Ohio Gov. John Kasich stood firm yesterday against charges that the state is not doing enough to tackle the nation’s leading number of drug-overdose deaths, principally from opioids, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Noting that his budget proposal maintains the state’s $1 billion-a-year investment to battle drug addiction – mainly pain pills, heroin and other opiates – Kasich said Ohio “is doing more than any state in the country.” The state is giving local communities “the tools, but they need to use them,” Kasich said during an Associated Press conference. “The drug problem is not going to get fixed from the top down.”
Legislative leaders from both parties and those on the front lines of Ohio’s drug war say more is needed than flat funding. “It’s certainly different than the last budget that we started with, when we had sufficient funds to do extra things with,” said Ryan Smith, House finance chairman. “We’ve got to get creative and innovative on how we can do some things.” Smith said the House hopes to build a comprehensive plan to “address Ohio’s No. 1 problem.” House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn said more needs to be invested in drug treatment. “It’s going to take some serious resources to combat this epidemic,” he said, adding that the proposed budget falls woefully short. “We can come up with some great strategies, but if we can’t fund it, we are going to continue to battle a very serious epidemic.” Ohio, the nation’s seventh-largest state, led the nation in the number of overdose deaths in 2015. An average of eight Ohioans died from overdoses every day, more than double the number in 2009. Officials expect to see overdose deaths set another record in 2016, surpassing the 3,050 of 2015.