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Columbus Appoints Opioid Czar To Oversee Local Fight Against Epidemic

Amy O'Grady addresses the Ohio Board of Education.

Franklin County has a new Opioid Czar: Amy O’Grady. O’Grady started last week as a senior policy analyst for the Columbus City Council, and will oversee the county’s efforts to combat the opiate epidemic.

“Not only will we be working on specific action items to fight the drug epidemic, but it’s also really making sure that community agencies and the people in Franklin County are working together to combat this problem,” O’Grady says.

Columbus Council said O'Grady's hiring is another step in the county's Opiate Action Plan, which focuses on addiction prevention, reducing overdose deaths, and expanding treatment access.

"Amy O’Grady’s experience in the field of addiction and mental health is invaluable,” said council president Zach Klein in a statement.

O’Grady briefly served as a judge in the 10th District Court of Appeals, but most recently worked in Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office as the director of Criminal Justice Initiatives. After her state-level experience, focusing on Franklin County will be quite a change.

“I think if you talked with anybody in the state they would agree that a lot happens – most things happen at the local level,” O’Grady says. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t the Attorney General’s office or the Governor that would dig their heels in and roll their sleeves up and do the work.”

Earlier this year, Columbus saw in-fighting between the county coroner, the Board of Commissioners, and Mayor Andrew Ginther over the structure and leadership of the opiate task force. O’Grady seems to want to avoid that conflict entirely, saying it’s her job to have relationships with all local agencies.

Though many localities in Ohio made headlines with decisions to sue opioid distributers and manufacturers – including Cincinnati, Clermont County, Dayton, and even DeWine’s office – O’Grady says that decision is up to county leaders.

O’Grady says her office will also consider action on prevention efforts and other health issues that come with addiction.

“I’ve said this before: It’s a balancing act,” O’Grady says. “You certainly have to look at what we can do for people that are in the midst of this crisis, people that need treatment, family members that are at a loss about how to get their loved ones help, and are really struggling because their loved ones are in the depths of this disease.”

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.