There were those who thought that Ohio’s new governor, John Kasich, was being heavy handed when he pursued legislation that would allow the state to crack down on pill mills, where prescription drugs were being handed out almost like candy.
Kasich can be accused of overreaching with some of his legislative initiatives, but when it comes to prescription-drug abuse, his approach was justified.
Some areas of the state have been harder hit by prescription drug abuse than others, but no area is immune. The poster child for the initiative was Scioto County, where 9.7 million prescriptions were filled for fewer than 80,000 people one year. That’s about 125 prescriptions for every man, woman and child.
Kasich was joined early on by Ohio’s new Attorney General, Mike DeWine, who supported House Bill 93 and even before its passage appointed attorneys in his office to launch a crackdown on prescription drug abuse.
H.B. 93, which Kasich signed May 20, enhances Ohio’s computerized system to help identify extensive prescription-drug use, limits prescribers’ ability to personally furnish certain drugs, improves licensing of and law enforcement involving pain-management clinics, and develops a statewide prescription-drug “take-back” program.
Last month, Kasich signed an executive order giving the State Medical Board the power to take immediate action against pill mills while the final rules for implementing the law are being written.
The governor and DeWine are moving quickly against a killer that established a grip on the state with few people — except the families of those who died — taking note.
In 2007, drug abuse deaths in the state of Ohio exceeded traffic deaths for the first time and about 40 percent of those deaths were attributable to prescription drugs. In the decade between 1999 and 2009, drug abuse deaths in the state more than quadrupled, from 327 to 1,373.
And down in Scioto County, where there were 125 prescriptions for every resident, there were 117 drug overdose deaths between 2000 and 2008.
On Monday, Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy, was at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to talk about the Obama administration’s 2011 National Drug Control Strategy and how it could help Ohio’s efforts against drugs. DeWine was there. Kerlikowske noted Ohio’s recent success in shutting down some of its souther pill mills, but said that federal agents can help stem the distribution of other drugs in the tri-state area.
It will take federal, state and local efforts to reduce drug trafficking of all kinds. To help local departments take on this new initiative, DeWine has pledged the support of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.