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Report Shows a 33 Percent Increase In Drug Overdose Deaths As Kasich Rolls Out Prescription Rules

photo of John Kasich

A total of 4,050 people died of drug overdoses last year in Ohio. That's a third higher than the previous year. And while Gov. John Kasich is rolling out more ways to crack down on painkiller prescriptions, critics believe there’s an obvious resource that’s not being used to combat the opioid crisis. 

Doctors can no longer write single prescriptions for powerful painkillers for longer than seven days for adults and five days for kids.

Gov. John Kasich urges for doctors to realize the part they can play in reducing opioid addiction in Ohio.

“Everybody needs to understand that when you’re dispensing this stuff, in some respects it’s like walking around with a loaded gun. You have a responsibility to do this the right way.”

But Kasich acknowledges that fighting the epidemic goes beyond prescription guidelines and includes law enforcement cutting off the supply chain and increased prevention efforts.

A big increase in overdose deaths
The Ohio Department of Health says there were 4,050 overdose deaths in Ohio last year, nearly 3,500 were opioid related.

Deaths caused by prescribed painkillers are declining, but the number of people dying of illicit drugs is on the rise. And more than half of all drug overdose deaths, 58 percent, involved the highly-potent fentanyl. Kasich notes that drug can be 100 times stronger than heroin.

“So for those people who are out there who thinks it’s safe to go meet somebody out on the corner and score a little something, you’re playing with your life.”

'There is no winning situation here, until we stop this.'

The new prescription regulations were rolled out with a lot of muscle from the medical field. People representing doctors, nurses and pharmacy groups were all in support of the rules. And if they don’t follow them?

“I don’t care who you are. You violate these guidelines and the medical board will come after you, and you will be disciplined and you will perhaps lose your license.”

Handling the epidemic
But critics are firing back at the way Kasich is handling the epidemic. That includes Democratic Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko of the Cleveland area.

“We’re not giving the right answers at the right time to the right people. And to take one aspect of it and say, 'OK, we’re going to limit the amount of prescription drugs you can have, I don’t believe that’s the right answer.”

Yuko says cutting off prescription drugs will only lead people to illegal drugs.

“This might be a good solution if it worked as designed. But when it doesn’t work as designed and you force a person to go to the streets looking for those drugs, then we might be asking for more problems than what this bargains for.”

He adds that there’s a major aspect that Kasich isn’t addressing: treatment.

More funding
The Senate Democratic Caucus proposed a plan a few months ago that asked Kasich to pump more money into treatment centers and groups fighting addiction on the local level by taking $200 million out of the Rainy Day Fund. That would amount to 10 percent of the reserve.

'Does it really matter if those people that got cut off of prescription drugs went to find illegal drugs?'

Yuko also took issue with Kasich saying there’s good news out of Ohio with the drop in prescription drug overdose deaths.

“Does it really matter if those people that got cut off of prescription drugs went to find illegal drugs and they ultimately passed away? The answer is no. There’s no winning situation here, until we stop this.”

Kasich has countered in the past that the state’s best resource for treatment is the money received through Medicaid expansion – which he’s advocated for nationwide.

He’s been working with Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on a plan that would overhaul the federal health care law – but it would not address Medicaid expansion. He plans to release the details of that proposal soon.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.