Panel to weigh $20M Kasich wants to spend on opioid crisis

By Julie Carr Smyth - AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS (AP) — A state commission in Ohio plans to take up Republican Gov. John Kasich’s request to invest up to $20 million in scientific breakthroughs aimed at tackling the state and national opioid crisis.

The Third Frontier Commission, which supports Ohio’s technology and research economy from a voter-approved bond fund, will begin its scheduled deliberations on Wednesday with a briefing on the state of the crisis and response. Some type of action is likely.

Kasich called for dedicating the money to the cause, and then moving quickly to distribute it, during his State of the State address in April.

Ohio led the nation with almost 2,700 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2015, a 28 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The epidemic driven by prescription painkillers and heroin is being called the worst in U.S. history.

The latest on the crisis will be provided Wednesday by three representatives of Kasich’s administration: Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director for the Ohio Department of Health; state Medicaid Director Barbara Sears; and Lt. Col. Michael Black of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, according to the commission’s Lisa Colbert.

Researchers in addiction and drug abuse at top tier Ohio institutions, including Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University, said after Kasich made his proposal that they have studies of potentially groundbreaking treatments and technologies underway that can benefit from a financial boost.

Among the ideas are special patient monitoring technologies; a device attached to the ear that relieves pain and blocks the effects of opiate withdrawal; deep brain stimulation; and a combination of physical therapy and psychological therapy.

Kasich is asking the commission to dedicate some of its existing revenue stream to identifying and promoting existing, proven ideas that need an extra push to be brought to market.

If the project is approved, the typical pattern would be for the panel to identify the challenge, and then solicit research proposals and help leverage private and public investment in the ventures.

By Julie Carr Smyth

AP Statehouse Correspondent