GALLIPOLIS — Folks in southeastern Ohio are not strangers to the drug epidemic affecting many communities.
During the Gallia County Republican Party rally Tuesday night at the Gallia County Fairgrounds, state Rep. Robert Sprague, R-83rd District, talked about heroin and the steps that must be taken to curb addiction in Gallia County and throughout Ohio.
During his keynote speech, Sprague, whose district encompasses parts of Hancock, Hardin and Logan counties in northwestern Ohio, said there are essentially three phases to heroin use: Prevention, diversion, and effective and available treatment options.
“The first is we have to prevent more people from becoming addicted,” he said. “How do people become addicted to heroin? They start off with a pill because everyone thinks pills are safe. They crush the pills and pretty soon they’re snorting the pills. Once they are addicted to the pills, and as their addiction deepens, they turn to heroin because it’s cheaper and stronger.”
Sprague said the heroin issue must be attacked from the front to prevent more people from becoming addicted. He noted an Ohio law carried by state Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, that prevents people from receiving narcotics from several physicians.
“It essentially shut down ‘doctor shopping’ in Ohio,” he said. “We’ve seen a 72 percent drop in doctor shopping (a practice in which a patient will seek out multiple physicians to get prescriptions for certain medications, usually pain relievers).”
Sprague said more must be done in terms of treatment, including its availability.
“We simply have to provide more options,” he said. “People, in many cases, when they get into recovery, they want to get help but they don’t have access to treatment.”
Lastly, Sprague said the state must do a better job in terms of helping the criminal justice system.
“We must be sure to delineate between people who are using heroin versus people who are bringing it into our communities from Mexico and selling it,” he said. “We have to stop these gangs that are coming into our state and into our country (from Mexico) and bringing (heroin) with them, polluting our neighborhoods and getting many of our young people addicted to heroin.”
Sprague, a native of Findlay, currently serves on the Ohio House Finance Committee and as chairman of the Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. He also serves on the Financial Institutions, Housing, and Urban Development Committee; Health and Aging Committee; and the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee.
Sprague and his wife, Amanda, reside in Findlay with their five children — four boys and one girl.
Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.