The opioid overdose crisis has prompted so many new programs and policy changes in recent years there has been little time to see what is working and what still needs to be done.
That’s about to change.
The “Ohio addiction policy inventory and scorecard” — developed by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio — examines what’s been working and what gaps remain in addiction policy.
Ohio has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths, which has forced the state into a crash course in how to treat addiction.
“There’s just so much going on and there have been a lot of policy changes over the past decade. The purpose of the report is to put it all together,”said Amy Bush Stevens, vice president of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, which does non-partisan health policy research.
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“A theme in general is we are doing a lot of the right right things, but they are not always reaching a large enough number of Ohioans,” Stevens said.
The report can help local leaders get an overall picture of what is happening in the state and apply it to their communities, said Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.
“Until you have a comprehensive understanding of all the resources and programs that are out there, its hard to know what the specific resources are,” Bucklew said.
The report is full of data, assessments and recommendations, and gives local officials more ammunition in the fight against addiction, said Helen Jones-Kelley, executive director of the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services.
“We’re almost hungry for the information,” she said. “We can use the information they bring us and make a difference.”
The addiction policy scorecard is the first in a series of reports. The next report will look at overdose reversal and naloxone programs as well as other so-called harm reduction programs. The final report will look at law enforcement, children’s services and criminal justice as they relate to addiction response.
The 40-page scorecard gives state lawmakers high marks for prioritizing behavioral health problems and overdose deaths when crafting the state budget and legislative bills. Those efforts, as well as partnerships between behavioral health, public health, law enforcement and other sectors, have led to a dramatic drop in opioid prescribing in the state, according to the report.
But there are gaps in treatment, it says, resulting in too few Ohioans having access to successful programs.
Among the recommendations: increased use of non-opioid therapies, strengthening addiction prevention efforts and providing more behavioral health services.
While Ohio has done a good job reducing the supply of opioids, Stevens said, it has paid less attention to the underlying drivers of addiction, such as poor economic conditions and untreated mental health problems.
Making a difference
Overall, said Stevens, the state’s efforts are making a difference.
“I think it is important to celebrate some of the successes that have happened,” she said. “We have seen a reduction in opioid prescriptions dispensed and that area is really a result of a series of policy changes.”