State funding needed to fight drug crisis

It is unlikely county officials will get from Columbus what they asked for in recent weeks. The general increase in funding to local governments being sought, more than $350 million per year, would dent the state budget to an extent legislators probably would not allow.

But one specific plea by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio should be heeded: more state money to battle the drug abuse epidemic.

Members of the commissioners group have requested changes in a variety of local funding policies. Among them was to establish a massive state program to help counties cope with the substance addiction crisis.

It is just that. Ohio has achieved a troubling distinction: the second-worst drug overdose death rate in the nation at 39.1 per 100,000 people in 2016. (No. 1 is neighboring West Virginia at 52).

In Trumbull County, 107 people died of accidental drug overdoses in 2016, for instance. While statistics show a decrease so far this year — there have been 18 in the first four months of 2018, according to preliminary numbers, along with a decline in the number of overdose victims being admitted to area hospitals — this crisis is far from over.

Though local law enforcement agencies do a commendable job, their resources have been strained by the drug crisis. And their efforts are only part of the solution. More treatment options are needed for those trying to kick the drug habit.

County commissioners were wise in not specifying a dollar amount for the initiative they want — because no one knows how much it may take. The “hundreds of millions of dollars” cited may not be enough.

More help for local governments should be flowing from Washington. With that failing, state officials need to do what they can to help cities and counties fight back against opioids and other illicit drugs. The cost of not doing that may be greater than what the commissioners are seeking.

COMMENTS