It’s been a busy first quarter of 2017, with the main focus of the state legislature’s agenda being the state operating budget. Funding items from schools to public libraries there was much to review and decide before the budget was slated for a vote. The opiate epidemic played a larger role in the budget than in previous years, with the HOPES (Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education and Safety) Agenda seeking to combat the problem through a multifaceted approach. With that in mind, more than $180 million in investments of new money was appropriated through the bill to fight this ruthless battle that affects all areas of the state.

The HOPES Agenda is broken into four key areas: prevention, treatment, mental health, and workforce. Preventing drug addiction starts with open, honest, age-appropriate discussions with our youth about the dangers of drug use. Start Talking! ( is a program designed to give parents, guardians, educators, and community leaders the tools to start these conversations. “All Roads Lead to Home” is another prevention program that is in the process of developing a mobile app with information regarding addiction as well as information for local treatment resources.

Treatment options were expanded through the budget, with $30 million invested in Child Protective Services to assist with the 1,400 new children under county care over the past six years, many as a result of parents struggling with addiction. The legislature also invested $30 million in kinship care, which allows families to stay together and not add to the burden on the foster care system. Funding under the treatment umbrella was also expanded for treatment and detox centers ($32 million), ADAMHS Boards ($14 million), and drug courts ($6 million) to expand available options and provide assistance to those on the front lines of the epidemic.

Drug addiction and mental health are strongly connected. Providing resources that promote mental health care, such as the $3 million appropriated for stabilization centers, will lead to better health outcomes and provide a needed resource for those battling addiction. Mental health funding is also being directed toward state supplements to disabled individuals, a drug court pilot program, and probation improvement and incentive grants, seeking to reduce parolee recidivism.

The final area of the HOPES Agenda, workforce, seeks to support recovering addicts as they reenter the workforce. Investments were made in the areas of recruitment and short-term certificates, in order to help expedite the training needed to find a job.

 I’m proud of the investments made in the HOPES Agenda and through this plan of action hope to see communities, government, and businesses come together to continue the fight.

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