CINCINNATI -- With the Tri-State amidst a spate of 70 heroin overdoses in three days, Gov. John Kasich called for judges to join with their communities to push back against Ohio's drug abuse epidemic Thursday afternoon at the Netherland Plaza Hotel Downtown.
"At the end of the day it’s up to you and your community as to what you are going to do about these kids," Kasich said.
So why are we seeing this spike of overdose deaths now? At the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative, Kasich told judges from nine surrounding states a story of how when he got his wisdom teeth pulled, he ate some ice cream, slept it off and went back to school a couple days later.
"Today, they give you 25 oxycontins," Kasich said. "We got to a point where these drugs became so available that they became viewed as unimportant ... We have a whole generation that grew up without any regard for these pills. A generation that never understood the lethality of this medication."
Watch a segment of Kasich's address in the video player below.
Frequently mentioning the dangers of drugs with children is key to early prevention, Kasich said, referencing his "Start Talking!" drug prevention program and the Five Minutes for Life program, which has Ohio State Troopers, Ohio National Guard members and local law enforcement talk for five minutes with students about drug-free lifestyles.
Kasich remains positive that we're starting to see positive change, saying "we've got to fight to save" younger generations. Calling opiate painkillers and medications the gateway to heroin for young people, Kasich was happy to report that 81 million fewer opiates are being dispensed per day than in the last couple year, millions fewer prescriptions for pain pills are being written and that "doctor shopping" has decreased.
One of Kasich's biggest achievements, he says, is expanding Medicaid to allow 400,000 people to get treatment for their drug addictions.
"Some reporter called me and said, 'You have 3,000 people who died; how’s that make you feel?' I said, ‘It makes me feel terrible, but what makes me feel good is how many people did not die because of our efforts and what we’re doing in the state of Ohio.' "
Review WCPO reporters's live coverage of the event in the box below.
State Supreme Court justices and other high-ranking officials huddled Wednesday to discuss ways to coordinate efforts to battle the drug abuse epidemic in a judicial summit involving some of the hardest-hit states.
Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor stressed the need for improving collaboration across borders and jurisdictions at the opening of the three-day conference. Among initial priorities are identifying best practices for testing and treatment services and increasing access to prescription drug data.
The Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative is meant to begin continuing regional planning and action on opioid abuse, mainly from prescription painkillers and heroin. The states participating are Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia were among the five states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2014, while Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia were among 14 states that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified with significant drug overdose death rate increases from 2013 to 2014.
Dan Sewell of the Associated Press and WCPO reporter Jordan Burgess contributed to this report.
For all our coverage on the region's heroin crisis, go to wcpo.com/heroin