Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
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Without leadership from Columbus, mayors go after opioids

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    Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp speaks in July about $3 million in grants to aid Drug Abuse Response Teams and Quick Response Teams to address the opioid epidemic.

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    Dobson

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In the absence of any leadership from Columbus, mayors and other local officials across Ohio have been left to manage the effects of the opioid crisis that is crippling their communities. Now some mayors — including Findlay’s Lydia Mihalik — have stepped forward to offer Gov. John Kasich a blueprint for how the state should be helping them, and the governor should leap on it.

The Ohio Mayors Alliance outlined a practical response plan in a recent letter to the governor based on front-line struggles in their communities since the rate of opioid addiction skyrocketed in recent years.

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Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp speaks in July about $3 million in grants to aid Drug Abuse Response Teams and Quick Response Teams to address the opioid epidemic.

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The mayors want Mr. Kasich’s administration to streamline the flow of information, help coordinate sharing of resources such as overdose-reversing naloxone, review Medicaid policies for detox and treatment to improve access, and work harder to get federal money and private funds for the fight.

The epidemic has been a crushing burden around the nation, but nowhere worse than Ohio, which routinely tops the list of accidental overdose deaths. In Ohio, there were more than 4,000 overdose fatalities in 2016, a spike of 36 percent from the previous year.

Other states, including West Virginia, have created state-level offices to coordinate funding, policy, and support. Without a similarly focused statewide official in Ohio, cities, counties, school districts, and other local entities have managed to come up with innovative responses on their own.

Columbus and Franklin County have coordinated efforts and hired an opioid czar to coordinate efforts in central Ohio.

The Ohio General Assembly recently funded a program to replicate Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp’s Drug Abuse Response Team elsewhere. DART has had success at steering addicts away into treatment rather than the justice system.

In Wood County, Prosecutor Paul Dobson has channeled grief over losing a stepson to opioid addiction into a county program aimed at offering rapid response and tracking to similarly divert drug addicts from the criminal justice system into treatment and recovery.

Mr. Kasich should have devised a plan himself like that offered by the mayors, but he did not. The governor instead has spent much of his time traveling outside of Ohio in a rerun of his failed presidential bid, appearing on cable news shows or signing copies of his new book.

But now that these community leaders who have been fighting the opioid fight at home have handed the governor an outline for the state-level response that will help them, he ought to embrace it. Ohio needs a statewide opioid-response plan and a drug czar in Columbus to implement it.

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