Ohio Attorney General releases plan for fighting state’s drug epidemic

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released initiatives that he said will fight the state’s opioid crisis, and he’s hoping that drug companies will pay for it.

The attorney general has accused the drug companies of flooding Ohio with pills that far exceeded medical needs. They’ve denied doing anything wrong, and now he’s trying a different approach.

DeWine is giving those drug companies 30 days to start settlement talks to help pay for the new plan.

“You lied. You lied to doctors who relied upon you. You told them that these drugs were not very addicting. We know these drugs are addictive,” he said.

DeWine’s multi-pronged program called “Recovery Ohio” is aimed at providing more treatment options and tools for law enforcement, as well as prevention programs.

The initiative includes the following steps:

  • Pass legislation to give the governor the ability to declare a public health emergency statewide or in specific areas. This would allow for the distribution of money and other resources to local entities that are facing unexpected emergency conditions like overdose spikes. It would also create an accelerated process for state licenses or approvals in critical professions, such as the medical or social work fields, as well as expedited licensing reciprocity with other states.
  • Create 21st-century law enforcement data infrastructure that allows real-time, statewide data sharing and brings state-of-the-art data analytics and crime prediction to every Ohio law enforcement agency.
  • Expand proven drug task force models that specifically target and disrupt the flow of money and drugs from Mexican drug cartels.
  • Create at least 60 more specialized drug courts.
  • Double the substance use treatment capacity in Ohio.
  • Expand workforce of critical specialists.
  • Empower employers to help employees with substance use disorder to seek treatment while remaining employed.
  • Help business owners hire employees in recovery by offering employers incentives and reducing risks.
  • Create a special position reporting directly to the governor with cabinet-level authority, who works every day with the single-minded focus of fighting the opioid epidemic.
  • Implement proven Kindergarten through 12th-grade drug prevention education in all Ohio schools.
  • Roll out a statewide drug prevention media campaign
  • Expanded early intervention programs that target Ohio families and children in foster care.

DeWine sued the drug companies earlier this year, saying he believes they should be doing more to combat the problem.

“What’s most infuriating, they’re not doing anything to help change the culture of prescribing, or to help people who are addicted or to help other people not become addicted,” DeWine said.

Ohio Senator Rob Portman said he’s glad to see that DeWine is getting more involved in the opioid epidemic but adds there is still a lot more to be done. He said there is plenty of blame to go around.

“I do think there is a responsibility among the pharmaceutical companies, but also the doctors and the pharmacies who prescribed it, and so I’m really happy that Ohio now has this rule where you can only get opioids for seven days and you got to go back,” he said.

Portman said he’s also working on new legislation aimed at requiring states to form agreements to keep patients from shopping their prescriptions across state lines to obtain even more drugs.

DeWine is running for governor next year.