Despite tough new drug laws, a crackdown on pill mills, increases in drug seizures, and nearly $1 billion in new state spending, Ohioans continue dying from drug overdoses in record numbers, the Columbus Dispatch reports. New data show that Ohio, the seventh-largest state, led the nation in the number of overdose deaths in 2015. An average of eight Ohioans died from overdoses every day last year, more than double the number in 2009. Officials expect to overdose deaths to set another record this year, surpassing the 3,050 of 2015. Ohio’s response to the deadly drug epidemic got mixed reviews from officials, law enforcement, treatment providers, and agency representatives.
The consensus: Ohio has done a good job of curbing the runaway prescribing of narcotic pain pills, expanding Medicaid to provide treatment to more drug and mental-health patients, increasing the seizure of drugs by law enforcement, encouraging the use of the lifesaving anti-overdose-drug nalaxone, and kicking off an education and prevention program called Start Talking. Still, the death rate is soaring, and the drug epidemic is tearing at the fabric of Ohio, the home of 1 in 9 heroin deaths in the country. A lack of sufficient services for drug detoxification and treatment is the top complaint. Not enough funding for local drug-fighting initiatives is another. For months, Democrats have asked Republican Gov. John Kasich to declare the drug epidemic a public-health emergency and tap the state’s $2 billion-plus “rainy-day fund.” This week, the Senate added $2 million to expand successful treatment programs. Kasich won’t raid the rainy-day fund. “We’ve put a ton of money into this,” he said. “I think we have some holes, and we’ll look at it, but we’re not going to start tapping the rainy-day fund. If you start doing that, and you get a crisis in the middle of the year, what are you going to do, slash education?