It’s as if John Kasich woke up this spring and remembered he had a day job as governor of Ohio.
Mr. Kasich finally relented on declaring Lake Erie impaired under the terms of the Clean Water Act. He reversed course on gun-control and proposed a package of commonsense restrictions in the General Assembly. And now he has realized Ohio is in the grips of an opioid crisis that kills thousands of people a year.
The governor announced this week a new package of restrictions aimed at curbing overprescribing of the powerful narcotics that many point to as the origin of the addiction epidemic in Ohio.
For years experts have understood that many of the users of the heroin and fentanyl begin using those street drugs like synthetic and deadly fentanyl after first becoming hooked via prescriptions to legal opioids such as Oxycontin.
The new measures call for doctors who prescribe opioids for pain management to periodically review their patients’ opioid use and look for signs of addiction.
Mr. Kasich’s measures are sensible, if late in coming. Other controls have already achieved a 30 percent drop in the prescribing of opioids in the state, but the rate of overdose deaths keeps climbing at an alarming pace.
More than 4,000 Ohioans died of accidental opioid overdoses in 2016 — a 36 percent increase over 2015.
The real problem now is treating the Ohioans already addicted, whether they are still using prescription drugs or have turned to less expensive alternatives sold on the street.
Ohio needs more to curb the deaths than curbing the prescriptions, experts say. The recently released “addiction scorecard” from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio praised the reduced number of prescriptions, but called for more work on the health and societal factors driving the demand for drugs in the state. The state needs better addiction prevention programs and a stronger treatment system, the group said.
Mr. Kasich is not likely to learn much about what Ohio communities really need to stem the tide of opioid deaths on news talk shows, where he has been a frequent guest since his failed 2016 presidential bid.
Back here in Ohio, though, communities are burdened by the economic and societal toll of an epidemic for which none were prepared. Schools, law enforcement, social service agencies, hospitals, and families need more resources to prevent addiction and to treat people who are already hooked.
Increasing resources that provide the programs, the counselors, the detox beds, the treatment facilities, and the long-term recovery support that Ohioans need should be next on Mr. Kasich’s to-do list.
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