Ohio continues to lead the nation in opioid overdose deaths, so while the 21st Century Cures Act, passed this week by the U.S. House of Representatives, is a controversial bill, it does provide over $1 billion for states to fight that epidemic, and on it’s way to passage, Congressman Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), who represents portions of Scioto County threw his support behind the bipartisan measure.
“We all know someone suffering from a rare disease. This innovative and game-changing legislation works to align federal incentives and regulations with the science and technology that makes treatments and cures possible and attainable – quite simply, this bill will bring life-saving drugs and treatments to those who need them more quickly, and it provides funding in a responsible way,” Johnson said. “I am also pleased that this bill includes over $1 billion for the states to fight the opioid epidemic. A sobering recent report showed that Ohio leads the country in opioid overdose deaths. This funding will go a long way in addressing the issue head-on in our communities in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio.”
Scioto County was, at one time, the epicenter of the opioid epidemic, and remains in the forefront of the problem today. The history is well-known to local leaders who have been in a battle with the issue for over a decade. It was in 1996 that Purdue Pharma introduced a painkiller known as Oxycontin or Oxycodone. While it went on the market as a good maintenance drug, it turned out to be extremely addictive and eventually Purdue Pharma agreed to pay more than $600 million in fines, according to the Associated Press.
The Oxycontin problem hit Scioto County aided by 11 “pain clinics” which were referred to as “pill mills.” It wasn’t until laws were passed and state and local officials shut them down that the opioid epidemic began to decrease.
The measure, billed as legislation to attack the epidemic, passed the house by a 392-26 vote and is being projected as a sure-thing when it hits the floor of the U.S. Senate next week.
“It is also critically important to note that this legislation includes mental health reform, which will benefit many individuals and families struggling with mental illness. The legislation I voted for includes the most significant reforms to our mental health system in more than a decade,” Johnson said. “Some people say far too often that the different branches of government and the two political parties can’t work together. With the 21st Century Cures bill, we are proving them wrong.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.