Guest Column From State Representative Dorothy Pelanda
Ohio House Budget Plan to Combat Ohio's Opiate Epidemic

We have been witnessing, for far too many years, the havoc that heroin and opiates have inflicted upon our communities in Union and Marion counties. In some Ohio neighborhoods, coroners’ offices can’t keep up with the death toll and have reached out to local funeral homes for “temporary storage” when their morgues are full. The House’s version of the state operating budget, House Bill 49, takes new steps to combat this deadly epidemic through coordinated care efforts. These efforts can be broken down into four main areas: prevention, treatment, mental health care, and workforce initiatives, for a monetary investment of $170.6 million.

Prevention: A total of $12.2 million will be invested in programs to educate individuals about the dangers of drug use. Start Talking! is an initiative targeted at students and parents and embraces the statistic that talking to your child about drugs makes them 50 percent less likely to use. A cell phone app is also planned for development that will connect Ohio residents to their ADAMHS board, public service announcements, and a 24-hour hotline.

Treatment: Slated to receive the bulk of the coordinated care funding at $130 million, state treatment investments include child protective services for the 1,400 new children under counties’ care in the past six years, expanded treatment and detox options, transitional housing support, and increasing the number of drug courts to help alleviate overloaded dockets. Funding is also targeted at county ADAMHS Boards, which are often on the front lines of the epidemic, as well as targeted at kinship care in order to keep children of addicted parents with a family member.

Mental Health Care: $19.4 million is proposed to be invested in mental health care.Anew Drug Court Pilot Program similar to Marion’s Addiction Treatment Program is planned to focus on offenders with mental health disorders in order to reduce recidivism. Funding will also be allocated to BCI drug labs to assist with backlogged toxicology reports, stabilization centers for those with psychiatric needs, and telemedicine insurance coverage in areas where medical services are underprovided. 

Workforce Initiatives: Once an addicted individual is in recovery, it is crucial that they return to the workforce in order to support themselves and have a source of stability in their lives. Short-term certificate programs and SNAP workforce training are slated to receive $9 million to prepare these men and women for in-demand jobs. 

There is no silver bullet to solve this crisis, and a solution does not reside in legislative actions alone. It is going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach and many Marion and Union County residents and organizations have already stepped up to this daunting challenge. I believe that the House version of House Bill 49 will propel Ohio forward and will move us closer to a day when we no longer read headlines about young lives taken too soon by these lethal substances.

If you or a loved one needs help battling addiction, please call the Crawford-Marion ADAHMS Board at (740) 387-8531 or the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County at (937) 642-1212.

Note: House Bill 49 is currently being considered by the Ohio Senate and is expected to be voted on in mid-June. The budget must be set by July 1, the beginning of Ohio’s fiscal year.

Representative Dorothy Pelanda can be reached at (614) 466-8147 or

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