Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine and running mate Jon Husted met with 13 local business leaders and Mayor Lydia Mihalik on Wednesday in a campaign stop in Findlay.
DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are in a contentious race for the Republican nomination for governor on May 8.
DeWine, considered the frontrunner in the race, said he would make fighting the opioid epidemic a top priority as governor. He said the epidemic not only contributes to Ohios worker shortage, it is driving a record number of drug overdose deaths across the state.
Its not going to go away overnight, but the main commitment I can make to you and everyone else is, it will be a focus, DeWine, now Ohios attorney general, said to business leaders gathered at the Hancock Hotel.
There will be a sense of urgency, and I am an impatient guy, he said. There will be a sense of urgency every day that this is one of our true, top priorities.
DeWine said he would create a cabinet-level position to fight the epidemic and report directly to him.
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DeWine is proposing doubling Ohios capacity to treat substance abuse.
He would like to use workers compensation funds to pay for workers addiction treatment.
The money that is paid in (to workers compensation) is to help employers, to help employees, keep people on the job, deal with their illnesses, their problems, he said. Maybe some of that money could be used, quite frankly, to help people who an employer finds have an addiction problem. And maybe put them into a treatment program that might be paid by workers compensation.
DeWine is proposing to help businesses hire people who are in addiction recovery, by offering the companies incentives and reducing their risks.
He wants to create 60 additional drug courts, or about a 60 percent increase from the current 102 across Ohio.
He wants to expand the number of addiction recovery and mental health specialists in Ohio. DeWine said he wants a mental health specialist in every school building.
We think that that is important, to identify young people who might eventually hurt themselves or hurt somebody else, he said. But we also think its very important because so many young kids today do have problems. If we can help them early on, it makes a lot of sense.
Drug prevention education would be required each year for all students, from kindergarten to 12th grade.
The sooner we start treating this as a disease as opposed to a moral failure, then well all be in a much better place, Mayor Mihalik said during the meeting with DeWine, Husted and business leaders.