The drug epidemic is an existential threat to our state. Opioid abuse has infiltrated our communities and has driven them to extreme lengths to combat this problem. Shockingly, several Ohio communities have been forced to rent mobile units to assist their local morgues with overpopulation issues. These disturbing reports reinforce my conviction that we must act now to fight this insidious threat to the people of Ohio.
The Kaiser Foundation released a report showing that Ohio has the most total opioid deaths in the country. From the Ohio River to Lake Erie, families from all walks of life have been hurt by these dangerously addictive substances. Drug addiction does not discriminate based on level of educational attainment, race or religion. Concerned citizens across Ohio are recognizing this and are diligently attending town halls, church meetings and community gatherings looking to help.
A number of policies have been enacted to fight back against opioid abuse. They include measures to hinder doctor shopping and establish drug courts, but more needs to be done. Prevention efforts must be improved to deter new opioid abusers. Treatment options must be expanded to give Ohioans a path to a healthier life. The complicated nature of this issue requires reforms directed at providing holistic support from prevention to re-entering the workforce.
These steps will breathe life into our communities, while also giving hope to individuals struggling with substance abuse.
The group that is most affected by this scourge is often the one that is most overlooked. Children who have witnessed or experienced the horrors of drug addiction are often left with trauma that stunts their development and leaves lifelong scars. Funding for child protective services should be increased in response to the increased caseloads that our counties are experiencing.
Essential services such as child psychiatry need to be made available to help the most vulnerable among us.
Our state is in tight fiscal times, but I believe it is crucial to make these investments to restore our state. To folks looking to be involved at the local level, consider becoming a foster parent to children displaced by this epidemic, mentor at-risk youths or volunteer at a local treatment center. If we work together we can bring healing to our communities and help improve the quality of life for all Ohioans affected by opioid abuse.
State Rep. Ryan Smith
Chairman, House Finance Committee
Columbus Dispatch: http://www.dispatch.com/opinion/20170331/letter-state-must-attack-opioid-crisis