The opiate epidemic is spreading to every corner of the United States, and Pickerington, Ohio is no exception in this devastating crisis. While more families and communities struggle with the social and financial consequences of addiction in their lives, the House is taking steps to reverse this growing trend. House Bill 248 will introduce steps to curtail the opiate issue by making it more difficult to access opioids throughout communities. This bill may save thousands of lives as well as millions of dollars of taxpayers money.
While families are struggling with the deaths of those they love, the economy is suffering under the effects of increased addiction. Some opiate addicts can have an addiction that costs over $150 every day, causing many of them to resort to theft to fuel their addiction. These items end up in pawn shops across the nation, and many families are not able to recover their stolen property. The increase in crime is troubling (the rate of crime in Pickerington is up 23 percent in the last year) and drug related arrests are on the rise as well. This includes arrests that are due to heroin and opiate prescription abuse, but also arrests that are related to the use of these products such as shoplifting, petty theft, and car break-ins.
The cost of fighting back against this epidemic is also costly, with the need to fight crime and provide support services for those who are suffering from addiction. The seven million dollar budget is huge, but it is never quite enough to offer the level of help that is needed to stem this issue. Two years ago, Pickerington added one full time officer, as well as a part time officer, to their K-9 unit to directly combat issues stemming only from opiate crimes. This year the police chief is requesting an increase in the budget so that the police force can bring on six more police officers. This increase is needed, but it will also cost the taxpayers $700,000.
This nearly one million dollar cost to the taxpayers is overwhelming, but services are needed to deal with the trauma of opiate addiction. House Bill 248 hopes to address that and take some of the weight off the police force and the taxpayers. It will require insurance companies to pay for the a better version of opiate prescription medication. This is indestructible opiates that are impossible to turn into powders, so that addicts who are looking to inject or snort their medication are no longer able to. This will greatly reduce the risk of addicts misusing their prescription to feed their habit. In addition, it will change how physicians are paid for pain treatment, which will decrease the prescribing of opiates to patients.
While HB 248 is not a magical bill that will reverse the effects for those already addicted, or keep new addicts from using opiates, but it is a step in the right direction. While there are hundreds more steps that must be taken as well, it is important to start working more vigorously to help suffering addicts and turn back the tide of death and destruction.