Ohio House Republicans add $170M to fighting opiate epidemic

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Lawmakers are making a point to prioritize the opiate crisis in Ohio with budget revisions that would add millions of dollars to fight the epidemic plaguing our communities.

House Republicans are making big changes to Governor Kasich’s budget, focusing on the opiate epidemic. On Tuesday, lawmakers unveiled their budget revisions hoping to add $170 million to fight the drug crisis.

Scott VanDerKarr, a retired Franklin County judge, left the bench to fight the opiate epidemic full-time. He said $170 million is a good start to get people help.

“It’s a lot, but by itself, there’s 88 counties, multiple that times two and you’ve already spent the money,” he said. “It’s $2 million per county. In a very small county, $2 million might have a great impact. In Franklin County, you need $10-20 million.”

House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith said they want to fund detox and treatment centers, as well as, transitional housing and job programs, to help break the cycle of addiction. He said they’ve also included money for pilot programs, like creating more drug courts and utilizing empty beds in nursing homes. They’re also partnering with Ohio State to develop a smartphone app.

VanDerKarr agrees many of these things are desperately needed.

“We’re literally losing a generation and that costs you the taxpayers, children and children services. You’re losing your workforce, more people are on financial aide,” he said. “It’s a start and when you add it to other funds that are out there from a federal basis, then you start getting somewhere.”

The budget is expected to go to the Senate next week. A final version must be approved by June 30th, which marks the end of the current fiscal year.

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