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Guest Column from State Representative Robert Cole Sprague

Earlier this year, the Speaker of the Ohio House announced the creation of five task forces, each given the assignment to dive deeper into specific subject matters. The Task Force on Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education and Safety (H.O.P.E.S.) will soon begin traveling around the state to gather information and legislative policy ideas. The drug epidemic has been a primary focus of mine throughout my time in the legislature, and I’m looking forward to continue working to address this serious issue.


In 2013, I was part of a similar traveling study committee. In the four years following the committee’s work, after speaking with people throughout Ohio, the General Assembly was responsible for introducing and passing numerous legislative policies that became law. The policies attempted to address the issue in a multifaceted way, including: prevention, stopping diversion, keeping people alive, and bolstering the treatment system. Although Ohio has been a leader among many other states in regards to legislative approaches, we continue to face a pervasive and growing addiction epidemic. As representatives of the people, we will not give up in finding solutions to address the problem.


It is the goal of this task force to travel around the state and get feedback, along with new policy ideas, from local officials and others impacted by our most pressing public health challenge: the opioid addiction epidemic. To get a better idea of how to put an end to this tragic issue, we must hear from the people who are managing this issue on the ground level in Ohio’s communities. The Speaker’s Task Force on H.O.P.E.S. will hold several public roundtables throughout September and October across Ohio. We will meet in all regions of the state, and in addition to the members of the task force, House members that represent a nearby district will be invited to participate.


The roundtable meetings will last for one hour, followed by a thirty-minute session for the public to ask questions or share ideas or experiences. Through the topics of discussion, I am confident that this task force will enable members to obtain knowledge that will result in new and innovative ways to tackle this issue. Our first roundtable is scheduled on September 14th at Bowling Green State University. The meeting will begin at 1:00 pm in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation Building (750 North College Drive). Again, the roundtables will be open to the public, and we welcome any and all input that will allow us to work towards the shared goal of reducing the negative impacts of the opioid epidemic.


We have been working to combat this crisis for years and have taken many strides toward a solution, but the truth remains that Ohio continues to maintain the label of having our country’s highest rate of overdose deaths. These deaths aren’t simply figures. These deaths are grandparents, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, relatives, and friends. The opioid epidemic does not discriminate, and although some people don’t want to admit drugs are in their community, the problem impacts every small town to big city in the State of Ohio. If you have any questions about the Speaker’s Task Force on H.O.P.E.S., please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (614) 466-3819.


For more information, contact Rep. Sprague’s office at 614-466-3819 or Rep83@ohiohouse.gov.

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