Athens Officials Requests More Funding to Combat Opioid Crisis

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Athens community leaders and the Ohio Democratic Party are asking for more money in the local government budget in order to better mitigate substance abuse problems.

Chris Knisley, president of Athens City Council, spoke at a press conference with other local officials about the state’s decision to cut local government budgets and how it has impacted Athens.

“In 2011, Governor Kasich cut the local government funds by 50 percent. This has meant a drastic reduction for the city of Athens in particular,” Knisley said. “These are the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we’re needing to use for our infrastructure, our basic safety for our community and our efforts to develop our community for economic development purposes.”

Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith expanded on what Knisley said by explaining there needs to be more financial support for the Medicaid expansion program in the county.

“The Medicaid expansion…should be prioritized in the state budget level,” Smith said. “Without the Medicaid expansion program, it will be a lot harder for us to help people with substance abuse disorders.”

Earl Cecil, a member of the 317 Board for Alcohol and Drug Addiction Program agrees with Smith that more funding is needed for local agencies to combat the opioid crisis but said it takes more than treatment for people to recover from any substance abuse disorder.

“They need education perhaps and they need jobs,” Cecil said. “They need safe and secure sober housing, transportation, healthcare and more than anything else they need hope. Without having the services locally to provide to these folks, it becomes more difficult.”

Last year, DeWine introduced a 12-point plan to help Ohio overcome its drug problems. Two of the points in the plan are to implement a K-12 grade drug prevention education program in all Ohio schools and intervention programs that target Ohio families and children in foster care. However, according to Cecil, it is unclear when this plan will be carried out or how it will be funded.

“The details are still lacking,” Cecil said. ” Whatever we do it’s got to be constant and consistent. We can’t start something up for a couple of years and then do something else.”