Attorney General Mike DeWine outlined a 12-point initiative to respond to the opioid crisis while speaking at Valley View High School in Germantown this afternoon.
DeWine, also seeking the Republican nomination for Ohio governor, said the pharmaceutical industry should help pay for the costs of the proposed recovery initiatives, highlighting the potential to use settlement money from a pending lawsuit that alleges big drug manufacturers played a role in creating the opioid overdose crisis.
DeWine said the pharmaceutical manufacturers “laid waste to our state as only the worst plague could.”
“Despite making billions — and it is billions of dollars — from these drugs, they’ve done comparatively little to help with substance use disorder or to keep kids of drugs or to correct the opioid over-prescribing culture that they created,” DeWine said.
DeWine’s plan includes creating at least 60 more specialized drug courts, expand drug task force models, expand early intervention programs that target Ohio families and children in foster care, double substance abuse treatment capacity, and institute drug prevention education in all schools.
DeWine said the state is in a public health crisis that needs a broad response that matches the depth of the emergency.
To improve the ability of law enforcement to disrupt the drug trade, DeWine said the state needs the data infrastructure to connect law enforcement agencies and give all Ohio agencies access to shared data like how many times police have been to a certain home or who was all in a car when pulled over.
He highlighted a number of ideas to connect businesses to the recovery effort. He said he frequently hears from business owners who can’t find enough people to work who can pass a drug test.
DeWine said he would like to use the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation if to keep them in the job and work with the employer to pay for a portion of the health care costs to pay for a treatment program.
He also said the state could give incentives to companies to hire people in recovery, reducing the risk for hiring people who have completed a treatment program by providing protection for the employer from a workers comp increase should an employee relapse and cause a work-related accident.
The most expansive part of the plan is DeWine’s proposal to double the capacity in the state for substance abuse treatment.
“This is by far the most expensive item we’re talking about,” he said.
This could be done better using hospital capacity and driving more money through local mental health services.
DeWine acknowledged it could take months or years to potentially reach a settlement with the drug manufacturers that could help finance these projects.
However, he said there are smaller, lower costs initiatives that the state could do now. Schools could adopt existing prevention curriculum, and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has funds available that could be used for the programs he has suggested.
“Some of these things can be done right away. Some of them, you know if you don’t have the money they simply cannot be done. But some can be done now,” DeWine said.