Locals want action on opioid declaration

Local officials are hopeful the president’s informal declaration of an opioid crisis emergency will translate into real resources for Trumbull County and that it might push the state to follow in his footsteps.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency. And I am saying officially right now: It is an emergency, it’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” President Donald Trump said during a brief question-and-answer session Thursday at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

He said he would be drawing up documents to formalize the declaration soon.

“Ohio has not declared an emergency, though many of us throughout the state — on mental health and recovery boards, drug task forces, county commissioners and many others — have made resolutions to declare an emergency and have sent those down to the governor’s office asking him to declare an emergency. But he said it didn’t meet certain criteria,” said April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has said the state already spends $1 billion to fight the state’s drug abuse issues.

But, Caraway said she hopes the president’s declaration will open up more doors for resources in Ohio.

“This gives me hope. If Trump’s declaration can change the rules, lift the emergency declaration criteria, then maybe we can get into the rainy day fund. That would be a very good thing, a very good tool for us,” she said.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who is making a run for governor in 2018, applauded the president for his remarks.

“Additional resources from the federal government will help hard-hit states like Ohio,” DeWine said.

DeWine also is pursuing lawsuits against drug companies in Ohio he said unfairly pushed their products, helping the crisis bloom.

The recommendation that the president declare a state of emergency was one of several others made in a draft report of the president’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price seemed to suggest the president was leaning against the recommendation, arguing the administration could deploy the necessary resources and attention to deal with the crisis without declaring a national emergency.

Still, Price stressed that “all things” were “on the table for the president.”

U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, said he was alarmed Price and Trump didn’t seem to be on the same page.

“Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services wrongfully indicated such a declaration might be unnecessary. I am alarmed at what appears to be a dangerously uncoordinated response to the emergency unfolding in front of our eyes,” Ryan said in a statement.

Trump must issue the declaration formally, and quickly, Ryan stated. And, “Republicans in Congress must move swiftly to appropriate federal funding to the Public Health Emergency Fund,” Ryan stated.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, D-Ohio, said Congress has made some progress fighting the heroin and prescription drug epidemic and called it “a crisis affecting our entire country.” He applauded the president’s notions, but said more needs to be done.

“We must continue to fully fund important programs on prevention, treatment, and recovery, and we must take additional legislative action to help stop overprescribing, increase the number of treatment beds covered by Medicaid at residential treatment facilities, and help stop the flow of synthetic opioids that are shipped into this country through the postal service,” Portman said in a statement.

Niles police Capt. John Marshall said he is optimistic, but needs to see what the declaration translates into for resources on the ground.

“Depending on what additional resources and power the president commits to the plan, we may see some success,” Marshall said. “The major impediment to success in combating the opioid problem in America is that the success is largely dependent on the users no longer abusing opioids. It’s difficult to target a response to a problem when th epidemic has spread to encompass all ages, races, and other demographics, and is not isolated to any particular region or group of people. Hopefully, whatever additional resources reach those in need will help stem the ever increasing problem of opioid addiction.”

Caraway said the people of Trumbull County affected by the crisis need several additional resources and action to help pull themselves out of the epidemic — an epidemic that has claimed more lives each year in the county since 2013.

However, treatment isn’t the only part of the fight that needs more cash, Caraway said. Adult parole programs, jails and police departments also need more funding to get drug dealers off the streets and cut supply in the area.

“We have so much supply in Trumbull County, the statistics show, people are coming here to get drugs, they are overdosing here because this is where the drugs are, even if they aren’t from here,” Caraway said.

Help is also needed in state drug testing laboratories and coroner’s office, in order to get the results back fast enough for law enforcement officers to use in timely investigations.