Ohio Legislators Take Action

As an organization that works with some of the most vulnerable among us, it is important to Meridian HealthCare to recognize that just providing a service is not enough. While our services are important, they’re only a small part of our obligation. It’s critical that we also include education and advocacy in our responsibilities.

We must educate the community about the needs of our clients and help people understand the issues. How can we help people relate to the challenges of living every day with an addiction or mental illness? How do we help them understand what best practices are available to give our clients the best opportunity for success? How do we convince people that an investment in our services is an effective way to make our community a better place to live?

We understand that our clients often do not have a voice. It falls upon us to find champions among us to support our efforts. We work closely with our elected officials in Columbus and Washington to help improve the lives of the people we serve. 

At Meridian, we have seen the frightening growth of heroin use over the last few years. The epidemic began with prescription opiates and has advanced to heroin. Our state legislators share our concerns and are introducing legislation to assist in addressing the problem. 

Currently, there are a number of bills before the Ohio House of Representatives that address issues relating to opioid addiction and prevention. These issues include:

  • opioid treatment of chronic pain
  • diversion of drugs containing opioids for hospice care programs
  • required disclosure of the addictive nature of certain prescription drugs
  • barring physicians from prescribing opioid drugs to patients unless they also receive treatment
  • prohibiting controlled substances that contain opioids from being prescribed or dispensed without review from the State Board of Pharmacy.

Representatives Lynn R. Wachtmann (District 81), Nikki J. Antonio (District 13), Ryan Smith (District 93) and Robert Sprague (District 83) are among the legislators in the Ohio House who have sponsored these bills. Other representatives and senators have also shown support on these issues. 

As a representative of The Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers (OARP), I recently had the opportunity to testify at committee hearings in Columbus regarding some of the House Bills that attempt to address the opiate epidemic. Together, we’re making meaningful contributions to the strategies being implemented to combat this problem.

As some of these bills reach the Ohio Senate, the Mahoning Valley is fortunate to have two State Senators that continue to champion our causes. 

“Everyone agrees that opioid use and addiction is a huge problem in Ohio; fortunately we have seen many different bills in the legislature to raise awareness and find solutions,” says Senator Joe Schiavoni. “It is my goal to help pass legislation that could prevent future tragedies for Ohio families. I look forward to working with Meridian HealthCare, as well as the many other advocates and leaders, on this issue here in the Mahoning Valley, to combat this problem head-first.”

Senator Capri Cafaro has also been very active in the Ohio Senate, providing solutions and bills to address the needs in our community. One area the Senator has focused on is the expansion of Medicaid. Her efforts to get the Medicaid bill passed last October have provided increased access to treatment for those who were not eligible before. She has also been a supporter and speaker at a number of different community events addressing addiction and treatment.

Whether a treatment agency or a legislator, we are all working towards not only providing a service to those who need it, but also furthering the education behind these issues and being a voice for those struggling with an addiction.

Larry Moliterno is CEO of Meridian HealthCare and currently serves as President of the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers. Send email to lmoliterno@MeridianCommunityCare.org