based solutions.
- Protect the Medicaid Expansion and Increase Local Capacity – Funding for treatment and prevention efforts is critically tied to continuing the Medicaid expansion. We cannot allow this framework and these resources to be rolled back. The state cannot dither while we wait for further guidance from Congress – we must act to protect Ohioans now. Training, data sharing, and program options that support law enforcement and first responders must be reinforced. Better mapping and statistical analysis can allow more effective use of scarce resources.
- Expand Access and Funding for Prevention and Treatment – We must go further to improve access to prevention and treatment services. Local government funding must be bolstered. Dozens of pending lawsuits must hold companies accountable for harming our people and our communities, and we must require industry officials to provide resources to address the devastating effects.
- Provide Support and Resources for Families and Improve Foster and Adoptive Services – Family and friends of those struggling with addiction are often left isolated and overwhelmed. More educational and support resources are key to their roles in helping loved ones find successful treatment and recovery. Children who are at risk due to the behavior of parents and caregivers must be protected and supported wherever possible. We must seek new approaches to increase foster and adoptive services for the growing number of children and grandchildren left behind by the opioid crisis.
- Replace Economic Despair with Broader Economic Opportunity – Clearly this epidemic is substantially a product of economic despair and hopelessness. Along with all of the other needed interventions, people all over Ohio must see that good jobs are available and that an alternative to addiction is a reality. Creating jobs and pathways to those jobs in communities throughout the state, not just in certain enclaves, is another critical element of confronting this crisis successfully.
The Cordray-Sutton Proven Record on Fighting Opioid Addiction
- As Attorney General, Rich teamed up to connect local law enforcement with retailers who sell products used to make methamphetamine. Cooperation and coordination with local law enforcement and local treatment officials are central to fighting the opioid epidemic effectively.
- As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Betty was a steadfast supporter of funding for adequate drug treatment and services, including the ACA, which provided prevention and health services to people across Ohio.