By Portia Williams
David Pepper, Democratic candidate for Ohio Attorney General, visited Portsmouth Friday on a mission to garner local support for his campaign, and to address the state’s recent cuts in treatment for heroin addiction, something he said his opponent, and present Attorney General, Mike Dewine has failed take proper action against.
According to Pepper, the state has changed the way it is paying out federal grant money to local/county addiction treatment services. They are taking the usual funding for 12 months and spreading it out over 18 months. He said the effect is a 30-35% cut in funding for 50 counties for the fiscal year (FY) that just started on July 1st (FY15).
“The main part of our visit is just to meet with some supporters and we are excited to have some good friends in the county and Portsmouth. They are helping us raise some money and to spread the word. One of our priorities is to talk about the heroin crisis. We have been traveling the state, and we were in Dayton earlier talking about the heroin crisis, and we were in Toledo yesterday and met with officials and others about it,” Pepper said.
He said is a growing concern statewide regarding the heroin crisis in Ohio.
“There is just a real concern about it everywhere in Ohio about this heroin crisis and there is really very little help coming from Columbus, and I wish the state were doing better in terms of the actual crisis. I first heard that they were going to be cutting treatment across the state in May, and simply started saying, ‘Don’t do this, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever and we keep saying this, but no one seems to listen,” he said.
He said Dewine has been passive concerning the heroin crisis, and focusing too much on other issues.
“We think that the Attorney General has not had his eye on the ball when it comes to the heroin crisis, he has been focused on a lot of national and political issues such as the Hobby Lobby case, and all of these other big, political debates and I don’t think that is what this job is all about,” he said
Pepper said he believes the job of attorney general is about solving the issues that Ohioans are concerned about.
“The first thing the state should be doing is figuring out if there needs to be more treatment, not less. The idea that on July 1 of this year, 20 million dollars was cut throughout the state from basic treatment for addiction. It just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. If you go around the state as I have, and if you talk to people about what they’re seeing one very clear conclusion is that there is not nearly enough treatment, not even close,” Pepper said. “So, the idea that the state is reducing (funding) makes no sense.”
According to Pepper, numbers for Scioto County pertaining to the reduction of treatment funding, FY 14 of $795,356 will be reduced to $526,960 FY 15. The decrease equates to a loss in treatment funding of $268, 396, a reduction of 33.7 percent.
If elected as Ohio Attorney General, Pepper said he has a plan centered around the heroin crisis which would be implemented on his first day in office.
“Our plan involves coordinating the effort much better than it is being coordinated now. What is needed is to make treatment more available in all of the counties, and make sure that it is effective, and not doing the same ole, same ole, which often happens in government,” he said.
He said he would consider all of his efforts successful if perhaps the state would adhere to his message.
“If someone in Columbus, whether it is the Attorney General calling for what we are calling for or the Governor or someone coming to their senses not cut treatment across the board, across Ohio in the middle of our heroin crisis. So, the number (of) success would be if that message is listened to,” he said.
Portia Williams can be reached at 740-370-0712 or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.