After repeated calls over many months, if not years, by Ohio leaders to Gov. John Kasich to put state resources where his rhetoric is regarding the state’s nation-leading opioid crisis, President Donald J. Trump beat Ohio’s term-limited, lame-duck CEO to the punch Thursday, when a national emergency was declared on an issue that’s gripping America by the throat.

The Washington Post reports that “Trump is now pledging that the federal government will ‘spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.’”

Trump Out Plays Kasich On Opiods

Kasich, who ran unsuccessfully last year for president during the Republican primary season, has talked a good game on defending expanded Medicaid, but when it comes to actually dedicating state resources to the growing problem that now claims eight or more deaths per day in Buckeye land, he’s fallen far short of expectations.

The gone governor who spends time on national TV extolling his vague and mushy call for bipartisanship when it’s a political feat he has mostly failed to do back home has defied calls from Republicans and Democrats in Ohio to spend some of the $2-plus billion he stole from local governments and schools to restock Ohio’s emergency “rainy day” fund.

When he ran for his second term in 2014, he refused to debate his opponents in the race, and stiff-armed reporters including this one on topics he didn’t want to talk about, like women’s heath issues, JobsOhio – his pet project that’s failed to create the quantity and quality of jobs he promised Ohioans he would produce if elected in 2010.

Kasich’s crafted argument to not spend the billions he has at his disposal to tackle a crisis that’s blossomed on his watch was based on his theory that Ohio would be prepared to cope with another economic meltdown on the scale of the Great Recession of 2008 that devastated the state so much that he ran on a campaign that would fix a broken state. On first glance, the governor’s reasoning sounds solid when it’s not.

In a statement released late Thursday, the White House, “…building upon the recommendations in the interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Donald J. Trump has instructed his Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic… The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency,” CNN reported.

Back in Columbus, two voices from different sides of the political isle rang out in favor of Trump. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine had kind words for the president: “I applaud President Trump for his plans to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. Additional resources from the federal government will help hard-hit states like Ohio.”

Ohio House Member Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, responded to President Donald Trump recently declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency and promising to spend significant federal dollars to combat the public health crisis:

“I am pleased to see leaders at the federal level acknowledge what Ohio Democrats have long said: that the opioid epidemic devastating our rural areas and urban centers alike is a public health emergency that will require a strong, unified response and emergency funding in order to save lives and prevent additional tragedy.

“I hope Gov. Kasich can set aside his personal feelings regarding President Trump to finally acknowledge this public health emergency and bring the full force of the state to bear on the growing epidemic.

“With thousands of men and women dying each year in our state from opioids, Ohio families cannot afford for Governor Kasich to wait any longer to declare a statewide emergency and bring additional emergency and permanent state funds to local efforts aimed at prevention, treatment and law enforcement. Too many lives are at stake.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also weighed-in on the announcement. Whaley, a candidate for governor next year, has initiated a lawsuit against drug manufacturers. She provided an important history on the crisis that Kasich and others don’t like to dwell on because they reveal inconvenient truths about for-profit pharmaceutical companies, their duty to deliver shareholder value with increased prices for drugs, and how the free market isn’t free at all.

“This epidemic didn’t just pop up organically,” Whaley said via email. “It started because for years, unprincipled drug companies pushed opioid painkillers on doctors and patients. By the time the medical community realized how addictive these painkillers were, it was too late. Hundreds of thousands of people were hooked, and when their prescriptions ran out, they turned to synthetic opioids and heroin.”

Speaking to Whaley’s point, Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research explained the status quo on rising costs in greater detail.

“The incentive to distribute ‘grossly misleading’ information about their products comes from the government-granted patent monopolies which allow companies to charge prices that can be several thousand percent above the free market price. This is straight textbook economics. Corporations are motivated by profit. If they can sell a pill for five dollars that costs them a few cents to manufacture, they have an enormous incentive to market it as widely as possible.”

Kasich loves to talk bipartisanship despite a record that shows otherwise, so would he bend a knee to a suggestion Baker offers to immediately make drug costs tumble dramatically to show bipartisanship? Allow all drugs to be produced as generics on the day they were approved by the Food and Drug Administration?

Kasich, who’s on track to wander off the political radar screen in about 20 months due to term limits, made his big offer on the crisis plaguing Ohio at his final State of the State address. His plan is to use $20 million of Third Frontier money for innovations in the fight against opioids.

“Maybe this is going to help us to really overcome this,” Kasich said. “I think the $20 million is going to be worth it.  I’m excited. And I hope you’re excited that we’re thinking a little bit differently about all of this.” 

According to WCPO, former Cincinnati state Rep. Denise Driehaus called on Kasich to immediately release $400 million in state dollars to fight the heroin crisis. Her call for Kasich to do something came with Greater Cincinnati stuck “in the midst of an outbreak of heroin overdoses – more than 80 over the course of three days, and counting.

Driehaus asked Kasich to 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.”

When Trump, who Kasich has become a symbolic foe to after last year’s race in which he won just one state and earned one Electoral College vote, beats Ohio’s leader in leadership on such an important issue that is literally a matter of life and death, it shows how weak the flim-flam governor is when it comes to seeing and acting on a crisis like opioids that even impacts Kasich’s sidekick of eight years, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who made public her family’s problems on this very issue.

 

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