A Democratic lawmaker from Cincinnati wants more action and fewer political speeches from Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Ohio’s growing crisis of heroin overdose deaths.
In a letter to Ohio’s CEO-style chief executive, Rep. Denise Driehaus of Cincinnati said an emergency exists, citing state deaths from overdoses of pharmaceuticals laced with other potent drugs hitting new highs. She asked for the release of emergency funds to combat the heroin crisis, which hit nearly 200 heroin-related overdoses in one week, according to figures from the Ohio Department of Health [ODE]. The rush from this crisis nearly overwhelmed the ability of emergency responders to handle the influx of patients.
Gov. Kasich delivered a speech Thursday in Cincinnati before a meeting of justice professionals from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and six other states. The three-day event focused on how the attending states can work together on the heroin epidemic.
In Southwest Ohio, where Cincinnati is located along the Ohio River, a spike in heroin-related overdoses prompted Rep. Driehaus to ask for quick action.
In a statement on the letter she sent to Gov. Kasich, Rep. Driehaus said, “One thing is clear: political speeches and discussions about old initiatives have not been enough to protect the communities and families that skyrocketing drug abuse are tearing apart.” Heroin, maybe spiked with carfentanil, a synthetic opiate painkiller used to care for large wildlife animals such as elephants, is believed to be responsible for 174 overdoses, some 78 of which hit the community in a span of only 48 hours, information supplied by Driehaus staff notes. Because of the rise in need due to overdose victims, hospital emergency rooms were pushed to the brink.
The lawmaker’s office said recent data from the ODE shows that drug overdoses killed a record 3,050 people – and average of eight each day – in the state last year; more than one-third were overdoses from fentanyl, an extremely potent opiate sometimes mixed with heroin.
“Yesterday, while you were giving a speech on what you see as progress in our state’s fight against the heroin and opioid crisis, Cincinnati was struggling to respond to the unprecedented heroin public health crisis that was ripping through our community, claiming lives and pushing first responders to the brink,” Driehaus led off with to the governor, who has made what he’s doing in Ohio a part of his stump speech when he was still running to be the GOP’s presidential nominee. Gov. Kasich stopped his campaign for the White House on May 4, having lost 49 states and winning just one, Ohio, by less than 50 percent.
In her brief letter, Rep. Driehaus references the “Good Samaritan” bill that provides a statewide first responder model of joint social worker and emergency service personnel. The “911 Good Samaritan,” sponsored by Representatives Driehaus and Robert Sprague brings the law to 38 state and the District of Columbia. It grants immunity to both the person overdosing on heroin, opioids or some other drug, and the person who places the call. Now, neither will be charged or arrested, meaning they will not be prosecuted for a minor drug possession offense. Ohio is now one of 38 state and the District of Columbia that have this law, which can save lives. Most emergency personnel are equipped with Naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids, and the fear to call 911 to report an overdose to avoid arrest is gone.
Political speeches and discussions about old initiatives, she said, “have not been enough to protect the communities and families that skyrocketing drug abuse are tearing apart.”
In her call for action from Gov. Kasich, she said, “I am requesting that you declare a public health crisis and immediately make available $400 million in emergency Rainy Day funds for local communities to help beat back the heroin and opioid torrent that is flooding and overpowering first responders, treatment providers and public health agencies.”
Driehaus said she looks forward “to your rapid response and encourage you to address this public health crisis head-on by bringing to bear the full weight of available state resources and your attention.”