Ohio lawmaker’s comprehensive approach to addiction crisis: What is it?

An Ohio lawmaker plans to introduce a package of bills that will address the opioid crisis in the state. FILE
An Ohio lawmaker plans to introduce a package of bills that will address the opioid crisis in the state. FILE

The package of bills being pushed by Ohio Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, to address an “outside-the-box” approach to the opioid crisis is broken into four areas.

Butler, who is up for re-election this fall, says he intends to introduce a series of bills that would touch on various aspects of the crisis that has crippled the state. It could be introduced after the November election.

Here’s a look at the plan and what it hopes to accomplish:

Part 1:

The first part of the bill Butler plans to introduce involves expanding treatment for addicts. He’s looking at extending the 30-to-90-day treatment options to as many as three years.

“The treatment that we currently offer for people who are suffering from addiction — especially severe addiction — is not very effective,” he said. “It is only effective less than 10 percent of the time, people relapse six or seven times before they really are able to stay clean. I think we can do a lot better.”

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Butler said if a person can stay clean for a three-year period, their chances for relapse goes down by 90 percent.

“The scientific evidence backs that up,” he said.

An estimated 114 people a day die because of drugs, and more than 6,700 will be treated in emergency rooms for treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is costly as the average cost for rehabilitation is around $1,000 a day, Butler said.

The bill would make create a lengthy voluntary in-patient treatment option, he said.

“This part of the bill would allow people, either voluntarily or as part of the criminal justice system, to opt into it if they’re severely addicted and commit a low-level crime,” Butler said. “They will be able to work to help pay for the cost of their treatment, which is also very therapeutic but that helps to offset the cost because one of the things that is an issue.”

There would also be an option for out-patient based on the recommendation of a medical professional, he said.

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Part 2:

The second component would be the state’s approach in treating drug traffikcers, which penalties he said are “a slap on the wrist” and have give alleged dealers incentive to cooperate.

“The penalties in Ohio for drug trafficking are pathetically weak. And what we need to do then is to increase the penalties. Right now the lowest level is a fifth-degree felony,” Butler said. “But because of the legislation that’s passed you can’t send anybody with a fourth degree or fifth degree felony on their first offense to prison.”

He’s proposing to increase the drug trafficking to a second-degree felony, “which is the same as armed robbery.”

“The selling of drugs is done for profit and people die,” he said. “If you’re robbing a bank or holding up a convenience store, you’re doing it for money and people can die. I think those are the same types of offenses.”

Part 3:

The third part is another voluntary option for those who are not a risk to society. He’d rather people be monitored with a tracking bracelet if they are someone who are found in contempt of court because they failed to pay child support, embezzled or stole money, or committed an offense where they didn’t physically harm anybody. It would be a double the sentence though, and commit to weekend community service, he said.

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“If they got three years for embezzlement, then they have six years of wearing the tracking bracelet, being free to come and go during the week though they ‘d be closely monitored, of course, but then every weekend unless it’s an emergency then they would have to show up and work those two 12-hour shifts,” Butler said.

Part 4:

The final piece of the package of bills deals with a combination of education and prescription drugs.

“It’s a lot more based on prevention,” Butler said.

If someone is on a prescription drug after undergoing a surgical procedure, like having their wisdom teeth pulled or for some other type of minor surgery, that they’re not given a 60-day supply opioids.

“That’s either way too much and the patient themselves can get addicted, or it gets pilfered or diverted and those drugs can potentially end up in the wrong hands,” Butler said.