Advocacy Alert: At the Statehouse with OPA – Opiate Legislation

At the Statehouse with OPA – Opiate Legislation

By: Julie Keller, Capital University Student Volunteer

On May 13, 2014, the Opiates and Health Care subcommittee met to discuss House Bill (HB) 378 and HB 501. Introduced and sponsored by Representative Smith and Representative Sprague, the objective of HB378 is to amend section 5119.11 and to enact section 4731.056 of the Revised Code to prohibit a physician from prescribing or personally furnishing certain drugs to treat opioid dependence or addiction unless the patient is receiving appropriate behavioral counseling or treatment.

Two individuals from Hocking County came to testify about the epidemic of opioids being abused in their region of the state. Unfortunately, a majority of the drug trafficking occurs within their region and sadly, the people who are aware of how the drugs are being sold are the ones who are trying to become clean. Another problem is how some abusers are filling their “gap” (i.e., by getting a different opiate than the one they previously had) with another to occupy the neuroreceptor that is being affected.

Fortunately, there is a program that has been developed in Logan, OH to help people get clean and live normal lives. The two individuals testifying stated how they are very protective of the program that they run and remove people if they are dangerous to themselves, to others, or distract others from benefiting from the program. In addition, the community is actively engaged in the program and wants to help those who are trying to recover by minimizing their chances of relapse. Furthermore, the program wants to help the people who want to become clean by helping them enroll in college and find housing to live healthy lives. Some final recommendations that the two individuals testifying gave was the need for education to help people learn about opiates and if there is a way to eliminate the money that comes from the selling of these drugs

HB 501, like HB 378, was introduced by Representative Smith and Representative Sprague. The objective of the bill is to add the drug Zohydro to the list of Schedule I controlled substances. Three testimonies were given for this hearing. The first was given by two pharmaceutical representatives in favor of the drug because some people who have used the drug have found it to help ease their pain and gain an ability to live better by functioning normally. Recently, Zohydro was released to the market within the past month or two and is a higher pain killer than Vicodin and Oxycotin. The two men testifying in favor of the drug mentioned how the medical difference for this drug is that there is a larger time gap for when the drug should be taken in comparison to Vicodin. They stated that their reasons for why the drug is being abused is that there is a lack of education being provided for pharmacists and a lack of responsibility on use of how a patient is directed to take the drug.

The second and third testimonies were given by recovering addicts. The first was a woman by the name of Angie. She testified against the drug and shared with the committee that 46 of the residents of the program that she directs have already heard about the drug Zohydro being on the streets. Her testimony previously given in Jackson County, Ohio was a major reason that Representative Smith and Representative Sprague created HB 501. The final individual testifying was a man by the name of Miles. He stated there has been a 366% increase in overdose deaths from 2000-2012 in Ohio and the majority of these deaths are caused by opioids. Additionally, he stated that16, 000 people die per year as a result of opioid poisoning. Miles is from the Cleveland area and shared with the committee how Geauga County had the highest amount of opioid abusers in the state. He was also against adding the drug Zohydro to HB 501.

Psychologists should try to find a way to get involved by meeting with their state legislators to help fight against the opiate epidemic in Ohio. For more information, please email Representative Smith of Bidwell,  Representative Sprague of Findlay, or OPA Director of Professional Affairs Dr. Bobbie Celeste.

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