I will fight in Congress for Shelby County

I will fight in Congress for Shelby County

By Janet Garrett - Guest columnist

I’ve been in Sidney twice in the last week to meet with service organizations so that I can learn more about the community I hope to serve in Washington. I wanted to learn what’s working, what’s not, and what resources can come from Washington to make Sidney more prosperous.

I met representatives from a local Head Start group, which is a federal program that works with children from low income families in order to prepare them to start school with the same readiness as their more well-off peers. I also spoke to some folks who work to recruit foster parents for children who are left without parents. Their stories were similar to most of the groups I spoke with — they’re doing the best they can with the very limited resources that they have.

By far, the biggest issue I’ve seen across the very gerrymandered fourth US Congressional district of Ohio is the opioid epidemic. This issue is largely the reason I wanted to meet with these groups in Sidney; I wanted to learn how the opioid epidemic has affected the work that they do. These local leaders were acutely aware of how devastating the opioid epidemic is, and know that far more must be done to combat it.

Experts tell us that combating a public health crisis of this magnitude will require tens of billions of dollars, far more than Republican leaders in Congress and state legislatures have been willing to support. But with so many people dying every day, we cannot treat this crisis as a side note in an oversized spending bill.

The opioid epidemic has created a true emergency for Ohio, and neither state or local government is equipped to cope with the magnitude of the disaster alone. The situation is a lot like being hit by a major hurricane or similar natural disaster. However, while natural disasters are a one-time occurrence, the opioid crisis continues to wreak havoc, and to claim more and more lives. Yet in the event of a natural disaster Congress is willing to allocate tens of billions of dollars to recovery efforts. Recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina totaled over $115 billion, efforts after Sandy totaled over $50 billion, and just this past year Congress allocated an immediate $15 billion dollars to communities recovering from hurricane Harvey with a total support package of over $90 billion coming as part of the spending bill. In the same bill, the fight against the opioid epidemic received only $6 billion (nationwide!).

So, why is our Republican-led Congress unwilling to tackle this opioid crisis more forcefully, even as the death toll continues to mount? Why isn’t Congress’ response to the human tragedy of a drug epidemic at least as robust as to hurricane damage? The level of support following major hurricanes is totally appropriate, given the severity of the damage these major storms have caused, but what about the comparable havoc, devastation, and staggering loss of life wrought by the opioid epidemic? In doling out a fraction of the funding needed, our Republican-led Congress has failed to recognize that the federal government must address the opioid epidemic with the same degree of commitment as it has natural disasters.

What about our own representative? Jim Jordan is a true outlier! He voted against federal support communities in Texas and Puerto Rico devastated by hurricanes this last year. And, unsurprisingly, even with a disaster on his doorstep, he not only did nothing to secure federal dollars to counter the opioid crisis, he actually voted “NO” on the recent funding bill that grants Ohio limited funds to combat the crisis. His stated belief that parents, churches and schools are the key to containing this epidemic is naïve. Mr. Jordan is simply AWOL on this, and so many other issues! And, in addition to all this Jim had fought against necessary medicaid expansions that cover treatment for 4 in 10 non-elderly adults fighting opioid addiction. Jim Jordan’s hateful attitude towards government has blinded him to the needs of struggling communities both in Houston and Puerto Rico, as well as right here in the fourth district.

That failure of representation is why I’m running to represent the fourth district in Congress. My highest priority would be to work with leaders like Sherrod Brown and Marcy Kaptur to substantially boost the level of funding allocated to fighting the opioid epidemic here in Ohio and across the nation. We must demand funding and implementation of the 56 proposals recommended by President Trump’s Opioid Commission that have been set aside since November. Some of these proposals don’t even require any additional money, including plans to simply enforce laws that are already on the books. The only thing holding these plans back is the Congressional will to act.

Let’s be clear, a major commitment to federal funding is only one step. Not unlike the challenge of allocating funds to respond to the devastation caused by a major natural disaster, Ohio will need to develop a state-level plan to wage a successful war on opioids. This plan must provide for reinforcing critical systems – such as in the areas of prevention, treatment, drug courts, housing, protective services, and education — systems that are currently overwhelmed by the crisis. It should involve continued medicaid expansions which can continue to cover the treatment of 4 of every 10 non-elderly adults with an opioid addiction. That planning should also provide for fostering establishment of new programs to support families who are now broken up as a result of addiction. All of these local efforts are key to a full recovery, but they are strengthened by federal support.

What is all too evident, however, is that we will not defeat the opioid epidemic with the weak medicine Republican leadership is prescribing. We need new leadership in the House of Representatives to win this battle. We need a representative who will work with community leaders to bring funding back to the fourth district, not someone who votes against that funding.

Make no mistake. This epidemic is deadly, and right now we are NOT winning. Our district needs a champion fighting for you and for your families. I’m running for Congress to be that champion for you. With your help, I will make curing the opioid epidemic a national priority.

I will fight in Congress for Shelby County

By Janet Garrett

Guest columnist

Janet Garrett is a candidate for US Congress in OH-4 (Elyria, Lima, Marion, Urbana, Sidney)

Janet Garrett is a candidate for US Congress in OH-4 (Elyria, Lima, Marion, Urbana, Sidney)