The Obama administration has unveiled a plan to crack down on the prescription drug abuse epidemic that has long plagued communities from Florida to West Virginia. The White House announced Tuesday that it will seek an additional $123 million for drug prevention and $99 million for treatment programs next year. The plan also includes legislation that would mandate training before doctors could prescribe painkillers like OxyContin.
Surprisingly – given the new era of spending cuts and fiscal austerity – some Republicans agree.
In Ohio – where fatal overdoses have quadrupled in the past 10 years and have eclipsed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death – Republican Gov. John Kasich has pledged $36 million in new spending to fight prescription drug abuse. Florida Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) urged Congress last week to do something about the problem he said is destroying communities in his state.
So why the deviation from draconian spending cuts? Prescription drug abuse has long been a scourge across Appalachia, claiming more lives than the ’80s crack epidemic and the ’70s heroin epidemic combined, the New York Times reports today.
The heartbreaking NYT story details the devastation prescription drugs have wrought on Scioto County, Ohio:
“Around here, everyone has a kid who’s addicted,” said Lisa Roberts, a nurse who works for the Portsmouth Health Department. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a police chief, a judge or a Baptist preacher. It’s kind of like a rite of passage.”
About 10 years ago, when OxyContin first hurtled through the pretty hollow just north of town where the Mannering family lives, the two youngest children were still in high school. Their parents tried to protect them, pleading with neighbours who were selling the drug to stop. By mid-decade, they counted 11 houses on their country road that were dealing the drug (including a woman in her 70s called Granny), and their two youngest children, Nina and Chad, were addicted….
Nina Mannering tried to quit, her mother said. She had a small daughter to care for. She was in a counseling program for a few months, but was told to leave when her boyfriend brought her pills. At one point, Ms. Mannering counted the number of schoolmates in four graduating classes who had died from overdoses, her mother recalled. The total was 16.
“It’s like being in the middle of a tornado,” said Ed Hughes, director of the Counseling centre, a network of rehabilitation and drug counseling clinics in the county. “It was moving so fast that families were caught totally off guard. They had no idea what they were dealing with.”
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