COLUMBUS -- During March, in Ruth Bowdish's hometown of Warren in northeastern Ohio, there were 189 drug overdoses, 26 resulting in death.
It's not just in Trumbull County seeing increased overdoses -- it's a crisis the entire state is dealing with, said Bowdish, a chemical dependency counselor at On Demand Drug Testing in Austintown.
"Just today, by the time we go home tonight and we go to sleep, there will be eight families here in the state of Ohio that will be planning a funeral," she said. "That is a reality that Ohioans have to live with."
She added, "We have to understand that this problem is not going away. As a mater of fact, it continues to get worse."
Bowdish works with people who are addicted to drugs. There are methods and medications that can help them, but those treatments and efforts cost money, she said.
On Wednesday, Bowdish was at the Statehouse to voice her support for new legislation being proposed by Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) to take $200 million from the state's budget stabilization fund to boost support for local efforts to combat drug addiction.
The balance of the rainy day fund stands about about $2 billion. Schiavoni and others have called for the account to be tapped, in light of the state's ongoing drug crisis.
"We have county coroners across the state that are being forced to use refrigerated trucks and trailers and funeral homes to store bodies of overdose victims," Schiavoni said, adding later, "We're not going to talk our way or arrest our way out of this problem. Families are being destroyed every single day in almost every community across the state. We need to take action today, and this bill is the step that would be necessary to start really wrapping our arms around the problem."
Gov. John Kasich has said repeatedly that he would not support using the state's rainy day fund to balance the coming biennial budget or for purposes other than dealing with mid-year budget shortfalls.
The Ohio House added about $170 million in additional funding for drug treatment and addiction services to its version of the state budget bill, but Schiavoni said any gains in that proposal would be offset by Medicaid cuts included in the legislation by Republicans.
His $200 million rainy day fund legislation is a separate measure. About half of that total would be directed to local governments and earmarked for alcohol, drug addiction and mental health services boards, law enforcement and other local efforts to counter drug abuse.
The other $100 million would be used to increased treatment in local communities.
Schiavoni said his bill also calls for a statewide online registry tracking the availability of treatment options at the local level, wider insurance coverage for such services and grants for school-based prevention, among other provisions.
"We are in the midst of a health crisis like we've never seen before," Bowdish said. "And all we're asking for is a little help."
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.