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Kasich's RNC emergency declaration and funding highlight ability to do the same for opioid epidemic

September 26, 2016
Democratic Newsroom

Democratic lawmakers say today’s request by the Kasich administration for over $9 million in state emergency funds for law enforcement costs from the RNC 2016 convention show the governor has the power to take a similar approach in fighting the statewide opioid and heroin epidemic. Today’s state Controlling Board request comes at the same time the administration has danced around multiple requests to declare a statewide emergency on the opioid and heroin epidemic that claimed the lives of eight Ohioans on average every day last year.

“Requesting millions in emergency funds for a political event already past underscores the fact that the governor has broad authority to declare an emergency in our state,” said Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus), who sits on the state Controlling Board. “Thousands of Ohioans have lost their lives to opioid abuse and addiction in recent years; that, to me, is a statewide emergency. I would love to hear from the governor why he continues to refuse to bring the full force of the state to bear on the growing statewide opioid epidemic.”

State Reps. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) and Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) recently introduced legislation urging the governor to declare the opioid epidemic a statewide emergency and to divert additional state funds to local efforts aimed at prevention, treatment and law enforcement.

“As today’s Controlling Board meeting demonstrates, there are mechanisms built into our state government to address urgent needs which could not be planned for during the budget process,” says Johnson. “The Governor and the GOP controlled legislature absolutely have the authority to do more to combat the opioid epidemic, including declare a public health emergency and provide additional funding to localities. Meanwhile, more and more Ohio families are losing loved ones to opioid abuse and addiction. It is past time for the governor to acknowledge the opioid epidemic for what it is: a statewide emergency.”

The drug addiction and abuse epidemic 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.

“Without the full partnership and a sense of urgency from the state, Ohio communities will continue to struggle to beat back the growing number of opioid related overdoses and deaths,” said Driehaus. “First responders, treatment providers and law enforcement in communities across the state are being pushed to the brink by this epidemic. As a state we must recognize the opioid epidemic as the emergency that it is and do everything in our power to help prevent more Ohio families from losing loved ones.”

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.