There has been a great deal of publicity about the over prescription of opioids and opiate addiction. This has been described as an epidemic by many, including Governor Kasich. The governor has set in motion a number of initiatives to help address this. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is very involved. As a result, a number of “pill mills” have been shut down and doctors have faced criminal prosecution.
Ohio legislators are engaged in this effort as well. An Opiate Addiction Treatment and Reform Subcommittee of the House Health and Aging Committee has been touring the state seeking testimony on the problem. They heard some powerful and moving testimony from family members of overdose victims. The result has been a significant number of bills focused on different aspects of the problem.
OPA’s Advocacy Chair, Dr. Brad Potts, recently spent several hours reviewing the many opioid bills being heard in the Ohio General Assembly to help us clarify what each bill was intended to do. One can hope that as these bills move forward there can be some consolidation and the development of more strategic approaches to the problems. That may happen as these bills move to the Senate.
One of these bills (HB332, Sponsored by Representative Wachtmann and Representative Antonio) seeks to set standards and procedures for chronic pain management. OPA member, Dr. Gary Sipps, testified before the subcommittee on this bill discussing his role as a psychologist in supporting pain management services. You can find his testimony by visiting this link. He clearly pointed out how psychologists can help reduce the need for opiates and help patients manage their pain.
HB332 is a good opportunity for us to tell the story of what psychologists do. There are many ways we can impact these problems and legislators need to know that. If you would like to testify or write a letter please let myself or Bobbie Celeste know.
The House members who are most involved in this effort are: Representative Robert Cole Sprague (R-83: Hancock, Hardin & Logan), Representative Lynn Wacthmann (R-81: Fulton, Henry, Putnam and Williams), Representative Ryan Smith (R-93: Gallia, Jackson, Lawrence and Vinton), Representative Nickie Antonia (D-13: Cuyahoga),Representative Nan Baker (R-16: Cuyahoga), Representative Terry Johnson (R-90: Adams, Lawrence and Scioto), Representative Stephanie Kunze (R-24: Franklin) and Representative Michael Stinziano (D-18: Franklin). We’d like to hear from you if you live in any of these districts and especially if you have a relationship with these representatives.
OPA is constantly seeking opportunities to education legislators about the role of psychologists, differentiating the education, training and expertise of psychologists from others. When an issue like this comes along, even if the bills don’t directly impact large numbers of our members, the opportunity to tell legislators what psychologists can contribute is important.
Of course our big educational push comes during our Legislative Day and health fair at the Statehouse. This is a great event and if you have never been, mark your calendar now for May 21, 2014. Many State Representatives and State Senators attend to have lunch and meet OPA members/constituents. Key legislative staff attends as well. We hope to see you there.