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Guest Column from State Representative Theresa Gavarone

Our state is in a crisis of opiate addiction, and there is no easy solution. By now, you may be aware that Ohio had the most opioid-related overdose deaths in the nation in 2015, and that individuals and communities continue to suffer from the scourge of the drug abuse and addiction epidemic. Clearly, more must be done in order to combat this serious issue and prevent future generations from falling within its deadly grasp.

 

The Ohio House recognizes the urgency of this problem. In the state operating budget that the House passed at the beginning of May, we set aside $170.6 million in new money specifically towards fighting drug addiction through coordinated care. The investment represents a crucial part of our policy platform, the HOPES (Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education, and Safety) Agenda. The four areas of focus—prevention, treatment, mental health, and workforce development—reflect our belief that a multifaceted approach is needed.

 

Preventing individuals and especially future generations from going down the path of addiction is key. In that vein, the Ohio House has allocated over $12 million to connect people to the right resources through innovative technology, by continuing the “Start Talking!” initiative, and by allowing counties to identify a “community hub.” The sad reality, however, is that far too many of our own citizens are already suffering from addiction, and they and their loved ones must receive appropriate care. With that in mind, $130 million would go towards providing services for the children of addicts and expanding treatment and detox options, drugs courts, and transitional housing.

 

Addiction has clear physical symptoms, but it is a mental illness at its core and needs to be treated as such. The budget allocates more than $19.4 million to fund stabilization centers and drug court pilot programs and help addicts get to a healthy state of mind. The road to recovery continues on with $9 million being invested in workforce development in order to ensure former addicts receive adequate training and certification so they can support themselves and their families.

 

In short, Ohio’s opioid crisis is far too complex for one person or even just the government to solve. An all-hands-on-deck approach is an absolute necessity, one that brings together a multitude of voices and tools to the table. Community leaders, faith groups, treatment providers, and families all have vital roles to play in restoring health to our state, and we as legislators are committed to standing with these groups and standing together against the devastating drug epidemic. For more information on creating a drug-free future, please visit StartTalking.Ohio.gov.

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