Ohio has long fought for better prevention against opioid addiction. Soon, Ohio will test a simple step to combat the opioid crisis – locking pill vials. This will be a monumental step toward protection of Ohioans misusing or distributing prescription opioids.
As a result of a provision the General Assembly passed in the biennial budget, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services announced it will operate a two-year pilot program under which all Schedule II controlled substances, which are primarily opioid painkillers, will be dispensed by participating pharmacies in lockable or tamper-evident containers. As Ohio is ground zero for the nation’s opioid epidemic, I’m proud of my colleagues for supporting this effort in the budget and making our state a leader in combating the opioid crisis.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there has been a huge increase in opioid, and other drug-related deaths. A new report from the Center for Disease Control showed that Ohio saw an estimated 22% increase in overdose deaths in 2020 compared to 2019. The same study also projects Ohio will report 5,215 drug deaths for last year, which is more than 14 Ohioans a day and the fourth highest total in the country.
That’s why my colleagues and I, along with leaders from the Governor’s Office and public health professionals throughout Ohio, fought hard to secure funding for this innovative pilot program. Lockable vials stop the opioid epidemic at its source – the family medicine cabinet. 75% of teen prescription drug abuse is a result of easy access to opioids at home, according to a report by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kid). This program would help to eliminate further addiction, as substance abuse often stems from prescription opioids. The use of lockable containers is a common sense and proven way to control access to dangerous prescription medication.
As a former city of Cincinnati police officer, ensuring public safety will always be one of my top priorities. Law enforcement officers see the devastation of addiction on a daily basis while patrolling and protecting our communities. Addiction not only affects the addict, it affects everyone around them.
The last few years have been especially challenging for Ohioans. Many have experienced anxiety and isolation related to quarantines, jobs loss and other stressors. These stressors impact vulnerable populations, some of which led to an increase in substance abuse and behavioral health problems.
The pilot program will evaluate the effectiveness of lockable vials as a low-cost, highly effective early intervention strategy to prevent pilfering and accidental misuse of drugs in the home, which subsequently improves public health outcomes and lowers the cost of care.
The Ohio State Controlling Board has now approved nearly $2 million for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to contract with Johns Hopkins University to administer the lockable container pilot program.
I am proud that Ohio is taking a proactive step forward by taking preventative measures to combat the opioid epidemic. If we can save one life from opioid addiction, this pilot program will be worth it. I look forward to watching this program flourish and soon begin to save lives.