Ohio’s drug abuse and addiction epidemic has wreaked havoc on individuals, families, and communities for far too long. Our state had the most opioid-related overdose deaths in the nation in 2015, and the continuing casualties clearly indicate a need for a stronger fight against this devastating scourge. The Ohio House has remained committed to this cause by searching out ways to tackle the epidemic on multiple fronts.

In the state operating budget that the House recently passed, we allocated $170.6 million in new money specifically towards combating drug addiction through coordinated care. The investment is in line with the priorities and initiatives of the HOPES (Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education, and Safety) Agenda, a key component of the Buckeye Pathway, our policy platform. In an effort to address each aspect of the addiction cycle, four key areas are emphasized: prevention, treatment, mental health, and workforce development.

Prevention is crucial in stopping the spread of the drug epidemic before it ravages even more lives. Over $12 million would be invested in utilizing technology to connect people to the right resources, equipping counties to identify a “community hub” for organization purposes and continuing the “Start Talking!” initiative. We must also help those already struggling with addiction receive the treatment they need. In this vein, $130 million would be allocated to expand treatment and detox options, drug courts, and transitional housing, as well as provide services for the children of opiate addicts.

It is imperative to remember that addiction is, above all, a mental illness. Towards that end, the budget designates $19.4 million to assist individuals in attaining and maintaining a healthy state of mind so they do not turn to drugs again to cope. Funding stabilization centers and drug court pilot programs are included in this provision. We then must go a step further and help former addicts get the training and certification they need to carry on stable and fulfilling lives. To further carry out these goals, $9 million would be invested in workforce development.

The opioid epidemic that is plaguing Ohio cannot be solved overnight. The success of initiatives and ideas hinges on an all-hands-on-deck approach that enlists the participation of community leaders, faith groups, treatment providers, and families. We will continue to stand united against this deadly epidemic until health is restored to our state, and I believe the steps that we have taken in the House version of the state budget bring us just a bit closer to that goal and can unify our families and homes. 

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