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President Trump's Opioid Declaration Leaves Ohio Advocates Underwhelmed

Pablo Martinez
Associated Press
President Donald Trump signs a presidential memorandum declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency in the East Room of the White House.

Local communities who were hoping for new money in President Trump’s public health emergency declaration to fight the addiction crisis were disappointed. There are some initiatives that are giving advocates hope, though.

The only new funding promised in Trump’s announcement on Thursday comes from the Public Health Emergency Fund – which only has $57,000 in it now.

But the plan does allow those who can’t find jobs because of addiction to get Dislocated Worker retraining grants that now go to people who are laid off.

Jerry Craig, head of the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services Board, says funding for job training is encouraging.

“There hasn’t really been an investment in that work-pathway for people recovering from substance abuse disorders," Craig says. "Also, there’s great research and guidance on how having that purposeful activity is part of the recovery process, and so it’s really promising to think they might invest in that.”

new study from Ohio State finds people with just high-school diplomas are 14 times more likely to die of drug overdoses than those with college degrees.

But he’d been hoping for a multifaceted approach that includes a range, from more funding for treatment beds to student-loan relief for people who work for agencies fighting addiction.

“Right now, it’s not a place where people are going to make a lot of money and when you have a heavy student debt load, then it undermines our ability to get and attract good quality clinicians,” Craig says.

The Trump announcement includes more emphasis on telemedicine in isolated areas like Appalachia, including allowing prescriptions for addiction-fighting drugs without seeing a doctor in-person.

Ohio is spending as much as $8.8 billion a year on fighting the opioid crisis. But Ohio State's study finds the state is only providing treatment to about 20-40 percent of people who suffer from addiction.

Lori Criss, of the Ohio Council of Behavior Health & Family Service Providers, says the treatment model needs to change so addiction gets the same insurance coverage and resources as cancer and other diseases.

“We think of prevention services – sometimes they’re funded by bake sales and PTOs – and that’s just not how we pay for public health awareness on other diseases and conditions,” Criss says. “They’re part of a public health response. And so the more we start moving into mainstream public health and personal health and medical financing, the sooner we’ll be able to really generate the responses that people need.”