Ohio lawmaker pushes for comprehensive approach in addiction crisis

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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The state of the opioid crisis | Your Daily Pitch

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

It may not be a guaranteed fix to the opioid crisis, but a Dayton-area lawmaker plans to introduce a “comprehensive approach” to addressing the epidemic that has killed nearly 12,000 Ohioans from 2015-2017.

Ohio Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, who is up for re-election this fall, plans to introduce a comprehensive package of bills that will touch on various aspects of the opioid crisis, he told the Journal-News.

Ohio Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood
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Ohio Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood

Credit: File Photo

Credit: File Photo

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“You could never guarantee that something’s going to work, but it at least it has a likelihood of working, whereas, what we have been doing over many decades now is not working,” said Butler, who represents the 41st Ohio House District. “So the ‘War on Drugs,’ all the different things that we’ve tried in the past has gotten us to where we are now, we have a horrible drug problem in our state and in country so we need to try something new, something different, something bold. And unfortunately elected officials don’t do that very often because they’re afraid of failure.”

But he said elected officials and government need to try something else and “base it on science and research,” “due diligence,” and “if it fails, try something else, but keep trying.”

The plan is divided into four areas: treatment. drug trafficking, reducing the number of incarcerated addicts; and a combination of education and prescription drugs.

“We have people obviously dying every day of drug overdoses,” he said. “People are suffering from addiction.”

There are signs that opioid overdose deaths are on a decline, according to the Ohio Department of Health. But the problem is that people are mixing synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, with heroin, as well as other street drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines.

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“The good news is Ohio is seeing significant progress in reducing the number of prescription opioids available for abuse, and as a result, prescription opioid-related overdose deaths that don’t also involve fentanyl are at their lowest level since 2009,” said Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Dr. Mark Hurst. “This progress is significant because prescription opioid abuse is frequently a gateway to heroin and fentanyl use.”

But Butler said while opioids is the addiction crisis today, the underlying issue is addiction.

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“It’s more than just about heroin, or even opiates,” he said. ‘It’s addiction. We have an addiction problem, and a lot of things feed into that but that is continuing to get worse even though we’ve seen an decrease in overdose deaths for heroin, from heroin-related overdose deaths recently in some counties, such as Butler County, but I think there’s still quite a bit of addiction — it’s just in other forms with coke and meth.”

In early August, Hamilton County saw 36 emergency room visits over the course of three days because of a new drug cocktail that’s a combination of cocaine, meth and fentanyl, reported our news partner WCPO. Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan, the head of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, told WCPO that’s a huge spike.

“There’s been a lot of talk about methamphetamine and cocaine coming up and it has,” said Synan, head of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. “There’s no doubt that’s taken a chunk out of the overdoses we’re seeing. They’re different drugs.”

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Ohio saw 1,540 cocaine-related overdose deaths in 2017, which is a 39 percent increase over 2016 when there were 1,109 cocaine-related overdose deaths. There was a 130 percent increase — 537 in 2017 and 233 in 2016 — in overdose deaths involving psychostimulants, like meth.

So Butler said “it’s always going to be something,” and in order for the state to help people suffering from addiction “and to stop the drug traffickers that are preying on Ohioans.”

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