Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is calling for a new, multi-pronged plan to help combat the opioid crisis in the state to be paid for by the drug companies, since he believes they contributed to the problem.
A 12-point plan called “Recovery Ohio” was developed with a focus on increased treatment, tools for law enforcement, and expanding prevention to combat the opioid crisis, Mr. DeWine said.
At least 14 Ohioans die every day from a drug overdose, Mr. DeWine said. Some of the problems started with the drug companies providing misinformation to doctors by telling them the prescription painkillers were not addictive and for “creating a culture of overprescribing,” Mr. DeWine said Tuesday during a press conference at the Toledo Police Department.
In return, the drug companies must pay their share in helping pay for treatment and education, as well as change the culture back to a reasonable prescription protocol, the attorney general said.
“As a result of their misleading doctors, there have been thousands and thousands of deaths. We can’t bring the people back who died. But we can hold these drug companies accountable and make them pay,” said Mr. DeWine.
Representatives from several law enforcement agencies in northwest Ohio stood behind the attorney general during the news conference.
To Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, the attorney general’s message — a focus on enforcement, treatment, and intervention — was a home run, he said.
“This is truly a public health emergency,” added Toledo Police Department Chief George Kral. “I like that his plan is coming at it from several different areas — not just law enforcement. It’s coming at it from the foster care and the social service aspect of it.”
Those addicted to painkillers frequently move to heroin, and are now choosing fentanyl or even carfentanyl, the attorney general said.
While an exact figure of the plan was not available Tuesday, the initiative should be paid for by the drug companies, not taxpayers, DeWine said. On Monday, he sent a letter to Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva, Johnson & Johnson, and Allergan — the pharmaceutical companies he filed suit against in May. He is giving them 30 days to come forward and begin settlement solutions. He also sent letters Monday to Cardinal Health, McKesson, and Amerisource Bergen.
“I’m happy to see that happen, for these companies to be held responsible for not thinking it through,” said Sheriff Tharp. “I believe the entire country can benefit from these lawsuits. They need to be a part of the solution, and part of the solution is costly.”
Should the companies not be willing to participate, Mr. DeWine said Tuesday he will take further action, although he wouldn’t disclose what he would do.
“All we want them to do is what is right,” said Mr. DeWine.
As of Tuesday, he had not heard a response from the companies, he said.
Recovery Ohio’s plan includes:
● Pass legislation to give the governor the ability to declare a public health emergency statewide or in specific areas, which would allow for the distribution of money or other resources to local entities that are facing unexpected emergency conditions, like overdose spikes, and creating an accelerated process for state licenses or approvals in critical professions such as the medical or social work fields, as well as expedited licensing reciprocity with other states.
● Create a 21st century law enforcement data infrastructure that allows real-time, statewide data sharing and brings state-of-the-art data analytics and crime prediction to every Ohio law enforcement agency.
● Expand proven drug task force models that specifically target and disrupt the flow of money and drugs from Mexican drug cartels.
● Create at least 60 more specialized drug courts.
● Double the substance use treatment capacity in Ohio.
● Expand workforce of critical specialists.
● Empower employers to help employees with substance use disorder to seek treatment while remaining employed.
● Help business owners hire employees in recovery by offering employers incentives and reducing risks.
● Create a special position reporting directly to the governor with cabinet-level authority, who works every day with the single-minded focus of fighting the opioid epidemic.
● Implement proven K-12 grade drug prevention education in all Ohio schools.
● Roll out a statewide drug prevention media campaign.
● Expanded early intervention programs that target Ohio families and children in foster care.
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