Continuing Our Work Against The Opioid Epidemic
Guest Column from Representative Anthony DeVitis
December 21, 2016
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A recent report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation claims Ohio is leading the nation in overdose deaths. Unfortunately, this report only confirms what most know from experience: the heroin epidemic is tearing our families and neighborhoods apart. It is hard to find a person who has not been touched by the effects of this crisis. It has shaken our preconceived notions of what addiction looks like. As one school superintendent recently put it, “The heroin epidemic does not discriminate. It can hit anyone, any community, any family, at any time.” In Ohio, we have seen that ring true.

The state cannot have success, acting alone, to curtail this plague on our communities. We have been fortunate to witness parents, pastors, teachers, public servants, and concerned citizens engage their community and fight to help those struggling with addiction. We in the state legislature must act as partners with those fighting every day to protect their friends, families, and neighbors. To that effect, the state legislature has passed legislation to shut down pill mills, crack down on drug dealers, and increase access to life saving drugs. Most recently, however, we have taken another huge step, by passing Senate Bill 319, toward our goal of empowering people to combat this epidemic where they can.

I was proud to support Senate Bill 319 because it contained a plethora of provisions designed to increase our ability to fight against overdose and addiction. In order to prevent overdoses resulting in death, the bill increases access to naloxone by permitting a board of health to authorize people to carry the drug and to authorize a pharmacist or pharmacy intern to dispense naloxone without a prescription. Additionally, it provides qualified immunity for peace officers for any act or omission associated with procuring, maintaining, accessing, or using naloxone. It also contains measures to track where dangerous drugs are being dispensed and increases the power of a licensing board to discipline those who improperly dispense controlled substances and other dangerous drugs.

More than simply fighting to save the lives of those who experience overdoses, Senate Bill 319 also has provisions to ensure that those who want help overcoming their addiction can get it. In any legislation dealing with the heroin epidemic, we must strike a balance between punishing the guilty and providing assistance to the victims, or those seeking help. This bill eases licensing requirements for those seeking to operate a methadone treatment facility, while granting more oversight of the facilities to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Such provisions eliminate the red tape that might discourage organizations from opening such facilities.  

More could be said about the importance of such legislation and there is still much work to be done, but these are some important steps in the fight to take our communities back from this substance that has been tearing them apart. 

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