WASHINGTON, D.C. – Adams and Scioto counties have received a federal designation that will enable them to receive new resource to combat prescription drug trafficking and production. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that Adams and Scioto Counties will be designated High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. In a letter to National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, Brown urged him to designate Adams and Scioto Counties as HIDTAs in order to secure additional tools for local law enforcements.
“Ohio is on the front lines of the prescription drug epidemic and we need every available resource to prevent the devastation we’ve seen in our communities,” Brown said. “This HIDTA designation will help local, state, and federal law enforcement officers prevent the suffering of too many Ohio families.”
HIDTAs reduce drug trafficking and production by facilitating coordinated enforcement and intelligence sharing among Federal, state, and local enforcement agencies. Although prescription drug abuse affects all of Ohio, Adams and Scioto Counties are the first non-high density urban areas in Ohio to receive HIDTA designation. HIDTAs are governed by a regional Executive Board comprised of 16 members—eight Federal members and eight state or local members—who asses the drug trafficking threat, develop a strategy to address that threat, and design initiatives to implement the strategy.
Adams and Scioto Counties will join 11 other Ohio counties including Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Stark, Summit, and Warren Counties as part of the Ohio HIDTA.
Last month, Brown visited the Second Chance counseling center in Scioto County to renew his call for passage of his bill, the Stop Trafficking of Pills Act (STOP Act). This legislation would require national adoption of a Medicaid Lock-In program to crack down on the fraudulent use of Medicaid cards to obtain and fill prescriptions for addictive pain medications. Medicaid Lock-In programs limit convicted prescription drug abusers and high-risk patients from visiting multiple doctors and pharmacies to obtain and fill prescriptions. This enables the kind of close monitoring needed to prevent high-risk patients from personally abusing or selling opioids on the taxpayers’ dime.
At Brown’s invitation, Director Kerlikowske unveiled the National Drug Control Strategy during a press conference at a Columbus family-based drug treatment center in June. Director Kerlikowske and Brown also toured client residences and childcare facilities and held a discussion with clients and their families. Director Kerlikowske outlined details of the Obama Administration's comprehensive action plan to address the national prescription drug abuse epidemic.
The 2011 National Drug Control Strategy builds upon the 2010 inaugural plan by:
- Expanding early intervention programs in health care settings, aligning criminal justice policies and public health systems to divert non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail, funding more scientific research on drug use, and expanding access to substance abuse treatment;
- Strengthening U.S. commitments to key international partners, working simultaneously on supply and demand reduction efforts with allies in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia; and
- Placing additional focus on populations with unique challenges and needs in addressing their substance abuse issues: active duty military and veterans; women and their families; college and university students; and those in the criminal justice system.
The Prescription Drug Epidemic in Ohio
Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in Ohio. Ohio is second only to Florida in the number of Oxycodone prescriptions filled and Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisoning increased more than 350 percent from 1999 to 2008. In 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes and suicide for the first time on record. Prescription pain medications, such as oxycodone, morphine, and methadone, are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio.
Community leaders in southern Ohio and rural counties across the state have expressed concerns about the increasing problems with drug abuse and often attribute the rise in abuse to drug diversion (the unlawful channeling of regulated drugs from medical sources to the illicit marketplace of pain medications), doctor shopping (using multiple prescribers), and pill mills (doctors, pharmacies, or illegal pain clinics that prescribe and dispense prescription drugs inappropriately or for non-medical reasons or personal financial gain).
Both the Strickland and Kasich Administrations in Ohio have advocated for thorough and comprehensive approaches to combat prescription drug abuse. Governor Strickland established a task force that produced strong recommendations for combating this issue, and Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced several initiatives aimed at cracking down on the “pill mills” that offer easy – and illegal – access to prescription pain medications.
Sen. Brown’s Work to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse
Brown is working to combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and Medicaid fraud in Ohio on all fronts. Following a verbal agreement to work together to combat prescription drug abuse in Ohio, Brown sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to establish two Ohio-based tactical diversion squads to help the state crack down on “pill mills” and prescription drug-related crimes. While there are currently 37 operational tactical diversion squads nationwide, none are based in Ohio. At a March 2011 hearing of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Brown urged Holder to work with Ohio’s law enforcement agencies to establish tactical diversion squads in the state.
Last year, Brown joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing legislation to reauthorize the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Drug Reporting (NASPER) Act, a prescription drug monitoring program critical to combating the abuse of prescription drugs. Sen. Brown has also joined his colleagues in introducing legislation that would prevent teenagers from gaining access to discarded prescription drugs by permitting individuals and long-term care facilities to deliver unused drugs for safe disposal and by expanding drug “take-back” programs.
Brown’s office convened a first-of-its-kind roundtable in March 2010 that brought together federal officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, state officials from the Attorney General's office, Department of Health, and Department of Jobs and Family Services, and community leaders to discuss the issue of drug abuse in southern Ohio.