Top Democrats in the Ohio Senate, including a 2018 gubernatorial candidate, are suggesting that the state take $200 million from its $2-billion "rainy day fund" to combat the expanding opiate addiction crisis. Sens. Joe Schiavoni (running for governor) and Kenny Yuko introduced the legislation this week.
“This bill would allow us to start addressing the opioid crisis immediately and send resources where they’d be most useful,” Schiavoni said in a public statement. Most of the money would be funneled directly to local government budgets for agencies like Cuyahoga County's ADAMHS board
or to treatment facilities capable of expanding their bed count
Schiavoni continued: “Every community is struggling to get a handle on this epidemic, but Columbus’ needs may be different than East Liverpool’s. With this infusion of dollars, local communities will have the flexibility to use these funds where they believe they will have the most impact.”
Gov. John Kasich, meanwhile, opposes the bill. The "rainy day fund," his office argues, is meant as a fallback safeguard in the event that a future budget cannot be balanced properly. (The senators point out that there'd still be $1.8 billion left in the fund to address future budget shortfalls.)
Kasich has pointed to the Opiate Action Team
's $1 billion in statewide investment as evidence that things are already being taken care of.
But by all observable accounts, the opiate addiction crisis is only getting worse in Ohio. More people are dying in more cities; powerful fentanyl analogues are being cut into the heroin supply from Cincinnati to Cleveland; law enforcement's resources, already trimmed down to maddening levels by the state's overseers, are being siphoned off disproportionately to overdose response services.
Schiavoni and Yuko, in other words, are arguing that this is no time to rest on laurels. Ohioans are dying en masse.
“The opiate epidemic shows no signs of letting up. Today alone, it will claim the lives of close to eight Ohioans,” Yuko said. “Under the Republicans’ current plan, this crisis will claim many more lives before any real results are seen. Our bill supplies the state with the funds to effectively address the opiate epidemic as it tears through our communities now. It also gives us the knowledge we so desperately need to properly appropriate funds and achieve the most impactful outcomes long-term for the citizens of Ohio.”