Johnson speaks on opioid crisis

SALEM– During a visit to the Hickey Metal Fabrication plant last week, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-6) addressed the opioid crisis facing the country.

Before taking a plant tour, Johnson sat down with company officials and employees discussing the problem that has a tighter grip on Ohio than any other state except West Virginia.

Johnson asked, “What do we do with the millions who are addicted?”

He explained there was addiction in his own family.

“I lived in a dysfunctional family, (but) this opioid crisis is totally different,” he said, explaining that accident victims are prescribed opioids for pain but they (prescriptions) run out before the pain subsides.

Johnson related the story of a nurse whose opioid prescription ran out while her pain persisted.

“She started stealing,” he said. She was fired and tried getting heroin for her pain on the street.

“If you become addicted in America, you run afoul of the law and can’t get a job,” he noted.

He said that by “using their hearts and heads,” employers can help figure out how to get employees back and “out of the stigma … get them jobs and figure out how to drive them to a job.”

Last October, Business Insider cited a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland that showed, “The rates of death from opioid overdoses in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania are all above the national average.”

The study focused on the impact of the crisis on the labor market in the fourth Federal Reserve district that includes the four states.

The national death rate is 10 per 100,000 people while in Pennsylvania it is about 10.5, in Kentucky it is 20, in Ohio it is 22 and in West Virginia it is 35.

Experts have long since zeroed in on illegally produced fentanyl, which can be hundreds of times stronger than heroin, and carfentanil along with other related drugs that can be even stronger than fentanyl.

In 2016, unintentional drug overdoses caused the deaths of 4,050 Ohio residents, a 32.8 percent increase compared to 2015 when there were 3,050 overdose deaths.

Fentanyl and related drugs were involved in 58.2 percent (2,357) of all unintentional drug overdose deaths in 2016.

Last month, Johnson fixed his thoughts in a news release, saying, “Ohio, particularly Eastern and Southeastern Ohio, have been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis.

“There isn’t a single day that goes by that I do not hear or read another heartbreaking story. I’ve said many times before, and will repeat today, this is not a problem we as a country are going to be able to arrest, incarcerate, spend, or legislate our way out of; we all must work together, as Americans.

“I’ve visited and met with countless volunteers and others dedicated to turning the tide locally. They recognize, as do I, that addiction does not discriminate by age, race, social class, economic status, or political affiliation.

“Enough is enough, and it’s time to extinguish this scourge of opioid addiction from our communities.”