Ohio News

Good news, bad news: Opiate epidemic rolls on ahead of State of the State

As dozens of Ohioans die every day to overdoses, efforts are being made to curb the epidemic, but there is no singular solution

COLUMBUS (WKBN) - Billions of dollars have been spent to fight the opiate epidemic in Ohio. Administrative changes have been made and laws have been passed through the legislative process.

And yet, Ohio fell in national ranking from 47th worst state in the country for overdose deaths to 49th worst, according to a report released Monday by One Ohio Now.

As dozens of Ohioans die every day to overdoses, efforts are being made to curb the epidemic, but there is no singular solution.

According to Gavin Leonard with One Ohio Now, these efforts should result in Ohio's rank rising in the coming years. This will not be instantaneous, though.

"We expect that it will take time for these things to work themselves out," Leonard said.

He praised the addition of $220 million to fight the epidemic in the 2018 capital budget and said it's a step in the right direction. But he also warns that ignoring other factors such as poverty, hunger and inequality will delay the complete eradication of the epidemic.

According to the report, Ohio ranks in the bottom 25 states for:

  • Infant mortality
  • Hunger
  • Home foreclosure
  • Overdose deaths
  • High school graduation
  • College tuition
  • Poverty
  • Median income
  • Unemployment
  • Job growth
  • Poverty by gender
  • Senior citizen hunger
  • Graduation by race

The state ranks in the top 25 states for:

  • Health insurance
  • PreK enrollment
  • Bridge maintenance

This is the third year the organization has released this study, which carries endorsements from over 100 other groups.

View full One Ohio Now report

When asked if any of those groups leaned conservatively, Leonard could not recall off the top of his head but said that there are groups that consider themselves neutral, politically speaking.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy released new numbers on the eve of Governor Kasich's State of the State address.

Last year, Kasich told the state that prescription opioids were down 20 percent and doctor shopping had been reduced by 80 percent. According to the Board of Pharmacy, those numbers have decreased for the fifth year in a row, reaching 30 percent and 90 percent respectively.

Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Steven Schierholt credits continued efforts by the state in this area, including new rules implemented last year to restrict prescribers of opiates and the integration of the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS). The system allows doctors and pharmacists to more easily access the data it contains, and thereby use it more often and efficiently.

Schierholt admits the end of the tunnel is still not in sight.

"This epidemic has shown us that there are a lot of things we cannot control," he said. "In the areas that we can control, with the prescribing patterns and things like that, we are, I think, showing progress."

In his State of the State speech last year, Governor Kasich said, "We haven't done enough." Despite the efforts in the past year, it is something he may have to say yet again.

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