Editorial: State legislators are speaking up for a heroin emergency. Good for them.

Posted at 11:23 AM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 11:23:58-04

Kudos to the Ohio legislators who stood up this week and demanded stronger action from Gov. Kasich on the heroin crisis.

They’ve realized that we can’t keep doing what we’re doing, trying to respond to the onslaught in the usual way with the usual resources.

What’s needed is an official statewide emergency to raise awareness of the crisis and to immediately make money and people available to all the communities in Ohio reeling from drugs.

Editorial: Governor, declare a heroin emergency

On Thursday, three state legislators from upstate publicly called on Kasich to declare a statewide emergency. They joined Rep. Denise Driehaus of Cincinnati, who last week called on the governor to declare an emergency and free up at least $400 million to help communities handle the crisis.

The governor’s spokesperson, Emmalee Kalmbach, responded with a statement:

“The governor believes it takes a bipartisan, comprehensive and community-centered plan of action to fight this tragic drug epidemic and we welcome the Representatives’ help. The governor is treating this drug epidemic with a sense of emergency and understands the heartbreak the drug epidemic has brought to families and communities and that is why he has aggressively taken steps over the past six years to stay on the leading edge of this ever-evolving problem.”

We agree that a bipartisan, comprehensive and community-centered plan is needed. And a statewide emergency would be a good start.

The recent spate of overdoses has brought into focus just how serious the problem is. It is an emergency, and one that’s been allowed to grow until now it has become a catastrophe.

In the last five years, just in Ohio, 8,584 people have died from heroin or another opioid. Indiana and Kentucky have similar per capita death rates from the drug.

Advocates have pointed out, rightly, that if that many people were dying from any other disease (and addiction is a disease) public health emergencies would have been declared long ago.

This disease demands urgent attention not only from public health but also from law enforcement. Kasich could immediately muster resources from both.

Police believe that fentanyl and carfentanil, both far deadlier than heroin, are causing the recent overdoses. These drugs, they believe, are not being diverted from hospitals or doctors' offices, but are being illicitly manufactured and smuggled into the country and then into our communities. That is an urgent law enforcement issue that Kasich could use his substantial executive powers to help with.

Ohio – and our neighboring states – are in crisis. It’s beyond time for official recognition of that with a public declaration of an emergency. And we hope other lawmakers take up the call.

Send your own message to the governor. Here's his contact information:

Governor John Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117

Phone: (614) 466-3555 


On Twitter: @JohnKasich


Kevin Necessary’s recent cartoon on the overdose crisis