Gov.-elect John Kasich came to Portsmouth on Wednesday with war talk about the ever-present problem posed by pain clinics, pill mills, prescription pain pill addiction and what can be done to kill the problem. Ill make no false promises, but well get started right away with some positive steps that will let the people of southern Ohio know that the cavalry is on the way, Kasich said, and at the same time put the fear of God into some of these people who are engaged in this dirty, stinking, lousy business of dispensing addicting pills to anyone with the cash. Kasich met Wednesday afternoon at the offices of the Portsmouth Health Department with health and city officials. He was flanked at the conference table with state Rep.-elect Dr. Terry Johnson of Scioto County and state legislators Danny Bubp and Jimmy Stewart. With their help, he said, the move for laws to control the illegal pain killer trade will begin right away. It is a priority with me, Johnson said, a sentiment echoed by Bubp and Stewart. Kasich said he came to Portsmouth on Wednesday with the chief intention of letting people know help is on the way with the drug problem. When I campaigned for governor here last fall, this was the most urgent problem people were asking questions about, Kasich said. All the power of my office and of these legislators will be on the table to work toward solutions. Mike DeWine (who will be Ohio attorney general after Jan. 1) will put the full force of the law behind our efforts. He said he also wants to see local health departments have more power in correcting the problem. If city and county health departments can close down a restaurant because it has health problems or cockroaches running the walls, it should have the power to close these pill mills. They have such a terrible effect on families and children all over Ohio, but particularly here in southern Ohio, Kasich said. He said he plans to use initiatives put in place by the drug task force created a year ago by outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland. Johnson agreed. Stricklands task force did some good work and we will use that as a springboard to move forward, he said. Were going to hit the ground running, Stewart said. Kasich said he also hopes to change the way Medicaid hands out prescriptions for pills. SOLACE, a local organization of people who have lost a family member through death caused by prescription drug overdose, will also be brought into the fray, Kasich said. Lisa Roberts, public health nurse with the city health department, said the battle to stop the pill problem has been going for a number of years. Im very pleased to see that the battle is being elevated, she said. Kasich said he plans to work with states that have made inroads into the problem, states such as Louisiana and South Carolina. Well learn from them what we can, he said. What were up against is not fixable in a day, but we must begin to take steps one at a time. This problem is contributing to crime and destroying families. People are hurting now and we have to deal with it now and think in the longer term of how were going to change the culture that fosters it.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236, or firstname.lastname@example.org.