MASON, Ohio -- Ohio's attorney general came to Mason Wednesday to get a firsthand look at an innovative treatment plan for the heroin epidemic.
Mike DeWine visited HOPE Center North because of its three-pronged program of treatment. He left with suggestions to fund more treatment, perhaps by charging a penny tax on every opiate pill a doctor prescribes.
DeWine was frank with HOPE Center North staffers assessing the fight against heroin.
"I think the situation continues to deteriorate and get worse," he said. "I don't think we've bottomed out. That's the bad news."
The good news, DeWine said, is work being done at places like HOPE Center North with treatment using drugs like methadone, suboxone and vivitrol.
But the center is seeing a disturbing new trend in heroin use: some children as young as 15 trying it.
Dr. Jolomi Ikomi, the medical director of addiction services, said heroin affects the development of the brain.
"What happens is, these individuals are not able to cope with stress like normal adults would be," Ikomi said. "It leads to more impulsive behavior and more cravings for increased use."
When DeWine asked for suggestions on solutions to the problem, Dr. Clifford Cabansag spoke up.
"Penny per pill opiod tax," Cabansag said. "That would not be an undue burden atop the consumer. It's reasonable."
He shared another suggestion:
"If law enforcement agencies are making drug busts, then it only follows that if assets are seized, shouldn't some of that go toward treatment?"
The goal is more funding for treatment.
"As long as it is more convenient to use than it is to get treatment, people are going to continue to use," Cabansag said.
DeWine said he appreciated the suggestions, but wasn't sure if they'd fly politically.
Another suggestion was for a statewide coordinator of services. DeWine said he also liked that idea, but the best treatment is at the local level.