Republican US senator hopeful on anti-drug bill

By Dan Sewell - Associated Press

CINCINNATI – Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator said Monday he expects the nation’s opioid abuse crisis to transcend election-year politics as Congress tries to work out compromise legislation on the problem.

Rob Portman toured First Step Home, which provides residential treatment and out-patient programs for addicted mothers. Portman is a chief sponsor of a Senate-passed bill aimed at issues including prevention, treatment and law enforcement help.

The U.S. House just passed a slew of bills on varied aspects of the problem, although critics say the measures lack funding to get much done. President Barack Obama has proposed another $1.1 billion for the problem. GOP leaders want the House and Senate to develop compromise legislation to send to Obama before Congress’ summer recess in July.

“I’m hopeful now that we can get this done, even in an election year,” said Portman, who’s in a tight battle for re-election against Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland. “This is one where people should be able to come together to solve a big problem.”

Ohio has been one of the states hit hardest by the escalating death toll of painkiller drugs and heroin, but Portman said the problem is hitting home everywhere while continuing to grow.

The Ohio Democratic Party has criticized Portman for going against funding for anti-drug efforts in the past.

Portman said Monday it’s important to take some action “that’s a step in the right direction.” He said rather than just trying to “throw money at the problem,” he wants more resources for programs such as First Step Home that have demonstrated success. The center dates back two decades.

Shanda Cotton, 35, a pregnant mother Portman met with at the center, said seeing expressions of interest and support for those recovering from addiction is “just emotionally awesome.”

By Dan Sewell

Associated Press