Sen. Sherrod Brown: Medicaid is 'most important tool' in battling opioid epidemic

Posted at 12:21 PM, Jul 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 18:10:02-04

CINCINNATI -- Sen. Sherrod Brown met with law enforcement officials and addiction specialists Thursday to discuss Medicaid's role for those dealing with opioid addiction.

Thursday’s roundtable discussion at Talbert House addressed potential implications if Medicaid is cut by the Republican health care bill currently being debated in the Senate. Ohio heroin experts say people will struggle getting treatment if Medicaid is cut.

“When you have a public health crisis like this, you address it with public health dollars, and that's why Medicaid is so important,” Brown said.

Editorial: WCPO heroin experts say Medicaid is essential to fighting the drug problem

Margo Spence is the executive director of First Step Home, a drug treatment center for women and young children in Walnut Hills.

Spence said 95 percent of her clients are on Medicaid, adding they would not have access to the program without it.

In addition to speaking with local experts, Brown heard from people who have felt addiction's force firsthand. 

Joe Crowder’s daughter struggled with an addiction to prescription pain pills before she started using heroin.

“We would literally pray that she would be arrested so we would know that she was safe — know where she was at,” Crowder said.

She eventually sought treatment after being arrested in Hamilton County. She has been clean for four months, and Crowder said this is the first time he has seen a change in her behavior.

“Without the Medicare expansion, if this continued she wouldn't be here. I would have lost my daughter. She'd be buried,” Crowder said.

Brown said Medicaid is “the most important tool” the state of Ohio has to fight opiate addiction.

“Some people say you just do a federal grant to fix this. No, you need insurance, you need counseling and education and medication assisted therapy and intervention and real wraparound health care,” Brown said.

Brown criticized President Donald Trump’s proposed budget in May, saying his proposal will cut programs working to address the opioid epidemic and leave communities strapped for needed resources to support working Ohio families.

Brown teamed up with Sen. Rob Portman on the INTERDICT and STOP acts this year, which help prevent fentanyl from reaching Ohio by giving agents additional resources to screen for the deadly drug.

Portman visited the Adams Recovery Center for Women Wednesday to discuss the region’s opioid epidemic with those who have graduated from the program.

Gov. John Kasich stood against fellow Republicans Friday when he vetoed a proposed freeze of Medicaid expansion, which provides health insurance to 700,000 low-income Ohioans.

Republican lawmakers couldn’t reach the votes needed to override Kasich's veto Thursday.

After much debate both inside and outside the House Republican caucus, the majority did not bring up the Medicaid expansion freeze for an override vote, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

Brown was joined Thursday by representatives from the Talbert House, law enforcement, the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office, First Step Home, University Hospital and Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.