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Politics

Kasich signs 28 bills from lame-duck session

New heroin restrictions among measures

COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday cleared his desk of the last 28 bills from the lame-duck session, including measures addressing Ohio’s opiate epidemic and making it tougher for government to confiscate the assets of suspects absent criminal convictions.

In 2015, Ohio led the nation in opioid and heroin overdose deaths.

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Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday cleared his desk of the last 28 bills from the lame-duck session.

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Senate Bill 319, sponsored by Sen. John Eklund (R., Chardon), expands access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone to entities such as homeless shelters, halfway houses, schools, and treatment centers that deal with populations at higher risk of overdose. It also offers civil immunity to law enforcement officers who carry and use naloxone.

“We have spent almost a billion dollars [a year] on this issue. A billion dollars…,” Mr. Kasich said. “Thank God we expanded Medicaid, because that Medicaid money is helping to rehab people. …There will probably be more tools to come, but we’re not going to defeat this just from the top down.”

The law, which will take effect in 90 days, closes an exemption in the law that allows sole proprietors in private practice — doctors, veterinarians, dentist, and other health- care professionals — to directly distribute medications to patients without oversight from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. 

Such professionals distributed 6.5 million doses, including 3 million doses of opiates, in 2015.

The bill also ends Ohio’s status as one of eight states that do not require pharmacy technicians, blamed for roughly a third of all drug- theft cases during the last three years, to register with the state pharmacy board. 

The move subjects technicians to uniform criminal background checks.

“Four out of five people were addicted to heroin because they were first addicted to prescription narcotics,” said Rep. Robert Sprague (R., Findlay), who sponsored a similar bill in the House.

The number of prescriptions written is down, but the number of overdose deaths continue to climb.

Meanwhile, House Bill 347 will impose new restrictions on government’s use of the civil asset-forfeiture process to take the assets of suspects that may or may not be fruits of a crime.

The bill requires that at least $15,000 in cash be involved before a civil asset-forfeiture process may be triggered, and it requires in most cases that a criminal conviction first be obtained or at least a criminal charge filed.

Also among the bills Mr. Kasich signed were:

● Senate Bill 332, sponsored by Sens. Charleta Tavares (D., Columbus) and Shannon Jones (R., Springboro), to implement recommendations from a special commission to address the state’s poor infant mortality record.

● House Bill 410, sponsored by Reps. Jeffrey Rezabek (R., Dayton) and Bill Hayes (R., Granville), to prohibit the use of expulsion or suspension of students as punishment for chronic truancy.

● House Bill 290, sponsored by Reps. Sprague and Marlene Anielski (R., Walton Hills), to give those suffering from terminal illnesses access to drugs, devices, or other products that have at least passed the first phases of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's clinical trials.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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