Republicans and Democrats have found one area of policy on which they increasingly agree: the criminal justice system. Mike DeWine, the Ohio attorney general, recently joined with Akron leaders, mostly Democrats, to launch a new effort to battle violent crime afflicting neighborhoods. A bipartisan coalition at the Statehouse has enacted changes in prison sentencing.
On Wednesday, the two parties came together in the Ohio House to approve by a wide margin legislation that would expand the authority of local communities to develop syringe exchange programs for drug addicts. Too often syringes are shared, leading to the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C. So, the goals in this instance include protecting public health and creating an avenue for drug users to seek help.
The lead sponsors, state Reps. Barbara Sears, a Sylvania Republican, and Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat, made certain the bill allows for input from local law enforcement and addiction services. They followed the direction of 28 other states, the trend showing positive results in slowing the spread of disease.
Most important, the proposal removes a restriction that such programs are permitted only with a local declaration of a public health emergency.
No question, the program addresses a need. The crackdown on so-called pill mills, or the illegal use of prescription drugs, has pushed the drug problem in another direction. In rural and urban areas, authorities report a significant increase in heroin use. Making syringes available won’t solve the problem alone. It does belong in a comprehensive set of options, communities in position to respond as they see fit.