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00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980000Day after day, week after week, the headlines in Northeast Ohio and across much of the country contain news of tragic loss: lives lost to opioids. It’s a problem that knows no bounds: geography, race, gender, level of education or income.The problem took on new urgency this summer as the powerful elephant sedative, Carfentanil, began hitting the streets. First responders armed with their only weapon, the overdose antidote Naloxone, have struggled to keep up with what’s become an overwhelming problem. It’s an issue that’s straining public and social resources. What has become clear is that business as usual is not going to fix the problem.WKSU news has been covering the unfolding crisis. Tuesdays during Morning Edition, the WKSU news team digs even deeper. WKSU reporters will examine what’s led us here and what might be done to turn the tide. Support for Opioids: Turning the Tide in the Crisis comes from Wayne Savings Community Bank, Kent State University Office of Continuing and Distance Education, Hometown Grocery Delivery, Mercy Medical Center, AxessPointe Community Health Center, Community Support Services, Inc., Medina County District Library and Hudson Community First.00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980001

2018 Governor Hopefuls Weigh in on Ohio's Opioid Lawsuit and Ongoing Crisis

photo of Mike DeWine

Attorney General Mike DeWine’s lawsuit against five drug companies is drawing mixed reactions from candidates for governor in 2018.

DeWine filed suit against the five drug companies, saying they deceived doctors and Ohioans about how addictive their painkillers are.

“These drug companies knew that what they were saying was wrong. But they did it anyway and they continue to do so.”

DeWine says these companies should pay damages to the state that could then be used to fight Ohio’s opioid crisis. The timing of the lawsuit is notable, since DeWine is putting together his campaign for governor next year.

Other Republicans
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted will be running against DeWine in the primary next year. He says if the drug makers broke the law, they should be held accountable but Husted says the lawsuit will take years. And he says Ohio can’t wait.

“We are number one in the nation in opioid deaths. But if we were number one in the nation in education or job creation, I promise you we would not be number one in opioid deaths because we have got to do a better job of lifting people up out of the circumstances they are in, both in terms of treatment and economic and educational opportunities,” he said.

Northeast Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci is also running for Governor next year.

In a written statement, Renacci said it’s important to get opioid abusers into treatment. He says while the lawsuit might have some positive effects in the long term, defeating the crisis will not only require state dollars but also support from community organizations and churches. And he said good paying jobs would be a strong ally against the hopeless feeling that fuels the epidemic.

Another potential candidate for governor in 2018, current Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, told the Dayton Daily News this issue is personal for her. Taylor explained her two sons have fought their own battles against opioid addiction. In a written statement, she called the lawsuit a distraction from the real issues and went on to say the problem calls for a comprehensive solution.

The Democrats
On the Democratic side, Sen. Joe Schiavoni says DeWine’s lawsuit is a good first step but thinks local communities might have grounds to sue as well.

“And then of course there’s the bill that we proposed that would tap into the state’s rainy day fund, using ten percent of that fund in order to deal with education, police force and rehabilitation services so I think if we go after this problem in those three different ways…….you know, going after the drug manufacturers, even if there’s a settlement down the road or a finding of guilt, that’s going to be years and years down the road.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley mentioned holding drug makers accountable in her gubernatorial campaign launch. She says the lawsuit is long overdue but she says more needs to be done to help local communities like hers.

“You know we are seeing a 15% increase in ambulance runs right now in the city of Dayton. Our police and first responders are exhausted from the opiate addiction issue as well as other issues that are affecting our communities and the Statehouse crowd is just completely out of touch with what’s going on in communities.”

Former northeast Ohio congressional member Betty Sutton says the lawsuit against drug makers should have been filed a long time ago. But she also says more needs to be done.

“And it must be a top priority for the state to combat this in every way including with declaring a state of emergency to help coordinate the effort to battle this crisis.”

Another Democrat in the race, former state representative Connie Pillich, says the parties at fault need to be held accountability but adds there’s no silver bullet. In a written statement, she says Ohio needs a comprehensive solution that includes Medicaid expansion to provide treatment for patients and support for families in need.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.