House Democratic lawmakers today heralded the passage of Senate Bill 27, legislation to ensure firefighters disabled by cancer as a result of their hazardous line of work are eligible for benefits from the workers’ compensation fund and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund.
“The first responders who keep us safe shouldn’t face medical uncertainty or financial instability after years of selfless sacrifice,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma). “That’s why this reform ensures our everyday heroes don’t have to go it alone.”
Research conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has found that firefighters show higher rates of certain types of cancer than the general U.S. population as a result of occupational exposure. The study also found that the chance of a lunch cancer diagnosis or death for a firefighter increases with the amount of time spent at fires, while the chance of leukemia death increases with the number of fire runs.
“How many of us would be brave enough to run into a fire instead of away from it? Firefighters risk their safety every day in order to protect their neighbors and their community, so it is only right that we have their back in times of medical need,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “This legislation is a long overdue reform that will assist the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day.”
Current Ohio law does not presume that firefighters who are disabled by cancer are presumed to have incurred the cancer from performing official duties as a firefighter. As a result, many active and retired firefighters are prohibited from receiving certain benefits and compensation for performing official duties, and are left to deal with their illness alone.
SB 27 will provide coverage for any firefighter disabled by cancer – full-time or volunteer – who has worked for at least six years on hazardous duty, unless the employer can demonstrate otherwise.
“Firefighters go to work every day knowing there’s a possibility that they could be in an accident that could change their life and affect their families forever. However, firefighters must also grapple with the heightened risk of developing cancer on top of their already dangerous work conditions,” said Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-Warren). “This legislation is the least that we can do for these courageous men and women who sacrifice their life and good health for the safety and wellbeing of us all.”
Once SB 27 is signed into law, Ohio will join 36 other states that already have presumptive cancer laws.
Democratic lawmakers today called on the Governor John Kasich to recognize the devastating opioid addiction epidemic for what it is: a public health emergency. At a statehouse press conference this morning the lawmakers said the state must have a strong, unified response and release emergency state funding to combat the statewide opioid crisis that is claiming lives in rural areas and urban centers alike.
“The first step in any road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem, and it’s time for the administration to recognize the opioid addiction crisis as the public health emergency that it is,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “Too many Ohio families are losing loved ones to drug addiction and overdoses. We must marshal all available state resources and attention to fight back against this rapidly growing threat to our communities.”
State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), today responded to Gov. John Kasich’s Thursday comments at the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative and the state’s actions to combat the opioid epidemic. The governor’s optimistic comments came on the same day the Ohio Department of Health released the report on 2015 Ohio Drug Overdose Data stating fentanyl-related drug overdoses more than doubled from 2014 to 2015. And the numbers continue to climb. For July 2016, Summit County alone experienced an estimated 395 overdoses, which matched the total number of overdoses in the county for the four months prior combined.*
“State leaders still refuse to call the opioid epidemic what it is: a public health crisis,” said Johnson. “It is imperative we remain hopeful and positive, but only if we are also employing all available resources to the law enforcement officers and treatment providers on the front lines. There has yet to be a coherent, statewide response to this devastating public health crisis that is killing more Ohioans than ever before. Summit County is doing a tremendous job at treating and preventing overdoses in my district, but with greater funding and direction from the state, we could be doing far more.”
State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) today announced a new plan to assist struggling communities hit hardest by Governor Kasich’s budget cuts and tax shifting policies over the past several years. Since taking office, Gov. Kasich cut over $1.7 billion in local community funding. Over 70 cities have lost at least $1 million each year due to Kasich’s budgeting and tax decisions, and 12 small cities have lost at least $2 million each, per year.
Ohio House Democratic members hosted a press conference today to speak out against the recent attacks on women’s access to healthcare. Led by State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), the lawmakers introduced a package of bills aimed at securing and expanding women’s access to comprehensive healthcare services.
WATCH Rep. Johnson deliver her powerful closing above.