COLUMBUS, Ohio (WMCH) – The Biden administration is calling on Congress to help reverse the trend by approving billions of dollars to combat the opioid epidemic. If lawmakers deliver, Ohio stands to receive a significant portion of that funding.
Thousands of Ohioans die each year from opioid overdoses, and those deaths reached record highs during the pandemic; more than 4,200 Ohioans fatally overdosed in 2020. An increase of more than 26% from the year before, according to data kept by the Ohio Department of Health.
The ODH data shows that while those numbers have not significantly increased over the past two years, they’re also not going down. That’s why the White House is asking Congress for $2.7 billion in emergency funding to reverse the trend.
The funding request proposes $1.2 billion to combat fentanyl trafficking through additional border security, along with $1.5 billion for State Opioid Response Grants. Of those grants, Ohio would receive $86 million.
Only Florida and California would receive more, according to the funding request.
“This is an issue that is not a red state issue or a blue state issue. This is America’s issue,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “When so many tens of millions of Americans are suffering, it is important for Congress — and we’re calling on congress to come together and pass this funding.”
It is the board’s role to distribute funding to various causes and organizations in the county related to behavioral and mental health.
“We’re kind of in this odd spot where we get some spillover from more of an urban area. But also we know that many of the rural areas, opioid use and other drug use is a big, big problem,” said Marcy Fields, Executive Director of Fairfield County’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH) board. “Stable housing, activities and things for people to do that keep them in recovery. I think those are really keys to getting over this hump.”
State Opioid Response Grants are among the board’s biggest sources of funding. Fairfield County ADAMH received more than $570,000 just since July, according to state financial records.
Fields said the money has been useful: funding marketing and awareness campaigns, treatment and recovery resources, and one of the most critical tools in the opioid battle: Narcan. The drug saved more than 18,000 people in Ohio last year.
“We need to be able to keep people alive so that they do get to the point where they want to make that change,” Fields said.