Candidates for governor weigh in on proposals to help solve the state's opioid crisis

Posted at 10:10 PM, Oct 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-19 06:41:05-04

More Americans will die this year from the opioid crisis than died during the entire Vietnam War.

It is one of the biggest looming issues for the next Governor of Ohio and now we’re learning more about what each candidate for that office is proposing in order to stop it.

Nan Whaley, as Mayor of Dayton, has seen first-hand how the opioid epidemic is destroying lives. As a democratic candidate for the Governor of Ohio, she’s proposing a tax on opioids to help stop it.

“Well what we suggest is a nickel per dose surcharge on every pill that’s in the state of Ohio,” she said.

A surcharge, Whaley suggested, will be paid for entirely by prescription drug companies and generate $31.5 million for the state every year.

Whaley proposed using the revenue to fund local police and fire departments, treatment facilities and psychiatric hospitals.

“The opioid addiction issue is top of mind. Ohio loses $5.4 million every single day in workforce losses because of opioid addiction. It’s tied to our workforce issues; it’s tied to our quality of life,” she said.

Progress has been slow in Ohio, where there are more overdose deaths than any other state in the country. The next Governor will have their work cut out for them.

Whaley’s plan prompted News 5 to ask each of the seven other candidates for Governor what their plan was to curb the crisis. Of them, six got back to us.

Democrat Connie Pillich sent us her five point plan:

1. Employment – work to create jobs, especially in rural communities, as a critical prevention measure.

2. Prevention and education – raise awareness and teach doctors, teachers, family-members, and other community leaders how to speak about abuse.

3. Treatment – we must treat addicts as patients seeking help, not as criminals. Connie supports increasing state funds for recovery programs for any Ohioan who wants to get clean.

4. Enforcement – instead of arresting patients, we need to focus on stopping street drug dealers and cracking down on “pill mills” that have made painkillers overly accessible.

5. Family Support – make sure we break the cycle of addiction, by reversing the Kasich Administration’s policy of cuts to critical services like children’s services and mentorship programs to give the children and relatives of addicts the chance to live clean, healthy lives. This includes ensuring that recovering addicts return to an environment that supports their continued recovery.

Democrat Joe Schiavoni sent us the following statement:  

"Ohio ranks #1 in overdose deaths. It's way past time for 'Start Talking' programs and unrealistic talking points. I have a comprehensive bill that would start fighting the opioid crisis immediately, while also building the tools necessary to prevent future addiction.


"My bill would use just 10% of Ohio's rainy day emergency fund and hit this crisis from every angle. It would give communities the flexibility to decide where resources are needed most in their area. It would help fund innovative solutions such as prescription pills that are harder to crush and abuse. And it would create information systems that allow us to understand each community's individual needs. The families of Ohio are done talking - it's time for a plan that will actually work."


Highlights of the plan:

Joe's plan would direct 10% of the $2 billion Rainy Day Fund ($200 million) to provide targeted assistance for addiction treatment and prevention efforts. 


Local Government Funding – $100M

  • $100M from the Rainy Day Fund to the Local Government Fund. This funding would be earmarked for Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) boards; law enforcement; Child Protective Services; kinship care; first responders; and establishing/expanding drug courts.

Treatment Infrastructure - $100M

  • $10M from the Rainy Day Fund for data collection. Each county would be required to submit data to help the state understand the scope of Ohio’s opioid crisis and allocate resources in the most effective manner.
  • $90M from the Rainy Day Fund to increase treatment capacity (beds/facilities). The Department will prioritize programs that are currently in operation, that are scalable statewide, and have a transportation component.

Insurance Regulation

  • Insurers must cover Medication Assisted Treatment – including Suboxone and Vivitrol. The bill also helps Ohioans avoid premium increases due to new treatment requirements.

Statewide Treatment Availability Registry

  • Require MHAS to create an online portal that shows a county breakdown of the number of available beds at detox and treatment facilities. This information would be updated on a real time basis.

Education Prevention - $2M each Fiscal Year

  • Use funds from the General Revenue Fund (GRF) to create the Opioid Prevention grant program under the Ohio Department of Education. This would support school-based prevention education initiatives.

Drug Take Back Programs

  • Prescription drug take back at commercial pharmacies

Republican Jim Renacci sent us the following statement:

"In 2016, the Buckeye state reported more than 4,000 opioid-related overdose deaths—a figure that led the nation and which constituted a staggering 36% increases from Ohio’s 2015 opioid fatalities. And to put the magnitude of this national crisis in perspective, this year alone, more Americans will die from opioid and heroin overdoses than we lost in the entire Vietnam War.

A critical step towards getting those in the abyss of addiction the treatment they need and turning the tide on this crisis is ensuring our state has the necessary resources for treatment and prevention. To do that, Ohio must stave off the looming budget crisis we will face under the Medicaid expansion program, which will force massive cuts to basic state services—including opioid treatment programs. That’s why I’ve committed to ending new enrollment in Medicaid expansion as Governor and ensuring that our state has the resources it needs to beat this epidemic.

We also must combat this at the community level by restoring hope and opportunity to those who’ve lost it—which is often a key driver that leads people into drug use and addiction. Ohio currently has the third highest jobless rate in the nation, and young people in particular are at risk in circumstances like this. In addition to delivering the pro-growth economic reforms we need, I will also promote education programs that give our young people the tools they need to find good paying, 21st century jobs—specifically in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math."

Lt. Governor Mary Taylor’s campaign sent us the following statement:

“Lt. Governor Taylor will be unveiling her comprehensive plan for this complex problem in the coming weeks. This issue is personal to her and her family. She believes in stopping the flow of this poison at our borders, enlisting every facet of society in this fight, and more and better treatment. Look for a more detailed plan soon.”

Secretary of State John Husted’s campaign sent us the following statement:

“The solution to the opioid crisis is not taxing the prescription medication for an elderly patient’s knee replacement surgery.”

Attorney General Mike DeWine sent us the following statement:

“One of the very first things I will do is appoint a cabinet level official whose sole job is to wake up every day and come up with ideas to fight the opiate crisis. As Governor, I would immediately act to implement proven education programs in our schools to teach the dangers of pills and opioids.  I would incentivize more innovative solutions on treatment and recovery.  And our state needs to hold the drug cartels, doctors and drug companies accountable for their actions.  That is why as Attorney General, I recently filed a lawsuit against the drug companies for misleading to the public on the dangers of opioid pills.  Lastly, I would focus on growing Ohio jobs so people in recovery will be able to fully get back on their feet and live up to their god-given potential.”