DOWN: Hancock County’s jail bed shortage problem has been out of the news lately, but isn’t going away. Since Jan. 1, the daily population has ranged from 118 inmates to 144 inmates (on Jan. 18). That number wouldn’t necessarily be troubling except for the fact the jail, which opened for business 30 years ago this spring, is designed to house 98. That means the county is paying to house the overflow population elsewhere, presently in three out-of-county jails. Wednesday’s jail population stood at 131. Of that, 111 inmates were being held locally, nine in Van Wert County, seven in Wood County, and four in Putnam County. A study is now underway to determine if the jail should be expanded at its current location on Crawford Street or relocated, but any construction is unlikely before 2021. Meanwhile, at current occupancy rates, outside housing could cost taxpayers $400,000, or more, again this year. A bigger jail can’t be built fast enough.

UP: Every prescription opioid pill has the potential to create a new addict. That’s why the recently released annual report from the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy’s Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System provides a bit of good news in the state’s continuing struggle with the opioid epidemic. The report showed the total number of opioids dispensed to Ohio patients decreased by 325 million doses, or 41 percent, from 2012 to 2018. The reporting system shows the number of prescription opioids declined for the sixth consecutive year in 2018. The report also found prescribers and pharmacists are using the prescription reporting system at record levels and that health care providers requested more than 142 million patient reports in 2018. While the problem is complex, reducing overprescribing of pain meds is one focus that must continue.

UP: Another priority on the opioid front should be to expand the use of specialty courts, including drug courts, throughout Ohio. That could happen if Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposal for an additional 30 specialty courts gets approved as part of his 2020-2021 state budget. Specialty dockets give judges flexibility when they encounter someone in the court system who may benefit more from treatment for substance use disorder rather than incarceration. If a person successfully completes a specialized docket program, they often can return to the workforce without a felony conviction or other collateral consequences. That can reduce recidivism. DeWine’s recommendation includes $2.5 million in fiscal year 2020 to add 15 specialty dockets and $5 million in fiscal year 2021 to support the newly created specialty dockets, and fund another 15. Increasing specialty court dockets in the state is part of the governor’s RecoveryOhio plan to improve prevention, treatment, and recovery supports for those with a mental health condition and/or substance use disorder. It’s a needed plan that could put more addicts on the road to recovery.

DOWN: The Great Lakes, including Lake Erie, are too important to too many to be used as a dumping ground or a political football. Despite a continuing need to address the toxic algae problem and to stop the invasion of certain species of fish from the lakes, President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget calls for a 90 percent spending cut for a Great Lakes cleanup program. The administration has said state and local governments should fund the bulk of the program, not the feds. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has received $300 million annually in recent years, but would receive just $30 million if the budget measure is approved. Four Democratic governors and one Republican governor (Ohio’s Mike DeWine) maintain the cut would cost jobs, hurt tourism and jeopardize public health, and are urging Trump to fully fund the program. We would expect Ohio’s U.S. congressmen, including Rep. Bob Latta, and Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown to oppose the cut. Making the Great Lakes healthy again must be a bipartisan matter.

UP, UP: How about one more round of applause for the McComb High School football team for winning the OHSAA Division VII state championship last fall? The entire team was recognized by state Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, at the statehouse on Wednesday. And, while we’re recognizing amazing feats, how about the Findlay First Edition! On March 3, FFE, Findlay High School’s show choir, won the 100th grand championship in its 35-year history at the Solon Show Choir Invitational. That’s impressive, but FFE isn’t done quite yet. We won’t be surprised if FFE comes back with more hardware after the Show Choir Nationals in Nashville, March 22-23.

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