Anti-opiates bills should get close review by Ohio Senate

Drug abuse has become a wildfire in Ohio, spreading rapidly and consuming lives in the process. Local law enforcement agencies cannot battle it on their own. State officials need to do more.

A package of bills intended to do more against heroin and other opiates, including pain pills, has been approved by the state House of Representatives. It includes common-sense measures that could help.

Approved separately by the House, the steps would, if enacted, include:

– Tens of millions of dollars a year for centers that help opiate addicts recover.

– Require that physicians who prescribe opiate drugs must review patients’ prescription histories through a special state database.

– Mandate that opiates cannot be prescribed for minors without consent from parents or guardians.

– Establish procedures to curb diversion of opiate drugs from hospice-care facilities and programs.

There has been some criticism of the House plan. Much of it involves a proposal that new addiction treatment programs be funded by reallocating much of the nearly $50 million already provided for county-level programs.

That may be a valid concern. Simply shifting addiction treatment money around adds nothing to the battle against illegal drugs. And, if it takes money from effective treatment initiatives and shifts it to less-capable ones, the move could be counterproductive.

Other House proposals, including those aimed at keeping prescriptions out of the hands of those who may abuse opiates, clearly would be helpful.

State officials need to do more on all the fronts in the war against drug abuse. Methamphetamines, not even addressed in the House proposal, are another growing concern. Last year, law enforcement agencies found 1,010 meth laboratories or equipment used in them. That is the fourth highest number in the country.

Still, state representatives are on the right track with the anti-opiates package. State senators should look at it carefully, addressing whatever valid concerns there are, then forward the bills to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.