ZANESVILLE, OH —On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a roundtable of southeast Ohio stakeholders at Muskingum Behavioral Health to discuss efforts to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic, as more than 200,000 Ohioans battling addiction are at risk of losing healthcare coverage.
Brown has blasted the Senate’s draft bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which eliminates Medicaid expansion and includes additional cuts to Medicaid – the most important tool for the treatment of opioid addiction in Ohio.
- According to a Harvard study more than 220,000 Ohioans with addiction or mental health disorders now have coverage under the Affordable Care Act – 151,257 through the Medicaid expansion and 69,225 under private insurance purchased through the marketplace. Repeal would kick those people off of their insurance, potentially disrupting treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans as they are fighting for their lives.
- Ohio spent nearly $1 billion dollars to fight the opioid epidemic last year alone, with 70 percent of this investment coming directly from Medicaid. The Senate bill would end Medicaid expansion, which allows thousands of Ohioans to get treatment, and replace it with just $45 billion to address the opioid crisis in the entire country over 10 years.
- Experts have said a $45 billion investment won’t work. Simply throwing money at it won’t fix the problems in this bill. The money is useless if Ohio doesn’t have a Medicaid program to get people covered.
“If a house is on fire, you don’t take away the firefighters’ hoses and hand them squirt guns,” Brown said. “Ohio communities desperately need Washington to take this epidemic seriously, and ending the Medicaid program we know is working takes away the number one tool we have to fight back.”
This year, Brown teamed up with U.S. Sen Rob Portman on a pair of bills to help block fentanyl from reaching Ohio communities, the INTERDICT and STOP Acts. Brown’s INTERDICT ACT provides Customs and Border agents with additional resources to screen for fentanyl safely and effectively.
Several state and national law enforcement organizations, including the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the Buckeye Sheriff’s Association, have endorsed Brown’s bill.
Brown’s bill would authorize $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for 24x7 lab support. The money will be used to:
- Provide more portable chemical screening devices at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories.
- Provide CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field.
Providing CBP with more screening devices and lab support will not only stop more Fentanyl from coming into the U.S., it will also protect more agents in the field from exposure to dangerous substances.
Brown has worked with members of both parties to secure federal resources and address the opioid crisis in Ohio communities. In May, Brown criticized President Trump’s proposed budget for cutting or maintaining current levels of federal funding for various programs working to address the opioid epidemic, even as opioid overdose deaths continue to rise.
Brown was joined at the roundtable by patients in recovery, as well as parents of individuals struggling with addiction. Representatives from Muskingum Behavioral Health, Governor Kasich’s Office, Zanesville Police Department, Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office, Muskingum County ADAMH, Genesis Health Care System, and the Muskingum County Health Commissioner also joined the roundtable discussion.
“The number of people with addictions, especially opiate addictions, seeking help from Muskingum Behavioral Health has doubled in the past 8 years. Families, workplaces, schools, healthcare, law enforcement - EVERYONE is being impacted by this public health epidemic. While much of the focus has been on the human tragedy, appropriately so, we need to look at the numbers of people who are getting into and staying in recovery,” said Steve Carel, Director, Muskingum Behavioral Health.