As an entrepreneur from Jackson County, I’ve spent much of my professional life building businesses throughout Appalachian Ohio. Supporting the area my family and I call home has always been a priority because I’ve seen the multi-generational challenges that have stymied opportunity across our region. As my businesses grew, I became more active with local and state economic development groups, including serving on the Holzer Health Care System board, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee and Board, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board and the JobsOhio Board.
It was more than a decade ago when I joined JobsOhio leaders in Jackson for a local business roundtable. When we asked business owners about their biggest challenges, we expected to hear the typical concerns, like the need to simplify government regulations or cut taxes. But we didn’t. Instead, every person in the room listed one issue as the most detrimental to their business success: drug addiction. Because of rampant drug abuse, employers could not find enough workers who could pass a drug test. As the owner of a talent recruitment firm, not only did this issue directly impact my business, but it clearly was also harming my Southern Ohio community. Soon after that meeting, I reached out to local businesses, local law enforcement, and local and state elected leaders to meet and establish the Jackson County Drug Task Force.
As I worked to do my part to combat and alleviate the drug problem in Jackson County, I heard from countless individuals and families impacted by drug addiction. While some made it into recovery, too many lives have been, and continue to be, lost. Recently, my family and I faced the devastating reality that my one of my own family members could not escape the grip of addiction. For the past several years, we – like so many others across Ohio – have struggled to help an immediate family member with a substance use disorder.
With this experience dealing with drug addiction in my own family, as well as my experience as a business leader based in an area of the state hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, I was honored to be appointed by Governor Mike DeWine to serve on the OneOhio Recovery Foundation’s Board of Directors. Created under the leadership of Governor DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost, and with support from many other state and local leaders, the Foundation’s mission is to advance Ohio’s addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts now and into the future. Funded by a portion of the opioid settlement funds Ohio is receiving from the pharmaceutical industry as a consequence of its role in the national opioid epidemic, the Foundation will support local efforts to prevent and combat addiction, with some funds invested to support those efforts for the long term.
In May, the Foundation’s board met for the first time. While just a few months old, our 29-member, all-volunteer board is hard at work establishing the necessary governance policies, hiring staff, and taking care of other essentials like setting up bank accounts to ensure the Foundation is properly equipped to oversee the nearly $450 million in distributor settlement funds it will receive over the next 18 years. Sadly, many of my fellow board members from across Ohio have lived experience with addiction like I do, but this only inspires us to set the Foundation on a stable path to advance its mission of helping communities combat and end the drug epidemic.
After years suffering from the devasting consequences of the opioid epidemic, Ohioans deserve relief and justice. While the legal settlement dollars will never bring back those we’ve lost, the OneOhio Recovery Foundation is committed to responsibly managing these resources to help our communities heal from the epidemic and prevent it from ever taking hold again.