Ending distribution of Narcan not answer

DEAR EDITOR:

The Ohio daily death toll from opioid overdose ranks us as second-highest in the nation. Despite efforts to throw money at the problem, the death toll has increased to three times the amount reported a decade ago. Many lawmakers have made efforts to shape policy around health care and monitor how often painkillers are prescribed, and how much; however, this does not address the underlying issue causing the crisis — addiction.

No one alive is immune to the detrimental toll that addiction takes on the mind, body and spirit. Yet rehabilitation facilities are closing rapidly in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, and individuals are left to fend for themselves in a world where heroin is very easy to obtain. The mental health aspect of addiction is just as important as the substance use itself. Many Ohio counties are looking to limit Narcan availability, citing costs of care and comparing the issue to someone with diabetes or cancer receiving free treatment. I think this viewpoint is both inaccurate and contrary to what really is happening. That is, Ohioans are unable to afford the cost of treatment not covered by insurance plans. With the new Medicaid policies, social service agencies are finding it more difficult than ever to stay open and serve the people suffering in our state.

We need to change the way policymakers think when it comes to the opioid crisis. More services must be put in place and more money made available to fund them. Unless we specifically discuss the mental health problem that lies beneath this crisis, it truly never will end. Arguably, one can say this is just a continuation of the crack-cocaine epidemic and centuries of alcohol, nicotine and opium abuse. Addiction is an unfortunate part of the human condition that has been ignored for far too long.

At a personal level, we must be kinder to those suffering from afflictions, even when we may not understand. Ohio legislatures need to stand up for the citizens of this state being left behind when it comes to their mental health. The least we can do is allocate more funding for addiction and rehabilitation services, as well as ceasing the practice of using jails as de-facto detox centers. Detoxing in jail can be excruciatingly painful and tenably dangerous under certain circumstances. Closing down detox centers and cracking down on the distribution of Narcan is not the answer. Only empathy and reason can fix this problem.

MEGAN HAYDA

Howland

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