Sen. Rob Portman says more is needed to fight drug epidemic


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

Portman visits Neil Kennedy clinic

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Sen. Rob Portman visited the Neil Kennedy recovery clinic on Friday to discuss the opioid epidemic in the Valley.

YOUNGSTOWN

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said more must be done to fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic.

Portman, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, on Friday visited the Neil Kennedy Recovery Center on the city’s South Side to discuss the drug crisis.

“Ohio has become one of the top states in the country for heroin, prescription drugs and now fentanyl – which is a synthetic heroin – overdoses and deaths, and the Mahoning Valley is, unfortunately, about 20 percent ahead of the rest of the state in terms of those same grim statistics,” Portman said.

Portman’s Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act – CARA – signed into law last year, authorizes $181 million annually for programs aimed at strengthening prevention, treatment and recovery services.

Portman also introduced two bills to help prevent drug abuse.

One proposal requires parcels sent through the U.S. Postal Service from overseas to collect information in digital form. Drug traffickers, he said, are mailing fentanyl and other drugs through the mail.

“Our legislation simply says let’s get at the problem here, which is on the supply side, which is coming through the mail system unbelievably,” Portman said. “Our U.S. mail system is not requiring the kind of information the private carriers require. Therefore, the traffickers are using the mail system to send this stuff. Mostly it’s made in China, in laboratories in China, and it’s sent here. It’s killing the people I represent, so our legislation says let’s require the post office to help law enforcement by providing information so they can target these suspicious packages and try to stop some of this stuff.”

Another proposal “requires every pharmacy and doctor to use what’s called the prescription drug monitoring system,” he said.

It requires drug dispensers to report to that system each opioid prescription they dispense to patients within 24 hours, requires practitioners to consult the system before prescribing opioids to patients and requires states to notify practitioners when the system shows a patient has a pattern of opioid misuse.

“In a lot of cases here in Ohio, people have gone across state lines and got prescriptions filled and fill them here,” Portman said. “This requires there be interstate communication on that to avoid some of that over-prescribing. We’re continuing to fight, but everyone needs to engage.”

Portman said he’s pleased President Donald Trump announced a new commission to address the drug epidemic.

He added, however, “I do think we do know what the problem is and it’s time for us to turn to action. I think what [the commission] ought to do, among other things, is aggressively implement the programs that have already passed the Congress. Most of them haven’t been implemented yet.”

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