Attorney general candidates critique Ohio’s response to drug-abuse crisis

The Columbus Dispatch | Jim Siegel

As drug-overdose deaths in Ohio continue to hit shocking record highs, Dave Yost doesn’t want to just tweak the state’s effort to combat the heroin and opioid crisis.

“A great deal of what we think is wrong, and we need to do things substantially differently,” said the state auditor and Republican nominee for attorney general.

From criminal penalties to more efficient treatment options to modernized prevention methods, Yost said it’s urgent that the state better deal with an addiction crisis that has the potential to rot out a society.

“We’ve got to get this right. We’ve got to challenge the conventional wisdom and not just appropriate more money,” he said in a recent meeting with The Dispatch editorial board.

Yost noted, for example, that the $182 million that state lawmakers earmarked in June 2017 to address the drug crisis is divided into dozens of buckets, which he called “a lesson for how the legislature works when they want to solve a problem by spending money”…

Yost said he accepts that “we can’t arrest our way out of this problem.” He wants to see simple drug possession charged as a misdemeanor, with a focus on community intervention.

But drug dealers, describe by Yost as spreading the problem like a virus, should be locked up on felony charges.

“We need to go through the drug code and make sense of it,” he said.

Ohio also needs to be smarter about treatment, Yost said.

“You’d get the impression if you listen to the discussion that if we just weren’t so stingy and just spent enough on treatment, we would be OK,” he said.

Yost, whose office is preparing to do a performance audit of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said money flows to county boards for treatment, but “there are no reliable statewide efficacy statistics.”

New medically assisted treatment protocols are getting better results and should be prioritized over programs that have more of a “revolving door” of relapses, he said.

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