Combating the Opioid Epidemic
The opioid crisis has torn apart families in Ohio. we must do more...
Every single day 14 Ohioans overdose on opioids, and this number is rising. Ohio’s opioid death toll increased by 33% between 2015 and 2016 alone. These aren’t statistics, they are people who are suffering the failures of bad representation, failed legislation, and predatory drug companies and drug dealers. For too long, Rep. Jim Jordan has been willfully negligent of the problem and has failed to secure any government funds to address this issue. He has shown that he is indifferent to the opioid crisis. There is no mention of the opioid crisis on his website and he voted for cuts to Medicaid that would make fighting the opioid epidemic even more difficult. Contrary to what Rep. Jordan believes, the opioid crisis - and the lives of Ohioans suffering from addiction - warrant government action.
I will take action for the people of the 4th District and for Ohio as a whole to protect them from opioid abuse. I support federal legislation that would combat this epidemic by providing funding to support community organizing, public education campaigns, treatment programs, and increased law enforcement and judicial programs designed to heal addicts and protect society.
For many people opioid addiction begins with legal, medically prescribed pain medication. Every one of the hundreds of millions of pills that enter our communities every year travels a path that begins with the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute pain medication. After these drugs are created and marketed they end up in pharmacies where patients purchase them with a doctor’s prescription. As this epidemic has worsened each link in this distribution chain has failed. In order to end this epidemic in Ohio we need to change the way opioids are manufactured, distributed, purchased and prescribed.
Manufacturing and Distributions
Use of opioids as a pain killer grew rapidly in the 1990s when Pharmaceutical companies making the drugs began aggressively marketing the drug as a safe and effective way for doctors to dull their patient’s pain. This advertising was misleading and highly exaggerated. We now know that these drugs are in fact very risky in certain situations. As your congresswoman I will push the government to do everything in its power to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for this misleading marketing by supporting lawsuits and legislation that sets strict penalties for false advertisement of medicine. When we win these lawsuits, we must also ensure that the money goes straight to treatment and prevention programs that have the potential to halt this epidemic.
Even more disturbingly, we now know that pharmacies were aware that certain communities were purchasing absurd quantities of opioids. It should never be the case that there are more prescriptions for painkillers in a community than there are people in that community. We must hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for this negligent action and ensure that our laws are clear and enforceable when it comes to the over distribution of prescription drugs. As your congresswoman, I will empower the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to investigate and take on the pharmaceutical companies that are engaging in these actions.
Prescriptions for opioids are filled by pharmacies that engage personally with their clients. When ridiculous amounts of opioids are passing through a pharmacy that should be cause for an investigation. In many cases pharmacies around the country failed to meet their legal obligation to prevent controlled substances from being distributed for illicit purposes. I believe that pharmacies should be legally required to report sales information to the DEA and should be especially required to flag cases where the distribution of prescriptions clearly goes beyond the needs of a community. While Pharmaceutical companies bear responsibility for false marketing and obviously excessive distribution of drugs, pharmacies have the most direct link to the communities struggling with addiction. This link comes with a responsibility to identify situations where drugs are likely being abused.
One of the most disturbing elements of this epidemic is that in many cases people are suffering as a direct result of the medication doctors prescribed to them. At the beginning of this epidemic doctors approach the prescription of pain medication with noble goals. They were trying to address people’s pain in an effective way. Unfortunately, this quickly spun out of control. In many cases prescriptions were given out that lasted far longer than the patient’s pain. This left many people with leftover pills. In these cases, doctors were under informed or mistaken in their approaches leading to disastrous effects. In other cases however, doctors were running pill mills by trading prescriptions for cash. This was criminal and these doctors must be held accountable. In order to deal with both of these cases we must educate the public about the risks of opioids and educate doctors about the risks in prescribing them. Doctors caught running pill mills should face criminal drug distribution charges. Nationally congress can regulate opioid prescription by applying all opioids to a stricter regulatory schedule and by limiting the number of opioids that doctors can prescribe. I will push for these approaches.
To beat a problem this large, we must all work together. One of my first steps as representative would be to convene a committee of the Fourth Congressional district’s community leaders. This group would include school district officials, health care workers, judges, and members of law enforcement. This task force will allow for streamlined communication with my office between all of those who are jointly fighting to stop deaths from opioid abuse. It is essential that as representative I am beholden to the people I represent. In Congress, I will take regular input from this task force and utilize it to argue for better laws that will protect every person in our state from the scourge of addiction. This legislation will ensure that our district is approaching this daunting task from all angles, but most importantly that we are tackling opioid addiction with the people affected at the front of our minds.
Any solution to the opioid crisis must also focus on public education. For this reason, I support the Attorney General’s plan to implement a K-12 drug prevention education program in all schools and run a statewide drug prevention media campaign. It is imperative to reach children, both in and out of school, while they are young to show them the dangers of abusing opioids. By setting the mindset early to avoid misuse of opioid drugs, we can save lives.
I believe that my role as representative does not stop with taking preventative measures. There need to be steps taken to help the people already affected by addiction. One-way I will accomplish this is by making Naloxone readily available. Naloxone is the medicine used to save the lives of those who overdosed on opioids. All of our first responders should have Naloxone and be trained to administer it. Pharmacists should also have the discretion to give Naloxone to those who have been trained by drug therapy groups and are caregivers to those fighting addiction. I will also make strategic partnerships with clean syringe programs that already exist in Ohio. This would help reduce the rate of HIV - one that has been rising in recent years. We must work to save lives across the state, giving people new opportunities to succeed.
Lastly, I know that integrating back into society after an opioid addiction is difficult and can cause people to fall back into the deadly cycle of drug abuse. Because of this, I support instituting a program to incentivize business owners to hire recovering addicts and give them a way to provide for themselves. By helping individuals get control of their lives we can cure addiction on a person by person basis.
Any successful drug prevention program needs the help of law enforcement. I will work to connect local law enforcement to Ohio’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and will strengthen their lines of communication. Through these connections, local law enforcement will be able to track illicit drugs with greater certainty and stop the influx of illegal opioids into our community. This will ensure that the government is taking the right steps to protect people from violent drug conflict.
I also support the construction of drug courts. These would be similar to criminal courts but would focus on reducing the chance of relapse and of recidivism from crime. New drug courts would seek to funnel non-violent drug offenders into substance abuse programs as opposed to jail. These courts have proven effective and have even saved costs ranging from $3,000 to $13,000 per defendant.