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Politics heat up around opiate crisis

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 2:40 PM

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Photo by ClintJCL, flickr http://bit.ly/1rhtF7d

Politics are ramping up over the region’s heroin crisis. Two Democratic candidates for statewide office are attacking temporary but significant cuts in funding for addiction treatment. ideastream’s Joanna Richards reports.

Starting July 1st, Ohio’s treatment agencies have seen cuts in federal grant funds that the state distributes. That’s on top of other state and federal funding cuts for addiction treatment.

“There’s real human consequences to what in this case is a bureaucratic decision in Columbus that just makes no sense,” said David Pepper, a Cincinnati attorney and Democratic candidate for state Attorney General. He and Cuyahoga County Executive and gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald criticize the move, echoing the anxieties of some treatment agencies.

But not everyone in the treatment world agrees. Hubert Wirtz heads The Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers. He says what Pepper calls an out-of-touch bureaucratic move is actually a solution to a longstanding problem.

“Because there was a delay often from Washington on allocating those funds to the states, that caused disruption for providers meeting expenses,” he said.

So the state is stretching this year’s worth of that federal funding over 18 months, to better align agencies’ budget cycles with the money’s arrival. Wirtz says the plan was drafted in consultation with the treatment community, with tweaks made to lessen the impact.

Both sides say the opiate crisis is a priority, and so is funding treatment. The argument in this case is whether the cure is worse than the disease.

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