“What we learned is that Scioto County ranks second in the state for unintentional prescription drug deaths, next to Montgomery County. The Ohio Department of Health noted that and they sent a recommendation for us and said they would work with us on a plan to help fix the problem,” Dr. R. Aaron Adams, DO, Scioto County Commissioner of Health, said.
Since that discovery, the Steering Committee has participated in a series of community meetings, beginning at the Welcome Center in October. This was followed by Town Hall meetings in Wheelersburg, and additional Task Force meetings. Adams called prescription drug abuse in Scioto County a public health disaster.
“We’re trying to develop a coalition. We’re trying to set up a plan to deal with it,” Adams said. “We’re going to use our instant command system to try to figure out how to deal with it. We’ll work with law enforcement and partnerships in our community and region to see if we can’t decrease this problem, which is really just continuing to escalate.”
He said it’s taken a long time to create this problem, and it will take a long time to fix it.
“It’s taken years to get here. This is a commitment for the long-haul,” Adams said.
In their e-mail, the Steering Committee included a form letter that recipients could sign and mail to their representatives.
“This letter would give you as a citizen of Scioto County the information that you would need to express your concerns about the Prescription Drug Poisoning epidemic in our community. Please consider sending a copy of this to your legislators,” the e-mail read.
According to the Steering Committee:
• The prosecutor’s office reported that 90 percent of all crimes prosecuted in Scioto County are drug related.
• In 2007, 26.5 percent of local high school students reported using a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription.
• Intentional/Unintentional Deaths in Scioto County where drugs were present in autopsy increased 540 perfect from 2000-08.
• The Hepatitis C rate for Scioto County, which is directly linked to I.V. drug use, is three-times the rate of the state of Ohio. The number of cases has quadrupled since 2003.
• State funding to the ODADAS has been reduced by 30 percent.
Adams called the Steering Committee a diverse group. Along with himself, members include Lisa Roberts, RN, Portsmouth City Health Department; Ed Hughes, CEO, The Counseling Center, Portsmouth; and Dr. Terry Johnson, MD, Scioto County Coroner.
Recipients of the e-mail were asked to sign the attached form letter, which reads:
“As citizens of Scioto County, we would like to request new state legislation that will:
• Assist the Ohio Medical Board to set standards and policies for the establishment of ‘Board Certified (only) Pain Clinics’ that would include proper physician licensure, acceptance of insurance, and mandated Rx reports, and applicable continuing education.
• Assist the Ohio Pharmacy Board to perfect the current Rx reporting system (OARRS) for better access and management providing more stringent requirements for the dispensing of prescriptions.
• Allow municipalities to create and enforce individual business permit laws.
• Increase funding to provide addiction treatment. Funding for treatment is currently disproportionate to the burden of addiction due to prescription drugs.
• Increase funding to schools to provide up to date drug education.”
Adams said the Committee wants to see local pain clinics follow training processes and guidelines, and report to the OARRS system to track clients getting prescriptions from other places.
Also included in the e-mail were mailing addresses for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), U.S. House Representatives Jean Schmidt (R-2nd) and Charlie Wilson (D-6th), State Sen. Tom Niehaus (R-14th), and State House Rep. Todd Book (D-89th).
“We realize we also have an economic problem here. We don’t have enough good jobs and unemployment rate is high. It’s a real difficult time to take the issue on, but it’s not a reason to run from it. It’s a reason, probably, to go after it even harder, before we lose more people to this problem,” Adams said.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.