Members of local law enforcement and drug counseling agencies met with US Senator Rob Portman and 2nd District Congressman Brad Wenstrup Monday at the office of Adams, Lawrence and Scioto Alcohol, Drug, Addiction, Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) to discuss strategies on battling the opioid epidemic.
Lisa Roberts, representing the Portsmouth Health Department, said she expects the 2018 drug overdose deaths in Portsmouth to be down from previous years. She told those present that is indicative of the programs that are now in place to combat drug abuse.
In Oct. 2018, Portman introduced the Opiod Reforms Bill which was signed by President Trump. This Bill increases access to long term treatment, as well as helps stop the flow of the dangerous drug fentanyl from making its way into the US. Portman, in his discussions Monday, said they are close to getting China to stop producing the drug. He also said getting the US Postal Service on board for screening for Fentanyl in packages will also reduce the flow of drugs in and out of the country.
In an interview after the roundtable discussion, Portman said he is vigilant in helping to make sure the border with Mexico is secure. He said the flow of drugs coming in to the US from the southern border needs stopped. He was positive in saying the temporary shutdown of the federal government will end “very soon” with an agreement on border security. “We’re very close,” he said. He noted there will be a compromise that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on and “move on.”
Through the 21st Century Cures Act, Portman has helped secure $525,000in grants for Scioto, Adams and Lawrence counties. He said he was in Portsmouth to see the results of the funding and see what additional help needs done to win the war on drugs.
Education was a main topic of discussion in the roundtable. Nick Ferrara, Administrative Director of the Hughes Reentry Center said his office works with individuals to get job training so they can get back to being productive members of society. He told the group about some of their programs including training to work on river barges, plumbing as well as food service. He also said GED classes are offered as well. Ferrara noted the program currently has nine students employed on river barges.
He said in order for an individual to be accepted in to the program, they need to be “sober with a clear head.”
Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis spoke saying “good things are happening.” He noted the breaking of two world records in Portsmouth in 2018 and how there is a certain level of pride growing in the community. He said to make a community better there needs to be a change in attitude.
“It’s great to know our hard work is paying off,” Portsmouth Police Chief Rob Ware said. He said the success the local leaders have had in combating drug related issues will hopefully help other communities with their fight as well.
Wenstrup said it took the people of Portsmouth and the surrounding areas to say “enough is enough” before getting a handle on the situation.
Portman said fighting opiod is not a political fight. “It’s bipartisan,” Portman said. “The federal government incentivizes local governments. We’re starting to see progress.
Portman said the local authorities are doing a great job. “The board and community partners are making terrific use of the funding the received through the CURES legislation, and I’m pleased to see it is making a difference,” Portman said. “Their approach to addressing addiction and its grip on our communities is exactly what is needed to help turn the tide of the opioid epidemic in Ohio. I will continue to work with local groups and community leaders to help ensure they have the support and funding they need to continue their good work.”