State Highway Patrol members barricaded the block surrounding the Sandusky State Theater today so Gov. John Kasich could announce an awardance of $20 million to fight the opioid epidemic through innovation.
Kasich, along with the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate, drove over two hours from the Ohio Statehouse to Sandusky for the Republican’s second-to-last State of the State address.
“We have a very big issue with that in southeastern Ohio,” Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, said in response to Kasich’s opioid initiative.
Edwards, who represents Athens County, recently proposed House Bill 167, an opioid treatment plan similar to Kasich’s.
“Our bill was going to allow doctors to go above the CDC guidelines,” Edwards said. “If they were offering an opioid treatment, such as Suboxone, they would also offer a non-opioid treatment, such as Vivitrol. This is something that what the governor’s trying to do through his boards doesn’t really touch on.”
Kasich’s grant goes to Ohio Third Frontier, a development services agency “committed to transforming the state’s economy through the accelerated growth of diverse startup and early stage technology companies.”
Last week, Kasich rolled out new guidelines for opioids that limit prescriptions to five days’ worth of pills for minors and seven for adults. The more stringent rules are in line with guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A consistent theme of the address was innovation in areas that plague Ohioans. Kasich announced a task force with the purpose of investigating new technology and advances, along with $100 million toward reducing pollution in Lake Erie.
“What’s coming? What might we lose, what might we gain? And how do we get ourselves ready for this?” Kasich asked. He highlighted the 6,000 new jobs provided by Amazon to Ohioans as an example of forward-thinking strategies in the work force.
“We can make the future an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. Ohio’s already embracing technology. Autonomous vehicles, smart roads, drone technology, data analytics,” Kasich said.
The annual address is a promotional tactic for Kasich to remember his recent accomplishments and wax poetic about the future. He used to hold it at the Ohio Statehouse, but after thousands of protesters attended in 2011, Kasich has traveled around to mid-sized towns for his State of the State.
Issues concerning Kasich’s proposed 2018-19 budget were sprinkled throughout the speech. These included educational benchmarks, such as a reduced reliance on testing and the creation of teaching “externships,” where educators would work with community business leaders to develop curriculum.
“We cannot let education get in the way of learning,” Kasich said. “Perhaps the most profound effects of technology will be seen in education, in the ways that Ohioans of all ages prepare for a rapidly changing workforce. That means education for a lifetime.”
Regarding higher education, Kasich has suggested colleges and universities across Ohio help pay for up to $300 of textbooks per student, along with a 2-year tuition freeze. He also cautioned Ohio’s universities to reduce costs in his speech, warning that they could become “extinct.”
“I wish he’d touched on access to early childhood education, and K-12,” Edwards said. “It costs more to educate a kid coming from poverty than it does to educate a kid from a more affluent area.”
A final area of interest from the State of the State focused on income and sales tax changes. Kasich urged a lower income tax in conjunction with a 5 percent increase in the sales tax.
In his conclusion, he simply commented on the political divide in Ohio and across the United States, and he asked for greater cooperation. The address was met with a standing ovation.