Ohio: New House bill hopes to curtail prescription drug abuse
New House bill hopes to curtail prescription drug abuse
Published 10:32am Wednesday, February 9, 2011
A new piece of legislation is now on the fast track to cracking down on prescription drug abuse in Ohio.
House Bill 93, which was unveiled yesterday by State Representatives Terry Johnson and Dave Burke, aims to combat prescription drug abuse by strengthening oversight measures and using technology to reduce the prevalence of pill mills.
Johnson, who represents part of Lawrence County and is the only physician currently in the General Assembly, said prescription drug abuse is a problem he has always noticed in southern Ohio.
“I’ve seen it as an ER doc, a family physician out of my office, as a person that trains young residents to be family practice doctors, then also as (Scioto) county coroner, having to deal with the overdoses we had,” he said.
“Since 2002, half or more of the autopsies that I ordered in my role as Scioto County Coroner revealed deaths caused directly or indirectly by drugs. I found that, overwhelmingly, these overdoses were due to prescription medications. My statistics have been used by our local and state health departments to highlight the true extent of this tragic epidemic,” Johnson also said in a press release Tuesday.
Rep. Burke, a pharmacist, said about the legislation, “This bill closes the loop-holes caused by rogue prescribers and pill mill operations that kill four Ohioans a day. The time for talk has ended and the time for action has begun.”
According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the country and the second-most common form of illicit drug abuse among teenagers in the U.S., second only to marijuana.
“You can see a direct relationship to the amounts of these drugs that are dispensed to the number of people that are addicted,” Johnson said. “It’s unethical, immoral and it will not stand.”
Unintentional drug overdoses surpassed motor vehicle crashes and suicide as the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, and the highest rates of those deaths are in Southern Ohio, where seven of the 10 counties with the highest death rates are located.
Also cosponsoring the bill is William G. Batchelder, Speaker of the Ohio House.
“I applaud Representatives Burke and Johnson for their efforts to address this issue that has run rampant throughout the state. It is vital for the Ohio House to move swiftly on this legislation so we can curtail the scores of injury and death that result from prescription drug abuse.”
This legislation was previously introduced to the House under the last General Assembly during the lame duck session but was not passed.
Johnson said he hopes with his sponsorship, as well at Burke’s and Batchelder’s, the bill will move quickly to becoming a law, but recognizes that the bill is not a “silver bullet cure” to the problem.
“That why it’s so important to maintain our community involvement,” he said. “In Scioto County we have the prescription drug action team fighting against this problem. That brings together everybody, from law enforcement to judges, clergy, schoolteachers, people who have lost their kids to this problem.”
“We have a support group there called SOLACE (Surviving Our Loss and Continuing Everyday), mothers that have lost kids to this problem who are very much the heart and soul of that movement. That community root is what will really beat this problem, not this legislation.”
Joanna Krohn knows from first hand experience what prescription drug abuse can do to a family. The Portsmouth native founded SOLACE to make a difference in the lives of people that have been affected by drug abuse.
In April of 2008, Krohn’s son, Wesley Workman, accidentally shot himself while under the influence of drugs. Krohn said her 18-year-old son had been struggling with addiction to OxyContin for four years.
“He was a standout football player. He was handsome and popular, just a good person who made some bad choices and got caught up in something that he couldn’t control,” she said.
“I was at a point, I was dealing with my grief, and I didn’t even know if I wanted to go on. It was so hard without him,” Krohn said.
Since her son was an organ donor, a woman contacted Krohn about sharing his story. That’s when Krohn said she began to find purpose again and started to volunteer for Lifeline of Ohio, as well as form SOLACE. The group was formed on the two-year anniversary of Wesley’s death.
SOLACE currently has about 24 families as members. Some have lost loved ones to drug- related deaths and accidents, while others are recovering addicts. But all receive support and comfort.
“We try to be honest and we tell the truth about what drug addiction is,” Krohn said. “We’re not ashamed because our children or a loved one has died because of drugs, because it’s a disease. It’s something that a good person can get caught up in and then make bad choices.”
Krohn also said she hopes the new bill Johnson introduced gets passed.
“This is something that needs to be taken seriously,” she said. “We’ve lost too many lives already. There’s too much crime because of the drugs. Almost all crimes in this community are drug-related in some way or another. It just tears too many families apart and we need to do something to put a stop to it.”
SOLACE is based in Scioto County, but Krohn said she would like to expand it in other counties if people would be interested in chartering. For more information about SOLACE, Krohn can be reached at 740-259-8348.