PIKETON- Southern Ohio will be a beneficiary to a federal grant from the U.S. Labor Department to fight the opioid epidemic’s health and economic impacts. $20 million will be divided among four states, also including Florida, Maryland, and Wisconsin for a workforce development program.
Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia delivered the announcement at the Ohio Valley Veneer, a lumber mill off of State Roue 124, alongside Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kimberly Hall, and U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio’s Second District.
“Our priority is to help individuals recover and to ensure economic development,” said Scalia. “I’m pleased to be in Piketon to announce a grant of $5 million to help communities in southern Ohio fight the ravages of the drug epidemic and grow stronger than ever.”
“This grant is to enhance the opportunities for people and communities to pull them out of a problem we got ourselves into and one we’re going to get ourselves out,” added Wenstrup.
The $20 million comes from the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act of 2018, which the White House says is the single largest legislative package addressing a single drug crisis in history. This year, the Office of National Drug Control Policy reports the Trump Administration dedicated over $7 billion in funding across various federal departments for opioid efforts and initiatives, an increase of $200 million from last year.This runs contrast to 2017, when New York Times found that the president planned on decreasing the office’s funding by 95%- from $388 million to $24 million.
ODJFS will receive the funds and then build partnerships with local businesses and organizations, providing retraining and services to the employees. In total, $5 million will go to Adams, Brown, Pike and Scioto Counties, which Scalia remarked has been hit much harder than the 2018 national average of 21.7 drug overdose deaths per 100,000.
According to the Ohio Department of Health 2018 data, nearly 85% of unintentional drug overdoses deaths were from opioid use, totaling for 3,150. The counties where the funding is going were among the worst in the state, making up three of the ten highest death rates.
In Scioto County, the epidemic has exacerbated to new heights. Harm Reduction Ohio reported 80 overdose deaths and a record-high of 119.2 deaths per 100,000 last year, after leading the state the year before with a rate of 68.3 deaths per 100,000.
Public health officials have been concerned the coronavirus could worsen the issue due to its economic impacts and less attention given from the media. While the federal government has provided assistance for people to afford living expenses, Wenstrup believes financial aid cannot completely cover for those dealing with addiction.
“We, as a nation, have tried to do all we can to allow people keep their jobs ultimately and to bring our businesses back,” said Wenstrup. “But there’s downtime and we all know it’s during that downtime when people aren’t essential, when there’s isolation, depression and you can see things like opioid abuse and other forms of drugs coming into your life.”
“We got to pull people out from that and try to prevent people from entering that or going back into it,” he said.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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