Cera speaks to the public

Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, speaks Thursday at a town hall meeting at the Martins Ferry Public Library to discuss various issues throughout Ohio and targeting Eastern Ohio.

MARTINS FERRY — Ohio Rep. Jack Cera spoke Thursday about topics such as infrastructure, local government funds, broadband, public education and the opioid crisis during a town hall event at the Martins Ferry Public Library.

Cera, D-Bellaire, came to the meeting to talk with the public about their concerns. Martins Ferry Mayor Robert Krajnyak, former Martins Ferry Mayor Phil Wallace and city council members joined the public.

Many who came to see Cera were interested in hearing about the opioid crisis in Ohio. A man from West Virginia even came to hear Cera speak about the topic because he said wants to know how to put an end to the crisis.

“We let it get way out in front of us,” said Cera. “We initiated action to go after pill mills and to prevent doctors from prescribing. While we were trying to fight the pill mills, next thing you know, everyone is buying heroin. Unfortunately, the crisis, because we just kind of piddled along instead of realizing it really takes resources. We failed to step up and realize that we needed more funding for treatment.

“Also, due to local government funds, we have had issues with law enforcement as well,” he said. “It takes a combined approach and unfortunately, we are playing catch-up now. Meanwhile, a lot of people are dying. It is a difficult problem to do with. It’s going to take a commitment with this. We really let this slip past us. Other states are seeing some improvement, but Ohio is still up there. West Virginia and Ohio are both up there in overdose deaths.

“It’s sad,” Cera said. “There’s a lot of people who are harsh and say let them die. It’s easy for you to say that until it becomes one of your family.”

Freeda Flynn, a family practice physician in St. Clairsville, said she had help from Cera in the past with changing a law that required anyone over age 50 to go to a pain clinic if that person was experiencing pain for more than three months. Flynn came to tell Cera she was upset with another law that had been put into place that required her to have a special license to get more than 30 people off of prescriptions. She said it is easier for doctors to prescribe medicine for patients rather than get them off of it.

“This whole thing has now cost me $2,000 and it may or may not be approved,” said Flynn. “This is a ridiculous thing. There is not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t come into my office and say that someone has died from prescription drugs. It’s to the point where they say you either have to go to a methadone clinic or you go to a pain clinic. What kind of healthcare is that?

“This bill, I didn’t believe it,” she said. “Does anyone else think this makes sense in the middle of an opioid epidemic? To them it makes sense to say you can only get 30 people off of drugs, like the big pharmaceuticals had a role in this. Almost every one of my patients fall into the category of being a victim of the pain clinics in one way or another. Or they have ill advised advice from big pharma. It’s going to be a real problem and I may have to close my office.”

Vicki Falcone, a counselor at Bridgeport High School, said he is concerned that seniors are struggling to graduate. Falcone said the amount of testing that students have to go through is too much for them and it is something that their parents may not understand. She said once some students get to college, there is no critical thinking because they are not taught that.

“We want to be able to get kids ready to go out into the workforce,” said Falcone. “There is a workforce crisis, but by doing things like this, this is going to add a burden. These kids are not going to graduate.

“I have talked to guidance counselors from all over the State of Ohio,” she said. “One of them told me she has 100 seniors (for 2019) in her class that will not be able to graduate. It’s crazy. There are seven tests with a certain amount of points. One test is like four hours long. If students do not have those points, they have to have an industry-recognized credential. A lot of parents don’t want to send their students to (Jefferson County Joint Vocational School). If you have children or grandchildren, talk to them about this in schools. It’s terrible. It’s unfair.”

Cera said he has voted in the past against bills for certain testing criteria. He said the problem is with the State Board of Education and people who strongly stand behind testing students.

“We have gotten away from educating kids,” Cera said. “You have to spend the whole time teaching how to even take tests. The tests that kids have to take is crazy. Those who have grown up without this, we have managed to do things and succeed.”

Bruce Shrodes, a Martins Ferry City Council member, asked Cera about infrastructure in the area and also said he believes Martins Ferry, along with the rest of Eastern Ohio, is struggling.

“Our city has lost a lot of money with our budget and (John) Kasich being governor,” Shrodes said. “We are the oldest settlement in the state of Ohio and our issue is infrastructure. We cannot ask people to pay more for utilities, gas and electric. We can’t do it. We have lost our major business in the city and it’s to the point where we have to have help from the state. They are strangling us down here.”

Cera said he does not see eye to eye with Gov. Kasich on the point of infrastructure. He said legislators will have to come together as a group to help.

“There is a money to put into it,” Cera said. “What I don’t understand is that a lot of my colleagues have been local government officials yet they shy away from wanting to do this. Some of them are from nice, bigger areas, but a lot of them are from rural Ohio. I don’t know how we are going to get it done other than we are going to get a new governor soon.

“We have to make a push and I think the voters and people have to speak up,” he said.