Help to battle addiction

It is unlikely county officials will get from Columbus what they asked for this week. The general increase in funding to local governments being sought, more than $350 million a year, would dent the state budget to an extent legislators probably would not allow.

But one specific plea by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio ought to be heeded. It is for more state money to battle the drug abuse epidemic.

Members of the commissioners group on Monday requested changes in a variety of local funding policies. Among them was to establish a massive state program to help counties cope with the substance addiction epidemic.

It is just that. Ohio has achieved a troubling distinction, the second-worst drug overdose death rate in the nation, at 39.1 per 100,000 people in 2016 (No. 1, sadly, is West Virginia, at 52).

Eastern Ohio counties continue to suffer badly. Also in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Belmont County lost 20 people to overdoses. Jefferson County had 14.

Even Monroe County, from which overdose death data was not available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has a serious problem. Evidence of that came in the form of a new county jail, needed in part to cope with the number of arrests on drug offenses.

Though local law enforcement agencies do a commendable job, their resources have been strained by the drug crisis. And their efforts are only part of the solution. More treatment options are needed for those trying to kick the drug habit.

County commissioners were wise in not specifying a dollar amount for the initiative they want — because no one knows how much it may take. The “hundreds of millions of dollars” cited may not be enough.

More help for local governments ought to be flowing from Washington. That failing — as it has — Ohio state officials need to do what they can to help cities and counties fight back against opioids and other illicit drugs. The cost of not doing that may be greater than what the commissioners are seeking.

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