Issue 1 is wrong direction


By Rep. Rick Carfagna - Guest Columnist

With less than a week until Election Day, Ohioans are being asked to digest a lot of information. Between television and radio ads, political mail and candidates knocking on doors and making phone calls—the methods by which campaigns can use to contact voters can seem limitless.

Through all the noise of various candidates and campaigns, you may have also heard about Issue 1, a ballot measure that is being put before Ohioans this fall that, on the surface, claims to provide treatment for the drug-addicted and reduce our state’s prison population.

But, like all issues, it is important to dig into the details. Despite the progress our state has made in recent years, Issue 1 would make it much more difficult to combat opioid addiction and to confront the onslaught of fentanyl, which last year was involved in 71 percent of unintentional overdose deaths. It would also put major limitations on judges when it comes to sentencing and for utilizing drug treatment courts, which have been incredibly effective at helping the addicted find additional recovery options.

In addition, the scope of Issue 1 goes beyond just drug offenses. It also could reduce by 25 percent the sentencing time for individuals convicted of felonious assault, human trafficking and kidnapping.

We have made too much progress to let the dangers of Issue 1 move our state in the wrong direction. I was proud to join my colleagues in the legislature to invest $180 million into helping local communities address and combat the opioid crisis that sadly far too many Ohio families have had to struggle with. Those resources were targeted toward prevention, treatment and workforce placement.

While I do not doubt that everyone shares the same goal of trying to end heroin and opioid addiction in our state, I believe Issue 1 goes about it in the wrong way. By cementing untested and unproven policies into our state constitution, Issue 1 would make it excessively difficult to make further changes and corrections should certain policies prove ineffective.

Additionally, I fear it threatens to undo some of the progress we have made together as a state. And we are making strides in the right direction. Prescription opioid-related overdose deaths reached an eight-year low last year, and heroin deaths were the lowest they have been since 2013.

Unfortunately, as the drug epidemic continues to change, so must our efforts to confront it. That requires flexibility and creativity—and inserting rigid language into the state’s constitution simply does not make that possible.

Some of the ideas contained in Issue 1 may in fact be useful and effective in helping the drug-addicted. But those policies should be vetted and reviewed in the legislative process, where members of the public and drug-treatment experts have a better opportunity to come together and share their input. There is simply too much at stake to risk rushing through an inflexible measure on an already-crowded ballot.

I will be voting against State Issue 1, and I urge my neighbors in Delaware and Knox counties to do the same.

By Rep. Rick Carfagna

Guest Columnist