Last year Ohio had over 4100 fatal overdoses. This year, that number is expected to be even higher.

A day does not go by that I do not report on statistics. Numbers that tell stories. Today, the story we tell with numbers is sad, frightening, and a real call for action. There were 4,149 fatal overdoses in Ohio last year.  That is a 36% increase over the previous year. Coroners in the state, surveyed by the Columbus Dispatch, lay the blame on heroin and other powerful opioids.

How did we get here? Perhaps if we understand that, we can take greater steps in addressing the issue.

Many who are studying the problem say it’s too difficult for patients to wean themselves from opioid pain killers and have become helplessly addicted.

Can we point the finger at doctors who scribble prescriptions for narcotic painkillers by the millions? Not necessarily. Doctors might argue they were responding to state medical boards encouraged to make under treatment of pain a punishable offense.

But weren’t we smart enough to recognize the dangers of addiction?

Doctors were worried. But, let’s remember the manufacturers of Oxycodin argued that the potential for addiction was small. That was a huge fib, and they knew it, resulting in a fine of $630 million, but by then we were in the midst of a growing epidemic.

Alarmed, doctors wrote fewer prescriptions. So, without access to the medications, those addicted turned to the streets, where heroin was easy to get. Dealers started mixing in an even stronger opioid, Fentanyl.

So, here is where we are — Ohio stands as the nation’s overdose capital. I don’t know about you, but it scares the hell out of me. We cannot hide from this issue. It must be part of our ongoing conversations, on the front burner all the time.

Commissioners acknowledge 50 years supporting individuals with developmental disabilities

It was an honor for me to represent the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities during the presentation of a proclamation from the Lucas County Commissioners acknowledging the Board’s 50th anniversary.

In the Proclamation the Commissioners recognized the tireless efforts of the Board  to break down attitudinal barriers so individuals with disabilities will have greater access to housing, employment, and social activities.

After nearly two decades of lobbying for education and employment programs for their children with developmental disabilities, in 1967 the state legislature acquiesced.  Today, upwards of 5,000 individuals are touched by the Board whose Mission is to improve LIFE so that individuals with developmental disabilities reach their full potential.

The new kid on Sesame Street has autism

A wonderfully insightful story this week on “60 Minutes” about the new kid on Sesame Street, and she has autism.

Correspondent Leslie Stahl explains how the producers painstakingly worked to get it right when they explain autism to the pre-school set through the child-like minds of Big Bird, Elmo and other residents of Sesame Street.  Bottom line, preschoolers can be sensitized to the issues around autism and children with autism can be friends, too.

Stahl points out in the report, “Sesame Street has always based its characters and content on extensive research.  They regularly bring in educators and child psychologists. In the case of Julia, they also worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics she should have and how best to normalize autism for all children.”

The CDC says that the prevalence in the United States being born on the autism spectrum is estimated at 1 in 68 births. So, the likelihood of having a classmate with autism is extremely high.

And a reminder that April is Autism Awareness Month.

It is time to get serious about what is poisoning Lake Erie

“Hard to imagine a more perilous time for the Trump Administration to abandon efforts that protect & restore our Great Lakes.”

You may have heard me quote that tweet from Marcy Kaptur during the morning newscasts. The congresswoman’s comment came after a leaked draft of the proposed EPA budget showed funds for Lake Erie clean-up would be cut from $300 million to $10 million.

But, while calling the proposed cuts “wrongheaded,” Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie (ACLE) say the cuts will have negligible impact on finding who is responsible for Lake Erie’s toxic algae blooms and holding them accountable.

Now why is that?

In a news release today, Mike Ferner (who now lends his advocacy gifts to ACLE) says “what’s poisoning Lake Erie is primarily an excess of nutrients, 85% from agriculture and we suspect, most of that from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).” And he says finding out who and what is responsible for Lake Erie’s toxic algae has not been a funding priority of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

I have interviewed Mike on the topic and I believe he knows what he is talking about. We must make it a priority to identify the polluters and hold them accountable.