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Published: Tuesday, 12/10/2013

OPIATE EPIDEMIC

Ohio task force seeks $189M to help treat painkiller habit

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS—Members of a legislative task force delving into a growing epidemic of painkiller and heroin addiction on Tuesday called for spending $180 million to create county-based treatment housing and $9 million to bolster courts’ specialty-drug dockets.

Some of the funding would come from $400 million in state money that is expected to go unspent because of Gov. John Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid eligibility using federal dollars. The proposal to spend at least part of that money goes against a Senate Republican proposal to funnel those savings into an income tax cut.

The bipartisan task force also counts on the Medicaid expansion to help treat more people whose addictions often start with prescription opiate painkillers and progress to heroin.

Rep. Bob Sprague (R., Findlay), head of the House Prescription Drug Addiction and Healthcare Reform Study Committee, said the savings from the Medicaid expansion would be better spent on the urgent need for community-based treatment than for more tax cuts.

“I believe we are at a unique stage in this epidemic. We have a unique chance to address it holistically, and that if we do allocate money at this particular time, we can break the back of this problem in Ohio,” he said.

He said the $180 million for recovery housing at the county level would save costs elsewhere in health care and prison systems and would be deemed a one-time capital investment, assuming such housing would become self-sustaining.

Among other things, the bills would:

● Require doctors to study an online database before prescribing addictive painkillers to crack down on doctor-shopping.

● Ban doctors from prescribing opiate painkillers to minors without parental permission.

● Reduce the number of pills in a prescription to force closer monitoring by doctors.

—Jim Provance



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