Senate District 14
Joe Uecker
Confronting the Opiate Epidemic
A Guest Column By State Senator Joe Uecker
June 27, 2016

With 23 deaths per week from heroin alone, opiate overdoses have claimed more lives than the Vietnam War.

Addiction takes different forms in every community, and it's no secret that the opiate epidemic has infiltrated the communities of Ohio’s 14th Senate District.

This epidemic has hit us in full force, ravaging the lives of rich and poor, black and white, urban and rural. Many individuals who are prescribed common narcotics, such as morphine and oxycotin, end up facing addiction. Unfortunately, they will likely end up moving from prescription pills to even harder drugs such as heroin that are more affordable and accessible.

Combatting a problem as complex as the opiate epidemic requires that everyone in the community work together. Researchers must offer insight into populations that are most heavily impacted by addiction to help target and provide intervention effort, and courts should continue to treat opiate addicts more like patients and less like criminals. Here in the Ohio Senate, we will continue to introduce and pass laws that strengthen our chance to win in this battle.

Last month, we moved one step closer to defeating this epidemic with the passage of Senate Bill 319.

One way we are strengthening our efforts with this legislation is by limiting the availability of on-hand opioids by restricting high-volume prescriptions. Rather than having an unlimited quantity of pills in a prescription, patients would be limited to a 90 day supply for any opiate prescription, and prescriptions not used within 30 days would be invalidated.

Senate Bill 319 also invests in responsible treatment for Ohioans with opiate addictions in several key ways. As you may know, Suboxone is a substance that is often used to deter opiate dependence. The bill requires that addiction treatment facilities treating 30 or more individuals with Suboxone be licensed by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy in hopes of preventing misuse of the substance.

Since 2013, pharmacy technicians have played a role in more than one-third of all drug theft cases that were investigated by the State of Ohio. Senate Bill 319 seeks to improve oversight for pharmacy technicians and healthcare providers with access to controlled substances by requiring them to register with the Board of Pharmacy to help ensure uniform background checks and access to continuing education.

Although we are making progress, the war against opiate addiction will not be won overnight. We must continue to confront the opiate epidemic by pooling our tools and resources together.

Senate Bill 319 helps build upon legislation that Governor Kasich signed into law last year to make nalaxone - a drug which reverses or blocks the effects of opioids - available without a

Nalaxone has saved many lives in the state of Ohio. In order to make it more available, we created a program called Project Dawn. This program distributes emergency medical kits with nalaxone in the case of overdose. Now, emergency personnel have the ability to use nalaxone when called to the scene of an overdose.

Opiate abuse is a battle that we must face on all fronts. As deaths from accidental overdose continue to increase, we must continue to strengthen our efforts until we are able to reclaim the State of Ohio from opiate addiction – for those who suffer from addiction, for their loved ones and for our communities.

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