The Ohio House of Representatives has been hard at work to turn the tide of the drug abuse epidemic affecting Ohioans in every region of the state.
For the past few years, the public health of Ohio has been struck by this dangerous epidemic, and as your state representative, we have taken big steps towards tightening opiate prescription regulations and saving the lives of those who have experienced an overdose.
However, according to a report released by the Ohio Department of Health in September 2015, drug overdose deaths increased in 2014. Thus, it is important to ensure that combating substance abuse remains a priority, and the legislature has already passed significant legislation in the 131st General Assembly that works toward this goal.
The Ohio Department of Health published findings in its report that the increase in drug overdose deaths in 2014 was directly related to an increase in the use of fentanyl, a more lethal opiate than heroin. House Bill 4, which became effective on July 16, is legislation that allows a physician to prescribe naloxone to a person who is at risk of an opioid-related overdose or to an individual in a position to help the person at risk. Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The increased access to naloxone has already saved many lives of those suffering from drug abuse and addiction. I was proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation.
Additionally, provisions to provide aid to those addicted to drugs or alcohol were included in the state operating budget, which became effective on June 30. The bill allocated $500,000 for the purpose of improving access for county health departments and first responders to naloxone. Again, the legislature has strived to open access to this life-saving drug, and the state has seen positive results. Also allocated in the budget was $11 million over the biennium to expand the creation of the “Medication Assisted Treatment” drug court program. This program seeks to provide treatment to offenders in the criminal justice system who are eligible and are selected due to their dependence on opioids or alcohol.
It is my hope that these recently passed initiatives further address the drug epidemic that is pervading our homes, schools and communities. With these bills, I believe the increase in drug overdose deaths can be reversed. We have accomplished much in the fight against drug abuse and addiction and there is still more to be done, but the legislature has made important strides in the right direction.
State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl, R-Mount Vernon, represents the Ohio House’s 68th District.