Sidney Daily News: Pepper’s goal – Clean up the AG’s office

Last updated: August 10. 2014 4:20PM – 690 Views

The Democratic candidate for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office wants to clean up state and local government in the state.

And that process would start with the AG’s office.

David Pepper, recently announced a plan which would implement initiatives to clean up the “ethically questionable behavior by state and local elected officials and senior state employees.”

Pepper, of Cincinnati, says his history on Cincinnati City Council, as a Hamilton County commissioner and attorney, will help him bring the Attorney General’s Office back to the people.

“The problem is that politics if broken in Columbus and in Washington, DC.,” said Pepper recently. “We need to make a difference for Ohio families. That’s not being done today.”

Pepper said the attorney general’s office must have credibility “that can only be earned by running an office that is a model for public integrity.”

Some of the items which Pepper wants to change if elected includes:

• Ending Pay to Play: Pepper says he wants to end the current practice that requires anyone who wishes to do work with the AG’s office must hire high-priced lobbyists to get in the door. He says the lobbyists are personal friends of current office holder Mike DeWine.

• Hiring for AG positions: Pepper says he will open up the hiring process so that vacant positions are publicized and open to Ohio’s residents.

• Ethics and conflict of interest: Pepper says he will ask for a review of AG conflict of interest policies and pass reforms to establish guidelines on when an individual should recuse themselves from a case.

• Transparency: Pepper says every Ohio resident should know what the AG’s office is doing on their behalf. If elected, Pepper said he would post all out-of-state cases online so the citizens know what cases the office is bringing on their behalf; and post all special counsel and other outside vendors to the office online.

The office of attorney general, said Pepper, should be a role model for other state and local offices in the state.

“If a person feels there corruption going on, the Attorney General’s Office should be doing something about it,” said Pepper. “But first we have to glean up the AG’s office. It should be a model of integrity in the state.”

He also feels if a person has been in politics for decades, he/she can’t see anything wrong with giving contracts to those people who make contributions to their political campaigns.

“I’ve heard people say ‘that’s just how it works.’ My response is that’s not how it works and it needs to be changed,” said Pepper. “A fresh set of eyes can show people what’s not appropriate.

“The attorney general’s office is the best office to crack down on corruption. He (DeWine) won’t do it because he;’s breaking the rules. He has no ability to enforce the rules.”

As a Democrat from “the Republican part of Ohio,” Pepper’s goal is to get the crossover votes in November.

“I’m good at battling crime,” said Pepper. “I helped clean up the Cincinnati crime. I have a good track record on spending and being fiscally responsible to the community.”

Pepper said the AG’s office should respect local law enforcement.

“They are on the front lines in keeping us safe,” said Pepper. “The view from Columbus shows a three-year nonstop assault on local government and law enforcement. I want to restart the partnership with local law enforcement. The AG’s position should not take away from local law enforcement.”

Pepper also questions the recent cuts in treatment programs for people with addictions.

“Mike (DeWine) has a grant view of what the state does,” said Pepper. “I have the local level in my view. I don’t want to take funds from the local level to get things done at the state level.”

Pepper also has a plan to take on heroin addiction in the state. His plan would include treating the heroin epidemic as a public health crisis; drying up the demand for heroin; saving lives with the drug Narcan; cracking down on the dealers who supply and deal the drugs; and to provide support and training for local law enforcement.

Additional information about Pepper can be found on his website, www.DavidPepper.com.

Pepper and DeWine will face each other in the November election.

Link: http://www.sidneydailynews.com/news/politics/50233711/Peppers-goal:-Clean-up-AGs-office#.U-jrQ1ZKsdt

Wooster Daily Record: Pepper a better choice for Ohio AG (Letter to the Editor)

Editor:

Did you know that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine used our tax dollars and resources to file an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby, putting employer’s interests over the rights and health care choices of women? One week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 90 percent of American businesses may, on religious grounds, deny insurance coverage of women’s health needs for their female employees. This devastating decision allows bosses to force their personal beliefs on employees. This decision is a tremendous blow to women’s health, rights and privacy. Who do you think Mike DeWine advocates for? NOT Ohio’s women. We should hold him accountable for spending public funds to reduce our access to health care.

But there is more: In 2011 Attorney General DeWine asked 800 law enforcement agencies statewide to send in unprocessed rape kits to the AG’s office. He has failed to manage the testing of the kits, only having tested half and leaving a record backlog of 3,893 untested kits. This backlog has continued to grow for nine months, while there could be as many as 11,000 untested kits remaining across the state. It will take the Bureau of Criminal Investigation four to five years to test 250 to 300 kits each month.

David Pepper has a plan when he becomes Ohio Attorney General: 1. Enlist qualified local and regional labs to share the burden with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. 2. Prioritize justice for survivors of sexual assault and their families. 3. Reduce the backlog within 150 days of David Pepper taking office. 4. Use a more cost effective method of partnering with local labs.

According to the AG’s website, there are nine ASCLD-LAB accredited forensic DNA labs in Ohio. Attorney General DeWine has refused to partner with the additional labs.

The Toledo Blade stated in a July 3 editorial that “David Pepper’s plan makes more sense than Mike DeWine’s go-it-alone strategy. DeWine’s refusal to work with local crime labs to test these kits faster makes absolutely no sense. DeWine has left the people — particularly the women — of Ohio far behind him. … David Pepper will do better.”

Lupe Williams

Wooster

Link: http://www.the-daily-record.com/opinion/2014/07/15/letter-pepper-a-better-choice-for-ohio-s-ag

Hamilton Journal News: Tax dollars from failed charters go uncollected, candidates say

Posted: 5:52 p.m. Monday, July 14, 2014

By Michael D. Pitman

Staff Writer

WEST CHESTER TWP. —

A pair of statewide candidates are saying their political adversaries in this November’s election are “laying down on the job” as millions of dollars are going to failing or failed nonpublic charter schools, and not into the coffers of successful public school districts.

But representatives for Ohio Auditor David Yost and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said that accusation couldn’t be further from the truth.

State Rep. John Patrick Carney, D-Columbus, and former Hamilton County commissioner David Pepper, also a Democrat, said Yost and DeWine are not doing enough when it comes to collecting the millions of dollars owed back to the state by failed charter schools.

“Unfortunately for our state, under Republican leadership, (efforts for charter school transparency) has gone the exact opposite way of trying to provide accountability and oversight,” said Carney, who will challenge Yost in November. “The path to the American Dream goes through the public school system and sound and quality education.”

Carney along with Pepper, who will challenge DeWine in November, held a press conference at The Square at Union Center in West Chester Twp. Monday afternoon. Nearly $476.9 million in taxpayer money has been transferred to failing charter schools across the state, according to the Carney campaign, which compiled data from the Ohio Department of Education and the Columbus-based nonpartisan think tank, Innovation Ohio.

Carney and Pepper said, according to that same data, nearly $83.5 million has been transferred from “A” rated public schools to “F” rated charter schools in the state. And Carney said in Butler County, Ross, Talawanda, Lakota, Middletown and Hamilton school districts have lost around $8 million collectively to poorer performing charter schools.

“All schools and administrators should be held to the same level of accountability, regardless of whether they are public schools or charter schools,” Carney said, who also held a press conference with Pepper and others in Hamilton County Tuesday morning. “Families have the right that their tax dollars are going to schools that deserve it and that their children are being provided the best education possible to allow them to succeed.”

Carney, who is “a supporter of good schools,” said charter schools are important, but it’s “discouraging though when those doing the worst job seem to like they’re getting the most money.”

Brittany Halpin, a spokeswoman for David Yost’s political campaign, said the first-term auditor has been a watchdog of taxpayer dollars, even when it comes to charter schools.

“Here are the facts: Auditor Dave Yost found more than $9 million in stolen or misspent public money in Ohio’s charter schools, turned 22 corrupt officials into convicted criminals, and partnered with the FBI to put a notorious charter school crook behind bars,” she said. “The message is clear — under Auditor Yost’s watch, charter schools must follow the law or face the law.”

Pepper said outside of House Bill 520 — which Carney jointly sponsored with Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, and calls for open records for charter schools — “there’s nothing being done.”

“There’s $31 million missing from failed charter schools. The attorney general’s job is to collect that,” said Pepper, who currently works as an attorney. “They’ve collected $500,000 out of that $31 million. If the auditor and attorney general would work together, they could go find that money.”

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for DeWine’s office, said they’re mistaken to think the Attorney General’s Office isn’t doing anything to collect taxpayer dollars from failed charter schools.

“I don’t think they read beyond the headlines because it just shows a basic lack of understanding of how charter school collections work,” he said.

Tierney said it is the local counsel’s liability to first try to collect any finding of recovery owed, which could be a local school district or prosecutor’s office. He said after a couple of months, if that debt has not been collected by the local authority, the attorney general’s office by law is the “default collector” of any debts. And there is only a six-year statute of limitations to collect any findings for recovery, as opposed to delinquent tax collections where there’s a 40-year statute of limitations.

Tierney said to extend any statute of limitations, the attorney general’s office would file lawsuits, but collecting is difficult.

“In the cases of failed charter schools, these are entities that have shut down with no assets, no operations … no income,” said Tierney. “And we’re asked to collect money that’s already been spent.”

He said they do have recourse to seek the bond of the treasurer of a failed charter school — if there is a valid bond — or the owner of record, but often they typically have no money to pay the findings for recovery.

Link: http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/tax-dollars-from-failed-charter-schools-go-uncolle/ngfn3/

Sandusky Register: Pepper slams DeWine’s drug policies

Pepper slams DeWine’s drug policies

Says funding cuts make no sense during heroin crisis
TOM JACKSON
JUL 4, 2014

jackson@sanduskyregister.com

David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, is attempting to make a campaign issue out of the budget cuts inflicted on local mental health agencies by the Republican-dominated Ohio General Assembly.

“Every county I go to in the state, I hear the same thing — what is the state doing to help us all deal with this heroin crisis?” Pepper said in a telephone interview with the Register on Wednesday. “To have further cuts is, to me, inexcusable.”

The agencies that were cut include the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa counties, which provides both mental health and addiction treatment.

Kirk Halliday, executive director of the agency, said recently that the new state budget bill, signed June 16 by John Kasich, would cut state appropriations for his board by about $500,000.

Figures released by the Pepper campaign show that one particular federal grant program, the Substance Abuse and Federal Treatment block grant program, has been cut in Erie County from $340,550 last fiscal year to $224,604 in the current one. The cut in Huron County was from $190,181 to $125,202.

When asked why he is raising an appropriations issued decided by the Ohio General Assembly, Pepper replied that the attorney general needs to be a leader in dealing with the heroin crisis.

“I think that the attorney general is maybe the lead office in the state in how to make the state safer,” Pepper said. “The attorney general should be the leader in trying to solve this issue.”

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, replied that DeWine has stressed that treatment is an important element in dealing with the heroin problem and that law enforcement isn’t enough.

Tierney noted that drug treatment isn’t one of the responsibilities of the attorney general’s office.

That’s the responsibility of a separate state agency, the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services, Tierney said.

Link: http://www.sanduskyregister.com/article/5843051

Toledo Blade: DNA Matters (Editorial)

DNA matters

DeWine should finish the important work he started by enlisting the help of regional crime labs

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine deserves great credit for his efforts to test neglected DNA evidence — much of it more than a decade old — that can solve cold cases and clear innocent suspects.

Mr. DeWine started calling for old DNA evidence in late 2011, encouraging Ohio’s nearly 800 law enforcement agencies to clear their testable sexual-assault evidence shelves, following media reports that many kits remained in storage. As of late last month, 137 law enforcement agencies in Ohio have submitted 7,624 previously untested rape kits for testing by forensic scientists with the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

A former U.S. senator, Mr. DeWine saw an appalling and inexcusable problem, and used the power of his office to fix it. That’s what elected officials are supposed to do. But untested rape kits have come to state crime laboratories, which started working on old cases in 2012, faster than the labs can clear them. As of June 1, BCI completed DNA testing of 3,807 rape kits — about half the total of old cases.

David Pepper, Mr. DeWine’s Democratic challenger in this year’s election for state attorney general, told The Blade’s editorial page that the backlog could be erased by forming partnerships with local crime labs. The number of old, untested rape kits, he said, has almost doubled during the last 16 months.

Mr. DeWine points out, correctly, that without his intervention, the old rape kits would still be gathering dust in local police storage areas. His office offered to test the biological evidence for free and practically shamed local jurisdictions into finding and sending the kits to state crime labs.

That said, the kits should be tested as quickly as possible. Given the number of kits waiting to be tested, it’s reasonable to enlist the help of regional crime labs that are willing and able to do the work.

Mr. DeWine points out that since he took office in January, 2011, average waiting periods for the testing of new DNA evidence have dropped from 125 days to 23 days, despite a doubling or even tripling of caseloads. In emergency cases, the kits can be tested within 24 hours.

To keep current on new cases, Mr. DeWine’s office has separated them from old cases, assigning 10 scientists to work on old untested evidence. Staffing for DNA cases and the technology that supports it has increased significantly. That’s all good, but these welcome improvements don’t mitigate the need to clear the thousands of untested old kits as soon as possible.

BCI scientists now test more than 300 kits a month, said BCI Superintendent Tom Stickrath. The tests get matches in DNA databases in about one in three cases. At that rate, BCI scientists could erase the backlog in about a year. No one knows, however, how many more old DNA kits will be sent to state crime labs.

At least a handful of regional crime labs in Ohio are willing and able to do the work, and do it well. The Hamilton County coroner endorses Mr. Pepper’s plan, suggesting that the attorney general’s office collaborate with that county’s crime lab. Mr. Pepper vows, if he is elected, to work with the General Assembly to get the money needed to clear all untested rape kits within 150 days of his taking office.

Mr. DeWine told The Blade that he has no plans to outsource the testing of old DNA kits to regional labs. He ought to reconsider. As he well knows, each piece of biological evidence is potentially crucial. Every day matters.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Featured-Editorial-Home/2014/07/03/DNA-matters.html#1gg35tz3zG2ws3Ui.99Link: http://www.toledoblade.com/Featured-Editorial-Home/2014/07/03/DNA-matters.htm

Youngstown Vindicator: Pepper critical of dollar delays for addiction treatment programs

Published: Tue, July 1, 2014 @ 11:54 a.m.

YOUNGSTOWN

David Pepper, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, criticized a change in state policy that delays federal dollars going to local and county addiction treatment programs.

The delay, which took effect today, means a 34-percent reduction for Mahoning and Columbiana counties, and a 30-percent cut for Trumbull for a year while the nation and the state faces a “major heroin crisis,” Pepper said today outside the 7th District Court of Appeals in downtown Youngstown.

“This is the exact wrong time to be cutting critical addiction treatment funds,” Pepper said.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is changing the way it pays out $63 million in federal grant money, which leaves the state with a $20 million shortfall over the next year in the program. The department is distributing the money over 18 months rather than a year because of the lag time it takes for the federal dollars to arrive.

The state has made up the shortfall in previous years from other funding sources, Pepper said.

With the use of heroin increasing, this is not the time to stop providing money to cover that shortfall, he said.

Pepper criticized Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican and his opponent, for traveling around the state talking about the increased use of heroin at “dog and pony shows,” but “doing nothing” to stop the problem.

For the complete story, read Wednesday’s Vindicator and Vindy.com

Link: http://www.vindy.com/news/2014/jul/01/pepper-critical-dollar-delays-addiction-treatment-/?nw

Hudson Hub-Times: OHIO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES CRITICIZE GOV. JOHN KASICH, REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION FOR DRUG POLICY

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published: May 30, 2014 10:58AM

Columbus — Two Democratic candidates for statewide office are urging Gov. John Kasich and his Republican administration to reverse course on a decision they say will cost local agencies an estimated $20 million in funding for drug addiction services.

Gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald and attorney general candidate David Pepper said the GOP-controlled legislature and the governor should consider other budgeting options to cover the projected shortfall, stemming from a change in the timing of federal grant disbursements.

“As opposed to … adding more treatment that is so desperately needed and despite … a lot of town hall meetings and rhetoric about how about how our state leaders think this is a crisis, the state has actually come up with a way to dramatically reduce treatment,” Pepper told reporters during a press conference on the steps of the Statehouse May 29. “All 88 counties, agencies across the state, will about a month from now suffer about a 30 percent cut in their ability to provide the treatment they’re currently providing.”

At issue is a budgeting change adopted by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services in an attempt to align state and federal disbursements.

Federal grant funds for addiction services often aren’t forwarded to the state until months after state payments to local agencies are made. The state has covered the resulting shortfall in the past by shifting funds within agency budgets and temporarily advancing money for the addiction services grants.

The state agency’s new approach is to spread $63 million in federal allotments over six quarters instead of four, a move that state officials say will bring Ohio’s budget timetables in line with when the federal governments provides its payments.

“… Counties will still get their full distribution,” Eric R. Wandersleben, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said in an email message. “It’ll just be stretched over six quarters this one time to allow us to align the distribution process. By bringing everything into alignment, providers will be able to base planning around a regular, predictable distribution schedule.”

State officials also say other state policy moves will provide additional funding to help local agencies during the interim, including $3 million included in a mid-biennium budget bill that is awaiting final lawmaker action and $557 million-plus in funding for physical and behavioral health services as a result of the state’s Medicaid expansion.

But FitzGerald called the budgeting maneuver “an incredibly foolish decision. … There’s a $20 million real cut that local governments are going to be experiencing, and that is going to directly translate into fewer people getting treatment.”

“We’re in the middle of a crisis,” Pepper added. “This state has to be able to find solutions to budget problems without putting it on the backs of those providing treatment and those receiving treatment.”

Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, called such comments “tone deaf at best and ghoulish at worst.”

He added in a released statement, “The governor has been the single greatest advocate for this issue in recent memory and has been recognized nationally for his work … As the governor and attorney general are seeking results, their opponents are just seeking attention. Not only is FitzGerald’s politicization of this issue sad, but the fact that he wants more money for government and not for the people who are suffering shows his values are wildly out of touch with Ohioans.”

Link: http://www.hudsonhubtimes.com/latest%20headlines/2014/05/30/ohio-democratic-candidates-criticize-gov-john-kasich-republican-administration-for-drug

Hamilton Journal-News: Change leaves $1M funding gap for local addiction services

By Michael D. Pitman

Staff Writer

A change in the way the state is funneling federal money to county addictions boards and local providers is creating a $20 million shortfall over the next year.

The plan by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to distribute $63 million in federal money over 18 months instead of a single year is meant to address cash flow problems that at times have left addiction services providers scrambling to cover payroll. Federal money approved last fall, for example, wasn’t available until March this year.

The agency’s director has said that once implemented on July 1 the plan will ensure a more stable funding stream for local boards helping treat Ohioans with substance abuse problems.

Tracy Plouck, Mental Health and Addiction Services director, has also said Gov. John Kasich’s upcoming budget may help cover part of the gap, and Ohio’s decision to expand Medicaid eligibility for more poor Ohioans should help ease the blow.

“The challenge is if we don’t address this (financial) problem, providers will have no predictability with the money from the feds and we’re just perpetuating the issue in the system,” Plouck said.

Butler County has seen a 139 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in the first part of 2014 compared to last year. Of the 21 drug overdose deaths attributed to heroin, 11 were a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.

John Bohley, executive director of Butler County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board, isn’t sold that the proposed plan is the best way to go during the heroin epidemic because the SAPT grant “is money that’s pretty stable that we can count on.” Butler and Warren counties stand to lose nearly $1 million through the funding change.

“It’s true that the expansion of Medicaid results in more outpatient services being covered. What happened as a result of Medicaid expanding, providers in Butler County have increased their capacity for outpatient services, but they’ve also increased their capacity for residential services,” Bohley said.

As more people come into residential services, Medicaid only pays for part of the bill, he said. It does not pay for room and board and supervision — “and those costs have increased,” Bohley said. “(Medicaid expansion) is creating new demand for residential services and other services for childcare.”

He also feels local addiction and mental health boards “are facing a double loss” with the $47.5 million the General Assembly appropriated for clinical services support. But Ohio MHAS spokesman Eric Wandersleben said Medicaid expansion will cover those services, “creating an opportunity to re-prioritize the one-time state subsidy to address other unmet needs, like community based prevention and housing.”

Wandersleben said the Kasich administration “has made an unprecedented investment in mental health and addiction services” and the mid-biennium budget review proposals are “focusing on significant gaps in the continuum of care post-Medicaid expansion.”

Gubernatorial contender Ed FitzGerald and attorney general candidate David Pepper questioned the timing of the decision at a Thursday news conference in Columbus, saying the shortfall hampers the effort to combat Ohio’s painkiller and heroin epidemic.

“This was not a decision that had to be made,” FitzGerald said. “They made a bureaucratic decision without realizing that there could be an interruption in services or treatment, and that’s a foolish decision.”

“There is already far too little treatment for heroin addiction in this state, and the waiting lists are already far too long,” Pepper said. “To make dramatic cuts to treatment providers all across Ohio — as the crisis continues to explode — makes no sense.”

Sojourner Recovery Services serves about 700 patients each year, which includes 350 patients in the residential-only programs. About 89 percent of those patients are for heroin or some other opiate addiction, according to the non-profit agency that provides substance abuse treatment to women, men and adolescents.

“Leaders in Butler and Warren counties are working hard to address the crisis. So it’s a real shame to see the state pull the rug out from under them by dramatically reducing treatment,” Pepper said. “This will only result in more lost lives and more crime.”

The state saw a record 1,914 drug overdose deaths in 2012, according to Department of Health data. Heroin-related deaths soared 60 percent to 680 in 2012, the most recent year of available data, the Health Department found.

Ahead of Thursday’s news conference, health care and mental health advocates released a letter on the issue that they said was sent weeks ago to all statewide contenders and those running for the General Assembly. In it, they urge candidates not to politicize drug abuse and addiction.

“All too often we have seen the polarizing, trivializing effect that heated campaign rhetoric can have on serious issues,” wrote the groups, which include the Drug Free Action Alliance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Link: http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/change-leaves-1m-funding-gap-for-local-addiction-s/nf9WL/

Toledo Blade: Addiction care will be left with shortfall under loophole, Democratic challengers say

JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Democratic candidates for Ohio governor and attorney general on Thursday accused Gov. John Kasich’s administration of saying the right things about battling addiction while also making an unnecessary “bureaucratic” decision that undermines that effort.

A change in the way the state will distribute federal aid to local addiction-treatment agencies beginning July 1 is expected to create a short-term funding hole totaling $20 million this year.

The Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board plans to step in to temporarily fill its own gap of roughly $1 million, thanks to a 1-mill, 10-year levy voters approved for the board in 2012.

“There are a lot of pressing needs when it comes to human services, and just because a county has a human services levy doesn’t mean that all of a sudden they have an endless pool [of money],” said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who is challenging the Republican governor in November.

Because of the late receipt of the federal funds each year, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is shifting to a schedule that distributes the aid after it is received instead of distributing the funds and later drawing down the federal dollars.

To get the federal and state timetables in sync and to prevent future funding shortfalls for counties because of the inconsistent federal schedule, the state will distribute next fiscal year’s $62.6 million over 18 months instead of 12.

David Pepper, former Hamilton County commissioner and Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine’s opponent, accused the Kasich administration of fixing a short-term budgetary problem on the backs of people dealing with addiction.

“If you believe we’re in a crisis mode [with addiction] as they say they do, that would actually be the one solution you wouldn’t pick,” he said.

He suggested that the best option would be for the state to use its own funds to fill the one-time gap.

“The governor has been the single greatest advocate for this issue in recent memory and has been recognized nationally for his work,” said Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf. “In addition, just yesterday in Cuyahoga County an attorney from Mike DeWine’s office worked with the U.S. Attorney and indicted two heroin dealers. As the governor and attorney general are seeking results, their opponents are just seeking attention.”

The state said a budget-related bill expected to come to a vote next week as well as anticipated savings from the expansion of Medicaid could provide some help to counties to fill the short-term gaps.

“It’s going to reduce our available funds for community services that will be replaced by local levy dollars,” said Scott Sylak, executive director of the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. “Once again it’s an over-reliance on local funding to shore up what the state has started. We’re willing to do this because there are necessary services embedded with those dollars that are critical. Clients receiving those services should not be unduly impacted because of this funding change.”

Link: http://www.toledoblade.com/State/2014/05/30/Kasich-s-funding-for-centers-criticized.html

Dispatch: Democratic candidates decry funding cuts to drug treatment programs

By Darrel RowlandThe Columbus Dispatch  •  Friday May 30, 2014 6:51 AM

Instead of speeding up state income-tax cuts, Democrat Ed FitzGerald says Republicans who run state government should use the money to head off $20 million in reductions planned for county drug-treatment agencies.

“It’s that conflict between priorities that I think is so shocking to many people,” the gubernatorial candidate said yesterday in a news conference outside the Statehouse. “It’s a foolish decision.”

The reductions of up to 30 to 40 percent at a time when heroin deaths are climbing represent “a life-and-death issue … that is going to directly translate into fewer people getting treatment,” FitzGerald said.

The proposal to implement a 10 percent state tax cut now instead of next year would cost $100 million; the bill is before a House-Senate conference committee.

David Pepper, seeking the attorney general’s seat now held by Republican Mike DeWine, said the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ decision to distribute $63 million in federal block grants over 18 months instead of a year to fix longstanding cash-flow issues means local drug-treatment agencies “will have no choice but to simply cut off treatment.”

“We will see more people addicted,” said Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner. “We will see more lives ruined.”

The department, which ended the practice of floating money ahead of tardy federal allocations to county agencies, says the funding cuts could be alleviated by the state’s Medicaid expansion and $6 million in aid proposed by Gov. John Kasich’s midbiennium review.

“The federal government’s decision to start delaying its grants to states from October to March of the following year leaves a huge gap in funding for both counties and treatment providers,” said the agency’s director, Tracy Plouck. “Ohio is absorbing as much of that blow as we can — and we hope to absorb even more, but … appeals to the federal government that this action is hurting people have essentially been ignored. We’re as frustrated as everyone else and hope that the federal government will reverse its decision or resolve the problem it has created.”

Both Kasich’s office and campaign deferred comment to the Ohio Republican Party. Spokesman Chris Schrimpf said, “It’s tone-deaf at best and ghoulish at worst that these Democrats are seeking political gain from the suffering of Ohioans with drug addictions and mental illness. The governor has been the single greatest advocate for this issue in recent memory and has been recognized nationally for his work.

“In addition, just (Wednesday) in Cuyahoga County, an attorney from Mike DeWine’s office worked with the U.S. attorney and indicted two heroin dealers. As the governor and attorney general are seeking results, their opponents are just seeking attention.”

DeWine spokeswoman Lisa Hackley said the attorney general “basically from day one of his administration (has) made going after prescription-drug abuse and now the heroin problem a No. 1 priority.”

FitzGerald was asked about his campaign’s claim yesterday afternoon that a two-year freeze on Ohio’s “green” energy laws that Kasich promises to sign “endangers” 25,000 jobs — essentially all the state currently has.

“It puts the whole industry at risk,” the Cuyahoga County executive replied. “If you’re someone who was thinking about making a serious investment in Ohio when it comes to clean energy or renewable energy, what message just got sent to you?”

Link: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/05/29/pepper-fitzgerald-drug-cuts.html