Democrats accuse government of failing to act on addiction epide - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Democrats accuse government of failing to act on addiction epidemic in Ohio

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Heroin addiction has reached epidemic levels across the country and the state. But a group of Democrats are saying that Ohio is going the wrong direction in dealing with the problem.

That was the message being delivered during a Tuesday news conference held by  State Representatives Ron Gerberry and Nick Barborak, who were joined by Democratic Nominee for Ohio Attorney General, David Pepper.

Pepper said that 1000 people are expected to die from heroin overdoses in Ohio this year. Yet state officials have cut the local share of federal funding for addiction programs in fifty counties by one-third, or $20 million.

According to Pepper, cuts that took effect on Tuesday include:

Mahoning: From $1,781,000 to $1,181,000

Trumbull: From $514,00 to $338,000

Columbiana: From $404,000 to $267,000

Representative Barborak says that heroin addicts who want treatment will be turned away, and the state needs to fill the gap.  "It's irresponsible for us to turn our backs on families with addiction problems.", said Barborak.

Pepper says that drug overdoses are becoming the number one cause of death in Ohio. He says that almost no county has what they need to provide drug addiction treatment.  "The waiting lists are too long, or treatment doesn't exist at all.", said Pepper.

The candidate for Attorney General is proposing a five point plan which includes coordinating efforts between law enforcement and public health officials, as well as driving down demand.

He also says the state needs to save lives by making a drug called Narcan more available. If administered in a timely manner, Narcan can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose that could otherwise prove fatal.

Pepper also called for tougher enforcement of drug laws, pointing out that prosecutors have told him that they have caught people selling heroin, only to have a judge place them on probation, so they are back in the street the following day.

Barborak says that under current law, someone with no prior conviction who is arrested selling 49 doses of heroin can be placed on probation.  He says he is sponsoring legislation to change the law, and give locally elected judges the ability to hand down tougher sentences if needed. 

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