After massive Republican funding cuts, heroin epidemic spiraled out of control
Despite a record of massive budget cuts and failure to acknowledge the crisis until well after it began, today Governor John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine will hold a town hall in Columbus regarding the heroin epidemic in Ohio. In response to today’s press event, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern released the following statement:
“Talk from politicians in an election year is cheap, especially given the record of disastrous budget cuts and neglect by Governor Kasich and Attorney General DeWine that allowed this epidemic to spiral out of control. Leadership requires more than empty promises. Ohio needs real action, not pep talks, to deal with this crisis.”
Heroin Overdose Deaths Are Spiraling Out of Control Across the State:
“Overdose deaths related to heroin increased 59.6 percent between 2011 and 2012 [Mansfield News Journal, 4/18/2014]. It is estimated that over 900 Ohioans died of heroin overdoses in 2013.
Heroin Crisis Was Foreseeable, Health Department Officials Say: “‘As strict legislation closed pill mills and prescription drugs became less available, Ohio was left with an opioid-addicted population in search of a drug,’ [Christy Beeghly, violence and injury prevention program administrator at the Ohio Department of Health] said. ‘We’ve sort of primed the pump of bringing heroin in,’ she said.” [Mansfield News Journal, 4/18/2014]
Lack of Treatment Is “A Statewide Embarrassment,” State Officials Have Only Given a “Pep Talk”: The Plain Dealer has called the lack of treatment capacity a “statewide embarrassment.” [Plain Dealer, 2/18/14]. The Coshocton Tribune said that with few resources from the state, it is “disparaging when an elected official travels around the state giving what amounts to nothing more than a pep talk.” [Coshocton Tribune, 2/1/2014]
Fitzgerald’s county heroin program called a “national model” by U.S. Attorney. Steven M. Dettlebach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District Ohio praised the efforts of Cuyahoga County to tackle the heroin epidemic in Cuyahoga County as a protocol that “needs to be a national model.” [Source: Cuyahoga County Government Press Conference (4/22/2014)]
- Cut Funding for Social Workers, Mental Health Programs, and Other Human Services Over 50 percent Across the State on Average in first state budget. “Deep cuts have been made to all local governments and to special districts. Health and human service levies were hit especially hard, losing 54 percent of state aid, on average.” [Policy Matters Ohio, 9/13/2012]
- Cuts to Local Government Fund Took Cops Off the Street. “Kasich insists that the state’s rainy day fund should be replenished with new budget surpluses, despite the fact that schools and communities across Ohio are still suffering from state budget cuts, which resulted in “cutbacks in essential local services, hikes in local property taxes, and layoffs of teachers, police officers, and firefighters.” [Toledo Blade, 4/29/2012]
- Kasich Eliminated Separate Departments Of Mental-Health And Substance-Abuse, and Combined Into One Agency. “Two state departments serving Ohioans with mental-health and substance-abuse problems will be merged into a single, more-efficient agency with ‘less bureaucratic clutter,’ the Kasich administration announced yesterday. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and the Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services will be combined effective July 1, 2013, pending legislative approval.” [The Columbus Dispatch, 5/5/12]
Attorney General DeWine:
- Failed for Three Years to Acknowledge Growing Crisis. According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, DeWine did not begin tabulating data on heroin deaths until Oct. 2013, years after the crisis began and states like Kentucky began responding. [Attorney General Statement, 11/18/13]
- Refused to tell Ohio What He Has Actually Accomplished. DeWine formed a $1 million dollar “heroin unit,” but “would not say what this new unit…has accomplished since its inception in November.” [Coschocton Tribune 2/1/14]
- Failed to Stand Up for First Responders. DeWine did not speak out against Gov. Kasich’s massive local budget cuts for police and other first responders. This is despite his position as Ohio’s chief legal officer.
As our next governor, Ed FitzGerald will:
- Restore funding to local governments so law enforcement and social services have the resources necessary to combat this crisis.
- Expand on his leadership in the County level, where his initiative for tracking down drug dealers was hailed as a model for the nation by the US Attorney and his expansion of the naloxone program led to the reversal of 31 possible overdoses.
As our next Attorney General, David Pepper will:
- Expand access to life-saving anti-overdose medications to first responders statewide.
- Assist local prosecutors in tracing overdose deaths back to dealers so they can be held fully responsible for the death.
- Expand evidenced-based prevention and treatment efforts to drive down demand for heroin.