By Whitney Vickers
GREENE COUNTY — National leaders are seeing the hurdles caused by heroin addiction and some are beginning to take steps to alleviate its complications.
During a visit to Greene County News Monday, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) discussed H.R. 407 — the TREAT Act — which, if passed, would allow federal funds to be used to treat addicted individuals while they are incarcerated.
The federal government currently prohibits Medicaid and treatment program dollars to give addiction treatment to those who are incarcerated. The TREAT Act would lift this prohibition and allow treatment to take place in a jail setting.
“The fact that people will go through jail, perhaps even have a forced detox and no treatment, puts them back out on the streets, returning to drugs and then returning back to the jail system,” Turner said. “So saving them — so we don’t have a threat to their lives, a threat to the destruction of their families that result in criminal activity in our community and returning to jail — is the goal of treatment.”
The bill has been introduced and Turner is seeking endorsements and support for the legislation this year. As a new presidential administration takes over in 2017, Turner said he is hoping to have the bill included as part of a “heroin prevention package.”
“We have to get the word out that this is not a regular, recreation drug issue,” Turner said. “This is a absolutely a life destruction.”
Turner toured the Greene County Jail and Greene Leaf Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program in August 2015, where administrators brought the issues related to heroin to his attention and offered suggestions for solutions. He said this led him to meet with White House “Drug Czar” Michael Botticelli, who confirmed that the impacts of heroin addiction are felt not only locally but also nationally.
Since the bill’s introduction, it has gained the support of the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association, as well as the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.
“One of the hardest things in treatment is getting people identified who have an addiction problem and resources together,” Turner said. “Allowing the funds to be used for those who are incarcerated, we already know who that population is. We already know those individuals who are incarcerated who have the addiction. Being able to marry them to a solution will lower crime, impact their lives and achieve the goal we have, which is getting people off drugs.”
Whitney Vickers can be reached by calling her directly at 937-502-4532 or on Twitter, @wnvickers. For more content online, visit our website or like our Facebook page.