COLUMBUS — Charles “Chip” Jenkins of Seville said his son, Alex, was a typical, energetic boy, growing up playing baseball, playing trumpet and guitar, and showing talents as an artist.

But Alex also suffered anxiety — and at some point got addicted to prescription painkillers that eventually led to a felony conviction for drug possession.

“He was not a criminal, but he was arrested and convicted of a felony for drug possession, and it made it difficult for him to survive, to get meaningful work,” Jenkins told an Ohio Senate committee Wednesday. “He wanted to stop. He knew what he was involved in and he hated who he was.”

Alex did get treatment and was clean about two years, although at one point he had to leave treatment because insurance would no longer cover it. His felony conviction followed him as he sought a job.

Alex relapsed and died of a drug overdose in 2015, adding to a state drug-related death total that has been among the highest in the nation.

“I believe with all my heart that he would be alive today if he could have gotten employment, if he would have had that opportunity to turn his life around, because he really wanted to,” said Jenkins, who lives in Seville in Medina County.

Jenkins was among a host of witnesses, including the Ohio public defender, the U.S. Justice Action Network, Koch Industries and the ACLU of Ohio who urged lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 3, which is designed to reduce low-level drug possession charges to misdemeanors and increase penalties for drug dealers.

Supporters said prison is an ineffective way to deal with addiction.

“People who have paid their debt to society should be allowed to re-enter society as productive citizens — not continually pay for a mistake made on their worst day,” said Mark Holden of Koch Industries.

The sky has not fallen in the 19 states that have already made drug possession a misdemeanor, said Ohio Public Defender Tim Young. About 1,600 people are currently in Ohio prisons for low-level possession, he said.

While there have been some concerns about lack of staff and resources, Young said he thinks Ohio can provide effective drug court programs in municipal courts, like those currently done in county common pleas courts.

“The way we have always handled drug possessions is just wildly ineffective,” Young said. “Ohio is a great state that is more than capable of embracing reform and aligning our services to meet the needs of Ohioans struggling with addiction.”

Senate Bill 3 is expected to pass the chamber before lawmakers break at the end of June. The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a separate bill that increases penalties for drug traffickers caught selling near addiction recovery centers.

Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said the group supports the spirit of Senate Bill 3, but he’s concerned that what the definition of low-level drug possession would include 49 doses of heroin and up to 59 doses of meth.

“We think that sends the wrong message about the danger of drugs,” he said. “The bar is too high.”

Tobin also thinks the bill could allow a person to carry or sell more drugs and potentially get a lower penalty, allowing a person to have up to 299 doses of heroin and potentially get probation.

“Right now, that person is going to prison,” he said.

Jenkins became emotional as he urged the Senate committee to help parents and their children deal with addiction by treating it as a sickness.

“People suffering from addiction like my son Alex shouldn’t be branded with this felony for their entire life,” he said.