HOPES for addiction hinge on speaker’s words

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Source: Newark Advocate

As Ohio goes into a new year, so does its government; and, as such, the Legislature gathered last week to open up the 132nd General Assembly.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger gathered his troops together and spotlighted many of the issues he believes are at the top of the legislative agenda. With passion and his trademark even-handedness, the Clarksville native talked about education, job creation, domestic violence, and other issues that often matter to many in the Buckeye State.

But perhaps Rosenberger’s most passionate statement came when he spoke on the single biggest issue that affects Ohioans: drug addiction.

Rosenberger talked about his boyhood in rural Clinton County and described how he, and many others across the state, grew up in a Mayberryesque atmosphere, where everyone knew you and could tell your parents your misdeeds.

“But Mayberry today has changed,” he said, with a long pause. “And I can hardly recognize Clarksville, Ohio.”

Remarkably changed by the scourge of addiction, Clarksville and towns like it throughout the state are battling a demon unlike any they’ve faced before. Chillicothe’s struggle against addiction reached a national stage recently as The Washington Post featured an article on the city.

“Let me be clear: This is a problem that threatens all aspects of our state, including education, job creation, and energy development,” he said.

Rosenberger said the coming weeks would see the unveiling of the Ohio HOPES Agenda, which stands for Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education and Safety. The focus of Ohio HOPES will be “treatment, prevention, education” and a “more aggressive response to drug-related violence” in the state.

As is usually the case, the proof will be in the details of the agenda, but the emphasis in the speaker’s opening speech of the session leaves us optimistic about the approach.

It wasn’t a surprise to find out that Ohio topped the nation in overdose deaths in 2014, with one in every nine overdose deaths in the country happening here. The state also records the most deaths, 1 of every 14, from synthetic opioids as well.

Those numbers are expected to continue an upward trend, so the time is now to act and make lasting changes to help our officers fight drugs in our communities, help the addicted find treatment, and educate our families about the horrifying effects of opioids.

“This is our burden,” said Rosenberger, to his fellow legislators. “This is our challenge, and we must not fail in confronting the issue without fear.”

The speaker may have well been speaking to all Ohioans. Let 2017 be a year of achievement in the fight against addiction.

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