Ohio Opioid Crisis Set to Shape the 2018 Election

By Bryan Le 07/03/17

With election season approaching, Ohio politicians are placing the focus on addiction treatment and healthcare in their campaigns. 

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speaks to a group of supporters during a town hall before the Wisconsin presidential primary in Madison, Wisconsin.
Gov. John Kasich's seat will be up for grabs--as well as his law limiting the amount of prescribed painkillers.

As the opioid crisis continues to grow in scope and affect more and more families, politicians in Ohio have taken heed and begun spinning their talking points about the issue. Addressing the crisis directly paid off for Sen. Robert Portman, who won his re-election in 2016 with 58.3% of the vote. His opponent, Democrat Ted Strickland, won a relatively paltry 36.9% of the vote.

Ohio governor John Kasich, a prominent opponent of the GOP's healthcare reform bill, is on his way out in 2018 and Dayton mayor Nan Whaley is making the opioid epidemic a major priority in her campaign to fill his seat. In early June, Whaley announced that the city of Dayton had filed a lawsuit against five opioid manufacturers for their role in helping to create the opioid epidemic. 

While policy changes enacted by government officials has had positive effects, Ohio crisis workers and advocates say there’s still a long, long way to go.

"I don't think we're at the point where things are getting better," said Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin. "I think we're at the point where it's finally reached a national level of consciousness, but I don't think we've reached the point where we're seeing the decline of the heroin epidemic."

One line of attack being developed by Democratic candidates is to criticize Republicans for their plans to cut future Medicaid spending by more than a trillion dollars. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who is running for re-election in Ohio, calls Medicaid the “number one tool” against the opioid crisis.

"What we hear today, what I heard yesterday in Cleveland from the coroner, the police departments, from people going through treatment, is that nothing is more important to fight opioid abuse than to have Medicaid coverage," said Sen. Brown.

Ohio Democrats also say that years of Republican leadership in Ohio has not made any significant impact on the problem.

For Republican Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, the opioid crisis hits close to home. She revealed that she has two adult sons who struggled with opioid addiction, with mentions of overdose and failed rehab attempts.

"The opiate crisis has come in my front door," she said.

Republican Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, who is running for Ohio Attorney General, criticized his party’s overhaul of state sentencing laws in the interest of drug policy, getting in a Twitter tangle with a pro-Tea Party group in the process.

"Savings by putting heroin deals on probation will cost much more money in misery and addiction. Penny-wise for DRC [the state prison department], pound-foolish for taxpayers!" his campaign posted on Twitter.

The next steps that Ohio government officials take are important—Ohio experienced an “overdose tsunami” in 2016, with over 4,000 people killed by powerful synthetic opioids like carfentanil and fentanyl in the state.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter