WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBN) — Members of the U.S. House of Representatives heard first-hand Friday morning the problems being faced by those trying to treat people addicted to heroin and other opiates.
By the time workers with a group known as Treatment Alternatives to Street Crimes, or TASC, meet their drug-addicted clients, they already have been caught up in the judicial system.
On Friday, Andrea Paventi, the local director of TASC, told a Congressional caucus on drug addiction that roughly 90 percent of the people coming through Mahoning County’s Drug Court program are addicted to some form of opiate, and many are indigent and don’t have much insurance to cover the costs of rehabilitation.
“Our drug court population has gone from primarily crack cocaine in the early 2000’s to now about 90 percent of everyone in our Common Pleas Drug Court has an opiate addiction,” Paventi said.
She said she has clients waiting 30 and 45 days for a detox bed.
She said by focusing on treatment instead of putting addicts behind bars, lawmakers will be helping entire communities.
“We’re providing dollars for treatment. We’re providing those needed resources, so I think it’s realigning philosophies that incarceration is not working. We’re not dealing with he drug problem by incarcerating individuals,” Paventi said.
Paventi said while treatment can run between $3,5000 for outpatient care up to $15,000 for inpatient services. Many low-income addicts end up behind bars, which she claims costs about $40,000 per inmate.
She said programs like Meridian Community Services in Youngstown do offer in-house treatment for clients even if they can’t afford to pay, but others don’t, which leaves addicts without the care they may need.
Valley Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Niles, is co-chair of the caucus and urged House lawmakers to include treatment funding in their budget. Ryan claims there are now more people in Ohio dying of drug overdoses than car crashes.
“And if we think we’re going to be able to deal with the heroin epidemic without making investments, then we’re sadly mistaken. And people will say ‘how much does it cost?’ Well, how much is it costing us now? I would say we have a national crisis on our hands,” Ryan said.
In 2013, more people in Trumbull County died of a heroin overdose than any other drug or combination of drugs. It’s to blame for more than a third of the 35 accidental drug-related deaths that year. In 2011 and 2012, heroin came in second only to deaths from multiple drugs.
Accidental Drug-Related Deaths
Total Heroin Polydrug
2013 35 12 11
2012 36 10 20
2011 59 19 20
2010 49 6 16
Statewide, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation lab dealt with more than double the number of heroin cases in 2013 than it did just three years earlier.
Ohio BCI Lab Heroin Cases
When it comes to the number of people who died from heroin, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said it’s projected to top 900 in 2013. That’s triple the number of deaths back in 2010.
Ohio Heroin Deaths
Collected Coroner Data
2013 900+ (projected)