COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – The initiative to tackle the problem of Ohio’s prescription drug abuse problem former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland started in April of 2010 got a big boost Wednesday when new Attorney General Mike DeWine announced he is dedicating new personnel and funds to the fight.
Ohio called “Ground Zero” for prescription drug abuse problem
On Friday, April 2, 2010 former Gov. Ted Strickland signed an executive order establishing the Ohio Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, a group comprised of representatives from federal, state and local government with concentration in the fields of public health, law enforcement, mental health, substance abuse, health care and other interested partners.
OPDATF’s charge was to study prescription drug abuse, a rising public health problem on the national level, that has reached epidemic level in Ohio. Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisoning, Strickland’s report said, has increased more than 350 percent from 1999 to 2008, and is now the leading cause of injury death in Ohio.
“As I have traveled our state, the issue of prescription drug abuse comes up whether I am in a small town, suburb or large city,” AG DeWine said with new staff members present. Members of SOLACE, people whose family or friends died from overdosing on powerful prescription drugs like oxycontin, also attended the media event.
DeWine, a former U.S. Senator who defeated Democratic Attorney General Richard Cordray last fall by fewer than 50,000 votes statewide, told reporters he is dedicating staff and financial resources to help local prosecutors and law enforcement deal with the consequences of prescription drug abuse.
Haslam as point person
DeWine has hired Adams County Prosecutor Aaron Haslam as co-unit coordinator of the office’s Special Prosecutions Unit. Haslam will coordinate the office’s efforts with prosecutors and local law enforcement on prescription drug abuse. The Attorney General’s Office also is hiring two additional assistant attorneys general with prosecutorial experience who will specialize in prescription drug cases.
DeWine said he will also dedicate resources to assist local law enforcement and prosecutors in tackling the issue.
To help train peace officers on the front lines, DeWine told reporters funds will go to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy to fund training for local law enforcement through regional seminars, online offerings, and free courses offered at the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI).
State funds also will be used to augment the investigative staff at BCI so they can assist local prosecutors and law enforcement.
“When I became Attorney General a month ago, I swore an oath to protect Ohio families. Today is one step in our journey to use the resources of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to fight this problem that has such devastating consequences for our families and communities,” DeWine added.
Two of House Bill 93 sponsors- Reps. Johnson, Bubp – present
Yesterday, at a media event at the Ohio Statehouse, Reps. Dave Burke (R-Marysville) and Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) unveiled a proposal to combat prescription drug abuse by strengthening oversight measures and using technology to reduce the widespread prevalence of “pill mills.”
House Bill 93 will enhance the current Ohio Automated Rx Review System (OARRS), which was established in 2006 to assist health care professionals in identifying drug-seeking behaviors, to provide additional oversight. It will also limit prescribers’ ability to personally furnish certain controlled substances, enact Medicaid reforms to improve consumer education and allow for better care coordination, improve licensing and law enforcement for pain-management clinics, and develop a statewide prescription drug “take-back” program.
In Ohio, the bill sponsors said, unintentional drug overdoses surpassed motor vehicle crashes and suicide as the leading cause of injury death in Ohio. It has also been reported that the highest rates in the state for these deaths are in southern Ohio, where seven of the 10 counties with the highest death rates are located, according to a House media release.
“While the nation has seen an increase in unintentional drug poisoning deaths double between 1999-2006, the rate in
Ohio has more than tripled,” portions of the OPDATF said. “The annual costs of unintentional drug overdose in Ohio
is also shocking; $3.5 Billion in fatal costs (including medical, work loss, and quality-of life loss) and $31.9 Million in non-fatal, hospital admitted costs.”
Powerful drugs at center of pill problem
OPDATF said the opioids most associated with overdoses are Fentanyl, Oxycodone (OxyContin®), Hydrocodone (Vicodin®), and methadone. In 2008, opioids caused more overdoses in Ohio than heroin and cocaine combined. Other prescription drugs of potential abuse include sedatives, such as Diazepam (Valium®) and Alprazolam (Xanax®), and stimulants, such as Adderall® and Ritalin®.
OPDATF final report included recommendations on legislative reform, increased funding and education, facilitating proper disposal of prescription medication, as well as establishing new and supporting existing coalitions to address the prevention of prescription drug misuse, abuse and overdose.
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