opioid epidemic

Gabe Rosenberg

Jennifer Mills drives down a long open road, flanked by fields of yellow grass, clouds overhanging.

As a child services caseworker, Mills says on most days she will drive from one end of Ross County to the other, filing paperwork at the local courthouse and to check in on her clients. Most are parents struggling to keep their kids, and kids adjusting to living without their parents. 

Over the last two decades, about 2 million people in the U.S. became addicted to opioids after being prescribed pain killers following an injury or illness. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and other studies say an increased emphasis on pain-management two decades ago contributed to an increased reliance on prescribing opioids.

In the last seven years, the number of children taken into custody by children services agencies in Ohio soared by nearly 20%, and half of those cases involve parental drug use. And the agencies charged with caring for those kids say Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget doesn’t do enough to help them

André-Pierre du Plessis/Flickr

When the opioid carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer, surfaced in Ohio last summer, it caused a public health emergency. Ohio now suffers more fatal drug overdoses from synthetic opioids than any other state in the country.

It seems carfentanil slipped through a crack in the system: a loophole in the Postal Service.

Adam / Wikipedia

Leaders at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center says they’re trying to make it easier for doctors and nurses to comply with a law meant to curb doctor shopping and painkiller abuse. 

Charles Williams / FLICKR

Franklin County officials report they have discovered pills sold on the streets that were marked as oxycodone were actually counterfeit and contain fentanyl instead. 

As the toll of the opioid epidemic grows, scores of doctors have lost their licenses and some have gone to prison. Pharmacies are being sued and shuttered. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are under investigation and face new rules from regulators.

But penalties against companies that serve as middlemen between drug companies and pharmacies have been relatively scarce — until recently.

opioids and prescription medicine bottle
Flickr

As the number of opioid-related deaths in Ohio remains high, the number of prescriptions dropped for the fourth straight year.  

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Gov. John Kasich has been warning for months now that tax revenues coming into the state are below expectations and that the upcoming two-year state budget will be tighter than in the past. His recent speeches have taken on a new theme.

Charlie Oen's battle with addiction started when he was 16 and his family moved to Lima, Ohio. It was the last stop in a string of moves his military family made — from Panama to North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas and Germany.

"I went toward a bad group because those were the people that accepted me," he says. Drugs became a substitute for real friendships.

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