Good news, bad news: Opiate epidemic rolls on ahead of State of the State


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Billions of dollars have been spent to fight the opiate epidemic in Ohio. Administrative changes have been made and laws have been passed through the legislative process.

And yet, Ohio fell in national ranking from the 47th worst state in the country for overdose deaths to 49th worst; according to a report released by One Ohio Now Monday.

As dozens of Ohioans die every day to overdoses efforts are being made to curb this epidemic, and there is no singular solution.

According to Gavin Leonard with One Ohio Now these efforts should result in Ohio’s rank rising in the coming years, this will not be instantaneous.

“We expect that it will take time for these things to work themselves out,” said Leonard.

Leonard praised the addition of $220 million to fight the epidemic in the 2018 Capital Budget and says it’s a step in the right direction.

But he also warns that ignoring other factors such as poverty, hunger, and inequality will delay the complete eradication of the epidemic.

According to the report Ohio ranks in the bottom 25 states for; infant mortality; hunger; home foreclosure; overdose deaths; high school graduation; college tuition; poverty; median income; unemployment; job growth; poverty by gender; senior citizen hunger; and graduation by race.

The state ranks in the top 25 states for; health insurance; pre-k enrollment; and bridge maintenance.

This is the third year the organization has released this study which carries endorsements from over 100 other groups.

When asked if any of those groups leaned conservatively, Leonard could not recall off the top of his head but said that there are groups that consider themselves neutral politically speaking.

A copy of the report can be viewed here:

Meanwhile, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy released new numbers on the eve of Governor Kasich’s State of the State address.

Last year, Kasich told the state that prescription opioids were down 20% and doctor shopping had been reduced by 80%.

According to the Board of Pharmacy those numbers have decreased for the fifth year in a row reaching 30% and 90% respectively.

Executive Director of the Board of Pharmacy Steven Schierholt credits continued efforts by the state in this area, including new rules implemented last year to restrict prescribers of opiates and the integration of the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) so that doctors and pharmacists can more easily access the data it contains and thereby use it more often and efficiently.

Schierholt admits, the end of the tunnel is still not in sight.

“This epidemic has shown us that there are a lot of things we cannot control,” said Schierholt. “In the areas that we can control, with the prescribing patterns and things like that, we are, I think, showing progress.”

In his State of the State speech last year Governor Kasich said, “We haven’t done enough.”

Despite the efforts over the last year, it is something he may have to say yet again.

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