Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday signed into law another measure to combat the heroin and opiate addiction crisis gripping Ohio.
“We’re not going to give up,” he said during a lengthy press conference and bill signing. “We’re going to look for more things that we can do.”
But he also cautioned that legislation alone won’t solve the problem, and that Ohioans need to work within their families and neighborhoods to fight drug addiction: “We have to take this seriously, right where we live, folks. Please, let’s think about it in that way.”
The new law:
- Allows homeless shelters, halfway houses, schools and drug treatment centers to deploy Naloxone, an overdose antidote that can save lives, and allocates $500,000 in state money for local government first responders to purchase and carry Naloxone;
- Requires Ohio’s 42,000 pharmacy technicians to register with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Over the past three years, technicians accounted for one-third of all the drug theft cases investigated by the board;
- Gives oversight authority to the pharmacy board when sole proprietors — doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and others — distribute controlled substances to their patients;
- Limits opiate prescriptions to a 90-day supply limit and specifies that scripts not filled within 30 days be invalidated; and
- Knocks down a regulatory barrier to opening new methadone clinics, which are so few that some people travel hours each day to get methadone, a recognized medical treatment for addiction.
The law is the latest attempt to address an addiction crisis that has gripped the state over the past several years. Despite investing almost $1 billion a year to fight drug abuse and addiction, accidental overdoses claimed 3,050 lives in Ohio in 2015, up 20.5 percent over 2014.
That means that since 2007, more Ohioans died of drug overdoses each year than in auto accidents.
The number of prescription opiate doses has declined and accidental overdose deaths attributed to these powerful painkillers has begun to taper off slightly in recent years, according to the Ohio Department of Health data. But deaths attributable to heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and benzodiazepines has been climbing in the past three years.
Taylor Stevenson, a Worthington resident and recovering drug addict, said she got hooked on prescription pills as a teenager and quickly progressed to daily heroin use. “That was a progression like no other,” she said at the press conference. Her life spiraled out of control and she was homeless by age 17 and working as a prostitute, she said.
Heroin and opiate drug addiction has been getting intense attention at the local, state and federal levels.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati Republican, championed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which President Obama signed into law in July. CARA earmarks $181 million a year for treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts.
At the state level over the past six years, Ohio took steps to shut down pill mills — centers that offered easy access to prescription painkillers, empowered regulatory agencies to crack down on illicit opiate distribution and use, tightened opiate prescribing guidelines, beefed up a computerized monitoring system that tracks prescription drugs, reduce the volume of prescription opiate doses and increase health care coverage for Ohioans with drug addictions and mental illnesses.
The state is also pushing a “Start Talking” campaign to Ohio families with kids and adding addiction specialists in state prisons.
Unintentional fatal drug overdoses in Ohio
Source: Ohio Department of Health
Area fatal overdose rates per 100,000 people by county
Montgomery: 35.3Butler: 33.2Clark: 29.5Greene: 19.6Champaign: 19.1Miami: 16Warren: 15.4
Source: Ohio Department of Health