What should be next for Ohio’s opioid crisis?

The Appalachian Ohio region spans from the periphery of Cincinnati to the edge of Cleveland, following the Ohio River. Ohio’s 88 counties, 32 including Trumbull and Mahoning counties, are considered Appalachian.

The Appalachian Regional Commission monitors, compares, sums and averages the economic status of these 32 counties with three indicators: three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income and poverty rate. National averages are calculated as well for each county in each state and then ranked and designated with levels of economic status: distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive or attainment.

Adams, Athens, Meigs and Scioto counties are ranked as distressed.

Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Jefferson, Monroe, Morgan, Pike and Vinton are considered at-risk.

Ashtabula, Belmont, Brown, Carroll, Coshocton, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Hocking, Lawrence, Mahoning, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Ross, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Washington are described as transitional.

Clermont is competitive.

Is state and federal funding enough for the opioid epidemic in these Appalachian counties?

The economic status is one factor in the complex and multiple causes of the opioid crisis in Appalachia Ohio. Is the governor and Ohio Attorney General exploring this piece of the drug puzzle? Law enforcement has shut down pill mills. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is filing lawsuits against the drug companies. But is there a plan for jobs and ways to decrease the unemployment rate in Appalachia Ohio? Recovering people with addictions will need jobs after sobriety. According to a report by the Public Children’s Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), within 1 year of recovery from opiates, 85 percent will relapse. Is there a plan for relapse prevention? How does relapse affect employment? There is more work to be done in Appalachia Ohio.

The 2016 Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio entitled Ohio’s Appalachian Children at a Crossroads: A Roadmap for Action, reported that babies born in Ohio Appalachia “are almost twice as likely as the average Ohio newborn to be diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome” at a rate of 15 babies per 1,000 births. Scioto County reported 76 addicted babies per 1,000 births, Lawrence 67, and Pike 58. And these three Appalachian counties “are currently in a state of emergency.” Will these counties receive more funding?

Read the newspapers and websites about the Ohio Attorney General’s 12-points of Recovery Ohio Plan to Combat Opioid Epidemic; lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry; increased treatment, new tools for law enforcement and expanding prevention; one million in grants to child welfare agencies to fund staff and help recruit new foster families in hard-hit counties; a Heroin Unit Outreach Team to meet with families and government officials throughout Ohio’s 88 counties; Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Team (Start), a pilot program in 18 southern Ohio counties to increase resources to children services agencies to address recovery for addicted parents and family reunification; and increased family drug courts to connect parents with treatment in less time. Those in places of political power are responding to Appalachia Ohio, but is it enough?

Your Voice Ohio is a collaborative effort by news organizations across Ohio, including the Tribune Chronicle, to provide information about the opioid crisis and its effect on the health, social and economic welfare of every county in the state of Ohio. Visit www.yourvoiceohio.org, or www.tribtoday.com/news/heroin to read the in-depth coverage of the opioid crisis. Are we listening?

Gov. John Kasich announced the $8 million Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge as a way to discover innovative ideas to fight the drug crisis. Ideas were submitted by researchers, caregivers, service providers and individuals from Ohio, other states and nine countries. And $10 million was awarded in research-and-development grants for opioid addiction studies.

How many pieces of the poverty pie are attributed to the opioid crisis in Appalachia Ohio? Is it a top priority to try to bring in new industry to decrease unemployment? Are the mayors, city council members and county commissioners working to recruit and bring more jobs to their counties?

The pill mills are closed. The addicted are receiving treatment. Drug prevention is at the forefront again. What happens next?

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Appalachia. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.