HPIO releases fact sheet on policy options to address overdose deaths

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released a new fact sheet, Refocusing Ohio’s Approach to Overdose Deaths.

“Drug overdose deaths are preventable and there are many ways to deter and reverse overdoses,” the fact sheet states. “Recent upward trends in overdose deaths are troubling. Without a comprehensive policy response that takes into consideration the many factors that contribute to overdose, Ohioans will continue to die, leaving behind grieving families and untapped potential.”

This fact sheet explores:

  • What drives overdose deaths
  • Why overdose deaths continue to increase
  • What Ohio can do to improve overdose prevention

This fact sheet was released in conjunction with the HPIO policy brief, Taking Action to Strengthen Ohio’s Addiction Response.

FDA approves e-cigarette product for first time

Federal health regulators Tuesday for the first time authorized the legal marketing of an electronic cigarette, saying the product from RJ Reynolds could help addicted adult smokers (Source: “FDA authorizes an e-cigarette for first time, citing benefit for smokers,” The Hill, Oct. 12).

The Food and Drug Administration said the company's refillable Vuse Solo closed device and tobacco-flavored e-liquid pods could benefit addicted adult smokers who switch by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals.

The first-of-its-kind authorization comes amid an effort by the FDA to regulate the massive vaping industry and determine which products are allowed to stay on the market. 

It signals the agency may look more favorably on tobacco-flavored products than the fruity ones that are most popular among teenagers, even though some feature extremely high nicotine content.

New HPIO fact sheets explore racial, geographic differences in impact of Ohio addiction crisis

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released two new fact sheets that detail the impact of the addiction crisis on different groups of Ohioans.  

The fact sheets are being released in conjunction with the recently published HPIO policy brief Taking Action to Strengthen Ohio’s Addiction Response.

The first fact sheet, HPIO Addiction Evidence Project: Insights on addiction and race, provides data and information on differences in addiction outcomes by race, and the factors that drive those differences, with a focus on Black Ohioans.

“Ohio has taken many steps to prevent addiction and improve treatment access for people with substance use disorder,” the fact sheet states. “However, addiction remains a concern across the state, affecting people from every community and inequitably impacting Ohioans of color.”

The second fact sheet, HPIO Addiction Evidence Project: Insights on addiction and geography, presents information about differences in downstream addiction-related harms, and the factors driving those differences, across Ohio communities based on region and county type.

According to the fact sheet, “Addiction-related harms remain a concern across the state and there are clear regional disparities in economic conditions and access to life-saving services that exacerbate those harms. Going forward, Ohio can do more to ensure that where someone lives does not increase the likelihood they will die of a drug overdose.”

New HPIO policy brief outlines ways for Ohio policymakers to take action to address addiction

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio has released a new policy brief, “Taking Action to Strengthen Ohio’s Addiction Response.”

The publication is the final brief in the HPIO Addiction Evidence Project and includes:

  • An update on where Ohio stands on addiction-related trends
  • A summary of Ohio’s addiction policy strengths, gaps, challenges and opportunities
  • A prioritized set of nine policy recommendations

Over the past 20 years, Ohioans have pulled together to address the complex challenges of addiction in unprecedented ways. Now, with pending opioid settlements on the horizon, there is an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of Ohio’s efforts to date and plan for what should happen next.

The brief identifies the following as the most important addiction policy priorities to address:

  • Immediate: Save lives by ending fentanyl overdoses
  • Next 2 years: Reform the criminal justice system to support recovery and employment
  • Long term: Continue to strengthen Ohio’s prevention-treatment-recovery continuum

Ohio, local goverments finalize $808M opioid settlement

Ohio and more than 140 local governments in the state have finalized an $808 million-plus settlement with the nation’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson to settle lawsuits related to the companies’ role in the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Dave Yost announced Thursday (Source: “Ohio, local governments finalize $808M opioid settlement with four drug companies,”, Sept. 16).

Ohio’s agreement is part of a larger $21 billion deal to settle lawsuits filed by more than 3,000 state and local governments against Johnson & Johnson, as well as drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Columbus-based Cardinal Health.

The drug companies have been accused of helping to make and/or distribute billions of opioid painkiller pills in recent years despite knowing they were being abused by addicts.

Yost, a Columbus Republican, said during an online news conference that the money will be paid out over the next 18 years. Under an agreement reached last year, 55% of Ohio’s settlement money will go to a foundation that will pay for addiction treatment programs. Another 30% will go to local governments; the remaining 15% will go to the state.

Ohio allows medical marijuana growers to expand operations

The Ohio Department of Commerce announced this week that Ohio's medical marijuana cultivators can request permission to expand their grow space (Source: “Ohio to allow medical marijuana growers to expand to meet demand, prepare for more dispensaries,” Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 15).

Expansion requests will be granted to businesses that have complied with rules and regulations, are already using the maximum amount of space allowed by the state and demonstrate a need to expand to keep up with demand.

The expansion process comes as the state plans to more than double the number of dispensaries to sell medical marijuana and after Akron-based cultivator Fire Rock Ltd. sued the state for failing to act on its February 2020 request to expand.

Ohio has licensed 20 cultivators who can grow up to 25,000 square feet of marijuana and 15 cultivators that can grow up to 3,000 square feet. State rules allow licensees to expand to 75,000 square feet and 9,000 square feet, respectively, but didn't outline a process for requesting expansion.

Ohio nears $808 million opioid settlement

The state of Ohio took a major step forward this week in reaching a massive settlement deal with distributors sued over their role in the opioid epidemic (Source: “Ohio set to reach $808 million opioid settlement after more counties, cities sign on,” Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 19).

The "OneOhio" opioid settlement now has been agreed to by more than 99% of litigating local governments – 142 of the 143 entities said yes as of Wednesday – above the absolute minimum of 96% for any deal to be considered. The only holdout, Scioto County, can still sign onto the deal until this Friday at 5 p.m.

The 96% mark, while necessary, does not guarantee that the distributors will be paying out $808 million. The companies still need to sign off on it.

If the distributors – Dublin-based Cardinal Health; McKesson, based in Texas; and AmerisourceBergen, of Pennsylvania – do give approval, roughly 30% of the money would go to local communities, which then would be used for treatment and prevention programs for opioid addiction. Another 15% would go to Ohio for legal costs, and the rest would go to a foundation controlled by local government representatives.

Community groups running short of naloxone, warn of potential increase in overdose deaths

An affordable antidote for opioid overdoses has become more difficult to obtain amid a fatal epidemic, in what advocates have called a “perfect storm” with deadly consequences (Source: “Affordable naloxone is running out, creating a perfect storm for more overdose deaths, activists say,” Washington Post, Aug. 11).

After a manufacturing issue halted Pfizer’s production of the single-dose injectable naloxone in April, groups that distribute a significant amount of the lifesaving medicine say they are facing an unprecedented obstacle to reverse drug overdoses as they reach an all-time high. Organizers say the insufficient supply has been felt unequally across the country.

Pfizer, which offers naloxone at a discount to a national buyer’s club made up of harm prevention programs, said it may take until February before it can meet demand again. The Opioid Safety and Naloxone Network Buyer’s Club, the national consortium of more than 100 harm reduction programs that have provided millions of doses since 2012 to communities at a reduced price, says the unprecedented scarcity is expected to have deadly consequences.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be able to spend $30 million allocated in the American Rescue Plan — the first federal funds designated specifically for harm reduction by Congress — on naloxone once it is available. In the meantime, according to HHS, states can seek funds through grant programs run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Opiate settlement could mean $1B for Ohio treatment, prevention programs

Ohio and other states reached a $26 billion settlement with the three largest drug distributors as well as manufacturer Johnson & Johnson that is expected to surge cash into opioid treatment and prevention programs (Source: “Ohio could get $1B from multibillion dollar deal with opiate maker and three distributors,” Columbus Dispatch, July 21).

Ohio's cut of the cash could hit $1.03 billion if local jurisdictions sign onto the agreement, according to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office.

The agreement comes after nearly four years of negotiations. Under the settlement, J&J will pay up to $5 billion over nine years and the three distributors — McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen and Ohio-based Cardinal Health Inc. — will collectively pay up to $21 billion over 17 years. 

In March 2020, Yost and Gov. Mike DeWine announced that local governments had signed off on a plan on how opioid settlement money would be divvied up. The OneOhio agreement calls for 30% of the money to be earmarked for community recovery programs at the local level, 55% for a statewide foundation and 15% to the state.

States not ready to meet mental health needs of students this fall, report finds

A report released this week from advocacy group Mental Health America found that a majority of states are not ready to address youth mental health as schools prepare to reopen for in-person learning in the fall (Source: “Analysis: Most states not ready to tackle youth mental health ahead of fall,” The Hill, July 20). 

The analysis reports that just 14 states have fully expanded Medicaid to cover mental health services in schools, and only a handful have legislation requiring mental health education. The lack of access and education make states unprepared to deal with mental health issues among children, which were exacerbated by the pandemic, the report said. 

Children of color are more likely to receive school-based mental health services than white children, so limited resources can also lead to disparities in who is getting care. And although Black and Latino children are less likely than white children to get mental health treatment for depression, they made up the largest increases in the proportion of youth experiencing suicidal ideation between 2019 and 2020, the report said.

Advocates say the coronavirus pandemic worsened an already existing mental health crisis devastating young people. The percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds who reported a past-year major depressive episode doubled over the past 10 years, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.