Ohio Works to Address Drug Abuse Among State’s Kids

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and lawmakers have taken action toward addressing the drug abuse epidemic in the state's schools.

First, DeWine created a 22-member Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education, and then he gave them 90 days to research the issue and come up with ideas to recommend to him and state legislators. The aim is to find a "comprehensive, age-appropriate drug use prevention education" for pupils from kindergarten age to 12th grade, according to Alan Johnson, reporting for The Columbus Dispatch.

DeWine said the problem needs to be approached culturally much like the tactics employed by the campaign against smoking. The AG and the committee members have not yet specified what the drug education will entail or how much it might cost.

After his announcement, DeWine, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina), House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), and committee members held their first meeting. Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay), one of the team's members, said he believes the report will not languish, pointing to a recent legislative group which studied opiates.

The result of that initiative was 11 different pieces of legislation, which included proposals on pill mills, "doctor shopping," recovery housing, and a Good Samaritan law. The new committee will review existing drug education programs and gather data for the final report and suggestions.

One state lawmaker said Ohio is about to "hack at the roots" of the state's drug overdose plague.

"It's the worst drug epidemic in my lifetime," Mr. DeWine said. "It's pervasive. It's everywhere. It's in all 88 counties. It's among every social group, every economic group."

Ohio's legislators have expanded access to Naloxone, a drug that can be used to counteract the effects of a drug overdose. But the committee is being formed after recent legislation was passed that will legalize marijuana for medicinal use, writes The Blade's Jim Provance.

And even before the state builds the infrastructure of growing, testing, and dispensing marijuana, the law seems to say that judges and law enforcement officers can avert their eyes from those who use cannabis from other sources than the state if they have a debilitating disease that is covered under the law.

The Circleville Herald quoted Sen. Faber on the state's commitment to drug abuse prevention and education:

"As a state we've made great strides in raising awareness about the opioid epidemic and making life-saving treatment more readily available, but we still have work to do," said Senate President Faber. "I look forward to working with Attorney General DeWine and other members of this committee to bring the fight against opioid abuse into the classroom so our children can grow up in a healthy, drug-free environment."

When asked which drugs the program would be targeting, DeWine answered that people in Ohio are dying because of the abuse and misuse of prescription pain pills, other opiates, and heroin. He said he was confident that the committee would target these drugs, reports Mike McCarthy of The Associated Press.

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