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House Republicans propose $170.6 million in budget to fight Ohio's opioid crisis

Jackie Borchardt • Apr 25, 2017 at 9:00 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio House Republicans want to pump $170.6 million into efforts fighting the state's opioid crisis over the next two years.

The new money was part of House revisions to the two-year state budget unveiled Tuesday morning.

Gov. John Kasich proposed a minimal spending increase for the drug problem in the budget he introduced in January. Kasich's office said the state spends $1 billion a year on the issue, most of which is through state and federal Medicaid spending.

Organizations working on the front lines of the crisis said that wasn't enough. Ohio led the nation in opioid-related overdose deaths in 2014. The number of overdose deaths in 2016 is expected to exceed the previous year's 3,050 deaths.

Of the $170.6 million proposed Tuesday:

$130 million for treatment, including $20 million to expand or build detox and treatment centers, $27 million for county Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health boards, $12 million for transitional housing, $30 million for child protective services and $20 million for kinship caregivers.

$19.4 million for mental health initiatives, including expanding drug courts and processing drug lab reports.

$12.2 million toward prevention efforts including an app and hotline to connect people with drug treatment.

$9 million to support workforce training programs.

Cuyahoga County is one of three counties targeted in a new $700,000 pilot program to expand the drug court model, which emphasizes treatment instead of jail time, to mental health issues. The revised budget also establishes a Cuyahoga County pilot program to convert unused nursing home beds for drug treatment services.

House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith said the budget revisions reflect efforts to constrain spending while protecting essential services, especially the opioid epidemic and K-12 education.

"This epidemic is so large, I don't know what the right number is but in a challenging budget we certainly made a huge commitment to this area," said Smith, a Bidwell Republican.

House GOP leaders scrapped several of Kasich's budget proposals, including a $39 million net tax cut and tax increases on wine, beer, tobacco products and other goods and services. Kasich and legislative leaders acknowledged earlier this month the tax cuts would likely not happen in this budget when discussing a projected $800 million shortfall.

The House plan would spend about $133.2 billion over two years -- $2.5 billion less than Kasich's proposal.

The House kept several of the governor's proposals for workforce development and funding for counties and regional transit authorities to cover initial losses from the elimination of the sales tax on Medicaid managed care organizations.

The revised bill also includes a few goodies for lawmakers: reimbursing mileage for attending the governor's state of the state address and other session held outside Columbus, exempting legislative construction projects from state oversight and clarifying that, ethically, legislators can accept meals and travel expenses for state and national conventions.

The House Finance Committee will amend the bill again before the full chamber votes on it next week. The Senate then has its turn to review and revise the bill. The budget must pass both chambers by June 30.

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