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MOUNT VERNON — U.S. Senator Rob Portman said he would take several things away from his roundtable discussion in Mount Vernon about drug addiction and addiction services.
Portman met with representatives of numerous agencies that deal with addiction, as well as law enforcement, and economic development. The meeting was part of his Jobs Act and Workforce tour that has taken him around the state studying the impact of bills he sponsored on the addiction crisis and employment training.
He said he was impressed by the coordination and cooperation displayed between the various agencies and will talk about the importance of those things when he discusses the issue with Senate colleagues.
He also said he noticed the importance of getting people started in job training programs even before they complete programs to free them from addiction.
“These programs are not only good for business (by providing trained workers) they’re also good for recovering addicts because having a job gives them meaning in life,” Portman said.
An early subject Portman brought up was his push to amend the Higher Education Act by expanding Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in rigorous and high-quality short-term skills and job training programs that lead to industry-based credentials.
Several people mentioned the fact that crystal meth has been a growing problem because it has become cheaper than opioids. Sheriff Dave Shaffer said it has become so inexpensive it is easier to ship it in than to have local meth labs and his office hasn’t found one in some time.
Portman mentioned that a committee he serves on looked into how drugs were being smuggled into the county and one of the most common ways was by using the U.S. Postal Service. Unlike Fed Ex or UPS, the Postal Service would not screen packages.
“We need to make it difficult to smuggle the drugs in and discouraged use by driving prices up,” Portman said.
The subject of bills funding addiction programs only specifying addiction to specific drugs was mention, but that problem has subsided or they’ve found loopholes such as categorizing meth users as “at risk” for opioid addiction in order to get them into treatment.
According to information from Portman’s office, nearly $1.5 million in federal funding has been awarded to Knox County entities in recent years, including $410,000 this year to Mental Health and Recovery as part of the State Opioid Response grant funding, $540,000 in 2017-19 to MHR as part of Portman’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and $500,000 in 2015-18 to MHR from Portman’s Drug-Free Communities Act.
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