By Dustin Ensinger
Part of Democratic Attorney General candidate David Pepper’s plan to take on the heroin epidemic in Ohio includes a crackdown on dealers.
Pepper, who faces incumbent Mike DeWine in November, said those who sell heroin should be held accountable for the overdose deaths linked to the drug they have sold.
“These dealers are not feeling enough pain for the pain they are causing,” he said.
“They know what they’re doing,” he added. “They know what they are selling. They read the same headlines we do.”
The former Hamilton County commissioner and City of Cincinnati councilman said as Attorney General, he would provide special prosecutor support to counties and special training to law enforcement officials in his effort to seek the most severe sentences possible.
A bill recently introduced by Dayton-area Republican State. Rep Jim Butler would allow for a sentence of up to life in prison for someone convicted of selling heroin to an overdose victim.
Drug overdose deaths across the state have increased 366 percent from 2000 to 2012, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Unintentional drug overdose deaths in Delaware County increased from just one in 2001 to 16 in 2012.
Tougher enforcement is just one piece of the puzzle, according to Pepper. He said the heroin epidemic needs to be viewed as a public health crisis with more treatment options available across the state.
“The moment people are actually asking for help, they are being turned away across Ohio,” he said.
Pepper also said that to cut down on overdose deaths, he will work to make the drug Naloxone more readily available to first-responders across the state.
Other measures Pepper would take to battle the epidemic include more evidence-based prevention, pharmaceutical litigation to tackle the oversupply of prescription drugs and better data analysis, areas in which he said DeWine has failed.
“We are so far behind the other states in terms of what we are doing,” he said.
Pepper said that DeWine did not have a comprehensive plan in place to deal with the aftermath of the crackdown on pill mills, which led many opiate addicts to move onto more readily available heroin.
In 2013 DeWine acknowledged the epidemic and created a $1 million heroin unit to combat it.
However, Pepper does not believe that is enough.
“Mike DeWine was years late to this crisis,” he said.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.