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Driehaus calls on Kasich to declare public health crisis, release emergency response funds to combat heroin crisis

Nearly 200 heroin-related overdoses in one week push emergency responders to limit
August 26, 2016
Democrat Newsroom

State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) today called for emergency state funding to be made available for local communities to combat the rapidly intensifying opioid abuse epidemic in Ohio. The state lawmaker’s call immediately follows after Gov. John Kasich delivered a speech on what he sees as the state’s success in dealing with the drug abuse crisis, but also as the Southwest corner of the state experienced a spike in heroin-related overdoses this week.

“One thing is clear: political speeches and discussions about old initiatives have not been enough to protect the communities and families that skyrocketing drug abuse are tearing apart,” said Driehaus in her letter. “We need action.”

The drug addiction and abuse epidemic reached new and terrifying heights this past week in the Cincinnati area, 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, some 78 of which hit the community in a span of only 48 hours. The massive influx of overdose victims to hospital emergency rooms pushed first responders to the brink and left families across the region in distress.

Recent data from 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; more than one-third were overdoses from fentanyl, an extremely potent opiate sometimes mixed with heroin.

*Editor’s note: a copy of the Rep. Driehaus’ letter to the governor is pasted below.

Dear Governor Kasich,

Aug. 26, 2016

I write to you with great urgency. Yesterday, while you were giving a speech on what you see as progress in our state’s fight against the heroin and opioid crisis, Cincinnati was struggling to respond to the unprecedented heroin public health crisis that was ripping through our community, claiming lives and pushing first responders to the brink.

Already this week, heroin has been responsible for 174 overdoses in the Cincinnati area, with some 78 overdoses hitting our community in a span of only 48 hours. Even with some state action on this public health crisis, including my Good Samaritan bill that provides a statewide first responder model of joint social worker and emergency service personnel, one thing is clear: political speeches and discussions about old initiatives have not been enough to protect the communities and families that skyrocketing drug abuse are tearing apart. We need action.

I am requesting that you declare a public health crisis and immediately make available $400 million in emergency Rainy Day funds for local communities to help beat back the heroin and opioid torrent that is flooding and overpowering first responders, treatment providers and public health agencies.

I look forward to your rapid response and encourage you to address this public health crisis head-on by bringing to bear the full weight of available state resources and your attention.

Sincerely,

State Rep. Denise Driehaus