By Frank Lewis
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) are urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to address addiction to prescription opioids and heroin head on by drawing on the many evidenced-based strategies that are being successfully implemented in the states.
In a letter to Holder signed by Portman and Udall among others, Portman called prescription opioid and heroin addiction both expressions of the same disease that drives a wide range of criminal activities and public health consequences. As such, the Senators suggested that the country must treat addiction with approaches that leverage the best criminal justice and public health practices currently available.
Portman said a comprehensive approach to the twin epidemics of opioid and heroin addiction should include prevention, education, law enforcement, overdose prevention, and addiction treatment.
“Addiction to prescription opioids and heroin has become one of our nation’s most challenging public health issues, affecting our neighborhoods and communities in ways far worse than anyone might have imagined,” the Senators said in the letter. “To effectively address the problem of heroin and opioid dependence in our country, an ‘all hands on deck’ approach that recognizes the value of prevention and education, law enforcement, overdose prevention and the utilization of all opioid addiction treatments is required.”
The letter was also signed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
In October of 2013 Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was in Portsmouth and talked about using the success Scioto County has had in dealing with the drug epidemic as a springboard for his statewide program.
“I think Scioto County is really a model of a community that was devastated, and continues to be hit hard by drugs,” DeWine said. “But it is fighting back. And what we heard today is the comment - ‘we all came together. We worked together. We broke down this old way of looking at things.’ One department would deal with one problem and another department would deal with another problem, and no one talked to each other. We broke that down.”
In their letter to Holder, the Senators said - “Many opioid addicted individuals do not take steps to address their disease until after they have landed in the criminal justice system. Through drug courts, effective re-entry and diversion programs, individuals addicted to heroin and other opioids are guided towards recovery, provided with evidence-based treatments for their addiction, and overseen with case management and monitoring to ensure that they comply with those treatments for an appropriate period of time. These are hybrid approaches that fully integrate criminal justice with public health.”
Scioto County Common Pleas Court Judge William T. Marshall operates one of the most successful drug courts in the state of Ohio.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.