Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tackling Ohio’s Drug Abuse Problem

Guest Column from State Representative Jim Buchy

Treating drug addiction costs Ohio taxpayers about $3.5 billion each year. The effects that drugs have on families and communities are even more devastating. Over the past few years, the Ohio House of Representatives has increased its focus on finding ways to crack down on this terrible problem so as to help individuals affected by drugs and to reduce the burden on taxpayers who are on the hook to fund rehabilitation programs.

Problems especially associated with substances like heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs are in all 88 of Ohio’s counties. We must remain diligent in making people understand the dangers of becoming addicted to these drugs and promoting the incentives to not travel down that path.

I firmly believe the best way to keep people from getting hooked on drugs is a strong economy. The focus of me and my Republican colleagues in the House has been to put in place policies that will promote job creation. When people have more opportunities in life—such as being employed—they tend not to get involved with those life-destroying substances in the first place.

It is when people do not see the opportunities to provide for themselves or their families that they seek “help,” which in this case is obviously the wrong kind of help. Letting people lift themselves up with a solid job, a good income and a sense of responsibility leads not only to greater economic growth, but a stronger society in general.

Over the previous summer, some members of the House held informal hearings across the state to further study this issue and to seek input from the public on how best to overcome it. I commend the chairman of that committee, Rep. Robert Sprague of Findlay, for his outstanding leadership. Because of his work and the work of the committee members, we will see various pieces of legislation being introduced in the coming months.

One bill that was already introduced would enact a “Good Samaritan Law” in Ohio, which simply states that if a person calls in an emergency of someone who they suspect has overdosed on a dangerous drug, then that person is safe from prosecution. The purpose of this is to encourage people to seek help if they need it so that lives can be saved.

This is a problem that we all hope can be solved, but it will not just simply go away. Drug abuse has the power to destroy families and communities. Overcoming this problem will remain a serious focus of the state legislature in near and ongoing future.

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