Democratic lawmakers today called on the Governor John Kasich to recognize the devastating opioid addiction epidemic for what it is: a public health emergency. At a statehouse press conference this morning the lawmakers said the state must have a strong, unified response and release emergency state funding to combat the statewide opioid crisis that is claiming lives in rural areas and urban centers alike.
“The first step in any road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem, and it’s time for the administration to recognize the opioid addiction crisis as the public health emergency that it is,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “Too many Ohio families are losing loved ones to drug addiction and overdoses. We must marshal all available state resources and attention to fight back against this rapidly growing threat to our communities.”
The Democratic push to fighting rising drug abuse in Ohio comes as data recently released by the Ohio Department of Health shows that drug overdoses killed a record 3,050 people – and average of eight each day – in the state last year.
“The opioid addiction crisis is not restricted to only rural counties or urban centers, affluent suburbs or impoverished communities,” said Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus). “If we do not act decisively now, with a strong and unified statewide response, we risk allowing more families to lose loved ones, more innocent children to grow up without a mother or a father, and more parents having to bury their teenage or adult children.”
The lawmakers noted that while local providers are doing everything they can to prevent and treat drug addiction at the community-level, they are not equipped or adequately funded to fight the opioid crisis alone.
“Local addiction service providers are doing everything they can to prevent the opioid addiction crisis from overtaking our communities, but they have been pushed to capacity and their resources have been drained,” said Minority Whip Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “The state can’t just rely on local communities to take on the opioid crisis alone. We need to call this what it is – a statewide public health emergency. The lives of Ohioans are at stake and we cannot afford to wait.”
The drug addiction and abuse epidemic also recently reached new and terrifying heights in southwest Ohio, where heroin – possibly spiked with carfentanil, a synthetic opiate painkiller used to care for large wildlife animals such as elephants – was responsible for 174 overdoses in one week, some 78 of which hit the community in a span of only 48 hours.
“The governor recently visited Cincinnati to talk about what he sees as progress in the state’s fight against the heroin and opioid crisis, while at the same time our community was struggling to respond to an unprecedented rash of opioid-related overdoses that ripped through our community, claiming lives and pushing first responders to the brink,” said Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati). “We need to call this what it is – a statewide public health emergency. We need action.”
According to Ohio Department of Health, 279 people in Franklin County died from unintentional overdose deaths in 2015, a 42 percent jump from the previous year.