Members of Congress, including Valley Congressman Tim Ryan, met Friday morning to discuss ways to tackle the country's growing heroin epidemic. Drug overdose deaths now are the leading cause of injury deaths in this country, surpassing car crashes.
"It is a horrible epidemic. It is ruining families. It is ruining lives and many citizens in the state of Ohio are dying because of it," said U.S. Representative Tim Ryan.
Representative Ryan, who co-chairs the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, invited the executive director of Mahoning County's Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime to Washington D.C. to educate members of Congress about the drug epidemic. She says most offenders in Mahoning County going through drug court are addicted to opiates. Although, those who wish to get help usually have to wait 30 to 45 days to get a bed in a detox facility.
"We can't incarcerate people and expect them to get out of prison and maintain sobriety. We need to treat them in the community," said Andrea Paventi with Mahoning County T.A.S.C.
However, Paventi says access to treatment and the cost of treatment stand in the way, which is why she's urging legislators to invest in treatment options. While most research shows 90 day treatment programs are the most effective, they cost an average of about $15,000 dollars.
"It would be great to see more direct treatment dollars placed in the communities to offset clients that don't have the ability to get private insurance or are underinsured. We have some clients that have private health insurance with $1,500 or $2,000 deductibles. They are not able to pay for treatment and often times they are underserved," said Paventi.
Congressman Ryan is in the process of coordinating a community wide drug take back program, which will encourage people dispose of their unused pills at local police stations. He believes reducing access to drugs can prevent people from getting hooked.