COLUMBUS, Ohio — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray on Monday faulted Republicans for doing too little to fight the opioid crisis and said he would immediately declare a state emergency and begin to better fund social services programs to address the problem at its roots.
“Mike DeWine and Republicans in Columbus have been asleep at the switch while the opioid epidemic has spread across Ohio, tearing apart families and leaving devastation in its wake,” Cordray said in announcing his plan to address the issue. “As governor, I’ll bring urgency and badly-needed resources to this fight, and will partner closely with local leaders to stop this plague from causing even more damage to our state.”
Cordray, a former federal consumer watchdog and state attorney general, is in a crowded primary for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. DeWine, the current state attorney general, is Republicans’ endorsed contender for the GOP bid.
Both are seeking this year to replace Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is term-limited.
Kasich and legislative Republicans have supported an array of programs to fight the crisis. The state Legislature infused new money into the most recent state budget, despite a projected shortfall, providing funding for community coalitions, traditional housing, a nursing home pilot project, drug labs and drug courts and short-term job certification programs for in-demand jobs.
Cordray said Ohio cannot “arrest our way out” of the problem, but must get at the epidemic’s root causes. The crisis involving prescription painkillers and heroin is killing 14 Ohioans a day. Cordray’s plan would put more money into things like treatment, addiction and education and add programs to address economic despair, he said.
His plan calls for immediately declaring a state of emergency, protecting Medicaid expansion funding, supporting additional training for law enforcement and first responders, improving local access to treatment and prevention, boosting state support for families and increasing foster and adoptive services.
Ryan Stubenrauch, DeWine’s campaign spokesman, pushed back against Cordray’s assertions that Republicans — and DeWine, specifically — had done too little.
“During the outbreak of the opioid epidemic all over southern Ohio from 2006 to 2010, Richard Cordray did and said nothing,” Stubenrauch said.
Stubenrauch said DeWine responded aggressively to the epidemic from the moment he took office in 2011, including shutting down pill mills, sending doctors to prison and revoking their licenses.
“Since that time, Mike DeWine has done more than anyone to reach every community and help them fight this epidemic, arrest drug traffickers and protect children from the dangers of opioids,” he said.