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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

State Legislators Sparring Over How to Fund the Fight Against the Opiate Crisis

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge heroin_ev.jpg
Last month, several top Democrats introduced a bill that would funnel $200 million from the state's "rainy day" fund toward fighting the ongoing and worsening opiate addiction crisis. Debate continues, though leading Republicans (like Gov. John Kasich) have balked at tapping those reserves, which total about $2 billion.

Everyone mostly agrees, though, that more money needs to be committed to the struggle. The state has already dropped $1 billion into its Opiate Action Team. Still, the death toll mounts.

Now, Republicans are suggesting that the state chip another $35 million from the local government fund, as Cleveland.com's Jackie Borchardt reports. That money would be included a $176.4-million plan to curb the crisis, mainly through bulking up the state's child protective services program, expanding the number of treatment beds in Ohio and increasing drug treatment and detox programs for convicted felons.

But with the local government fund being tapped for a spectrum of state needs since 2011, mayors across the state are feeling burned once again. "Again, we seem to be the slush fund for state programs or priorities the state wants to fund that they won't want to fund through their own revenues," Ohio Municipal League Executive Director Kent Scarrett told Borchardt.

A vote on the state budget is expected by the end of the month; until then, state legislators are scrambling to put forth a package that successfully closes a $1-billion shortfall going into next year.

The Democrats' "rainy day" fund bill has remained in committee since May 24.

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