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House Republicans Put Focus On Opioid Epidemic In New Ohio Budget Plan

Rep Ryan Smith presents a poster identifying how opioid dollars will be spent..
Jo Ingles
Ohio Public Radio
Rep Ryan Smith presents a poster identifying how opioid dollars will be spent.

The Ohio House’s version of the two year budget adds more than $170 million to fight Ohio’s opioid crisis and adds $80 million for the state’s K-12 schools.

House Republicans plan to spend $130 million for drug treatment, including $20 million for detox and treatment centers, $27 million for county addiction services and $12 million for transitional housing. And House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith says more than $12 million would go toward developing a smartphone app and hotline to help connect people with drug treatment.

“If you think about Uber locating where you are at and then directing you back to a website, let’s just say the ADAMH board’s website since they are providers in every area. So what we are trying to do is bring innovation and technology into this fight. But we also want to do PSA’s statewide," Smith said. "We want to do things on social media, whether it be Facebook or Snapchat because obviously, different generations operate on different mediums.”

There are also more than $19 million in this proposal to cover drug courts, $9 million for workforce training programs, $15 million for child protective services and it earmarks $10 million each year from federal pass through dollars to help provide support for families who are caring for children because of the parent’s addiction issues.

While the opioid problem received the largest share of funding, Smith says schools also got new money in this budget.

“K-12 primary and secondary education was our second largest investment in this budget," Smith said. "Having said that, it’s $80 million over the biennium. So that’s $40 million a year.”

That translates into a $20 increase in per pupil spending and increases a cap on the amount of state funding a school district can receive. This means some districts that are considered to have higher wealth can draw down more state dollars.

This increase was expected, since more than half of districts would have received less money under Kasich’s initial budget. For Jack Cera, the lead Democrat on the House Budget panel, the devil is in the details.

“$40 million a year, $80 million total, it’s not a lot of money when you also have a problem with the transportation," Cera said. "They didn’t really fix the transportation costs so a number of school districts are still going to lose money under this proposal.”

Cera says while he’s glad schools and the opioid issue appear to get more money in this budget, he’s not sure how many of those dollars are really new.

“The first thing we want to do is make sure it is new money and it’s not federal money or in the past, what they’ve done, is they’ve taken parts of mental health to fund it," he said. "And then the second question is, is it really enough to have an impact?”

Cera, who wants the state to take money from the state’s $2 billion rainy day fund to deal with opioid abuse issues, says he’ll be analyzing this budget in the coming days.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.