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Finding common ground



Published: Sat, October 19, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

COLUMBUS

There’s a lot of contention here at the Statehouse between Republicans and Democrats and Republicans and Republicans and Democrats and Democrats.

Debates over issues like Medicaid expansion, abortion, school funding and tax policy rightfully grab headlines and public attention.

But there’s also a lot of agreement that occurs on a daily basis during committee hearings and floor sessions, with lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle nodding or shaking their heads in unison.

Take prescription drug abuse.

Lawmakers have already passed legislation to combat so-called “pill mills,” which were doling out more addictive narcotics than their patients could possibly consume for medically necessary or legal purposes.

New guidelines

Earlier this month, Gov. John Kasich’s administration also announced new guidelines for prescribing higher doses of prescription painkillers, with an eye toward avoiding addiction and more closely monitoring pill distribution.

Last week, the Ohio House moved legislation allowing quicker access to a drug that counteracts the effects of heroin and similar drugs to treat overdose victims.

And an Ohio House committee has unveiled a series of recommendations to continue the fight.

The Prescription Drug Addiction and Healthcare Reform Legislative Study Committee hosted four hearings around the state, where members heard 16 hours of testimony from 81 witnesses on the scope of the problem.

“There were enough doses of opioids legally dispensed last year for every man, woman and child in Ohio to have almost 70 doses,” said Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, chairman of the committee. “We heard that in an effort to aggressively treat pain in our society that the pendulum has swung too far, that pain is now being over-treated and the result is a public health epidemic of prescription drug and heroin addiction.”

Last week, the committee offered a number of law changes to address the issue, including:

Establishing a “Dial 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law” to protect addicts when calling emergency responders in cases of potential overdose.

Requiring pharmacists to check a valid photo ID before providing pills.

Prescribing certain prescription painkillers in 10-day increments, rather than providing 30-day supplies.

Requiring parental consent when prescribing certain painkillers to teens.

Requiring hospice and other locations to keep close track of painkillers and lock supplies in medicine boxes.

Requiring pharmacists to check the state’s online database to ensure patients wanting more drugs haven’t already purchased supplies from others.

There’s a lot more in the report — warning labels on prescription opioids, a bolstered public awareness campaign of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, specialty courts to ensure those convicted of drug-related crimes get the treatment they need, etc. — and lawmakers already have indicated their intentions to introduce legislation to codify some of the recommendations.

That should mean more bipartisan agreement on an issue that Republicans and Democrats have been working together to address.

Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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