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Legislature sends opioid omnibus legislation to governor's desk after summer of silence

Democratic amendments to add emergency funding rejected by GOP
December 7, 2016
Democrat Newsroom

The Ohio House today put the final stamp of approval on opioid omnibus legislation after months of inaction during the rapidly growing opioid addiction crisis. Ohio was recently identified as the national leader in opioid and heroin overdose deaths by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention Data. 

“We need to deliver emergency funding for an emergency need. Communities cannot wait for ninety days or until the next budget cycle to get the support and resources they desperately need now,” said Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati). “In the meantime, more families will lose loved ones to addiction and treatment providers will continue to be stretched thin as they try to respond to this crisis.” 

The legislation, Senate Bill 319, passed after a trio of amendments from Democratic lawmakers to provide much-needed emergency funding and allow immediate implementation of the bill were rejected by GOP lawmakers. 

“If politics is getting in the way of calling this epidemic what it is – a statewide emergency, we should at least be willing to address families, first responders and treatment providers with the sense of urgency and respect that they deserve,” said House Democratic Whip Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “As we lead the nation in heroin deaths, we cannot afford to wait one more day.” 

In August, Democratic lawmakers called on the governor to address the historic number of Ohioans dying from opioids and heroin by declaring a statewide emergency or releasing emergency funding for first responders, law enforcement and local health organizations. 

“There is a clear disconnect between bills being passed in Columbus, and the lives that are being lost in places across the state like Akron, Portsmouth and Cincinnati,” said State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “The state can and must do more to address this statewide emergency – it is literally a matter of life or death.” 

The call for a statewide emergency was formalized through the introduction of House Resolution 510, legislation from state Reps. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) and Greta Johnson (D-Akron) that garnered House Republican leadership support but has yet to receive any movement in the House.