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Taylor seeks $1 billion to fight addiction crisis

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    Lt. Governor Mary Taylor speaking to the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce in January.

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    Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor speaks at the Ohio Delegation's breakfast on the fourth and final day of the Republican National Convention. July of 2016.

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COLUMBUS — Having dealt with overdose in her own family, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor said she will seek $1 billion in new borrowing to fight Ohio’s opioid-addiction crisis if she is elected governor.

The 10-year bond issue, which would have to be approved by voters, would be used to provide seed money for the private sector to invest in capital and startup costs for modern treatment infrastructure as well as for law enforcement efforts and new research into how to address addiction.

“I have lived the nightmare that you read about,” she said while unveiling her plan this week at the Life Enrichment Center in Dayton. “The number of fatalities from drug overdoses in America is staggering: nearly 60,000 deaths last year alone, more than 4,000 of which were our fellow Ohioans. This is a crisis for the entire nation, and Ohio’s the epicenter.”

She used the story of her oldest son’s overdose to demonstrate how addiction strikes all types of families. She described how he was saved by the quick action of her younger son and four shots of the anti-overdose drug nalaxone.

“For me, this is personal,” Ms. Taylor said. “I have known the sorrows that drug addiction causes. Like all of you, I am many things. I’m a CPA. I’m the lieutenant governor of Ohio, and I’m an angry mom who has had enough. As governor, I intend to see that Ohioans suffering through addiction of their own or that of a loved one no longer look to tomorrow with despair but look to tomorrow with hope.”

Ms. Taylor hopes to succeed her current boss, Republican Gov. John Kasich. She faces competition for the Republican nomination next spring from Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth).

Signaling how the state’s opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic has become a central issue in the 2018 campaign, Mr. DeWine this week used it in his first television advertisement on the heels of unveiling his own plan.

In the ad, he touts the lawsuit he filed on Ohio’s behalf against major drug companies for what he claims were profits they pocketed by downplaying the dangers of the products they were marketing.

Ms. Taylor’s plan also calls for making non-opioid treatment the default method to address pain when it comes to state-run programs like Medicaid and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Alternatives could include chiropractic treatment, physical and massage therapy, and mental-health services.

The lieutenant governor is just the latest gubernatorial candidate to propose new borrowing, which, if combined, would add billions to the state’s debt, to pay for new government initiatives.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, this week proposed a bond issue of an unspecified amount to pay for free community college education for Ohioans. She said “The Ohio Promise” would cost an estimated $50 million to $60 million a year.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D., Boardman), also a Democrat, introduced a bill seeking $1 billion in borrowing to invest in infrastructure, targeting such things as underground sewer and water pipes, treatment plants, and storm water drainage.

Others seeking the Democratic nomination next year include former Cincinnati state Rep. Connie Pillich, former Akron-area congressman Betty Sutton, and Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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