Columbus — Gov. John Kasich was stumping for Republican Sen. Rob Portman recently when his thoughts turned to drug addiction.
“You know not to touch them, right?” he told one teen campaign volunteer. “You know… there’s a 50 percent less likelihood that a young person will do drugs if they just hear that message.”
He added, “Stay off the drugs, because you’ll never have your hopes and dreams realized if you become an addict, unless you can have a miracle transformation.”
A few weeks earlier, during a ribbon-cutting event at a suburban Columbus business, Kasich made similar comments.
“Everybody has the responsibility in this society today to fight the scourge of drugs,” he said. “… If a young person hears that they should not do drugs — Nancy Reagan was actually right — there is a 50 percent less likelihood that a young person will ever do drugs.”
He added, “I want you to think about your kids. I want you to think about the kids that visit your kids. I want you to think about the young people you run into at a restaurant who you may not even know, because you might be saving a life.”
Earlier this summer, during a tour on the first day of the state fair, the governor stopped periodically to ask aides to post more signs about the dangers of drug addiction.
“Please, please, please talk to your kids about not doing drugs,” he said at one point.
No matter where Kasich goes, he tells audiences and individuals, even kids he runs into at the grocery store or restaurants, this same message.
Don’t do drugs, because it’ll ruin your life and the lives of those you know and love.
Overdose statistics released by state health officials in recent days make that message even more important to share.
Last year, a record 3,050 Ohioans died of unintentional drug overdoses, the vast majority from people using heroin or, increasingly, fentanyl. The latter is a powerful synthetic narcotic that some are mixing with heroin for a stronger high — along with a greater likelihood of death.
Since 2010, nearly 13,000 Ohioans have died from unintentional drug overdoses.
The numbers are scary, considering it wasn’t that long ago that heroin wasn’t much of an issue in Ohio’s communities. Talk to people like the governor or Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine or other state officials who are out and about across the state, and they’ll tell you the drug problem is running rampant across urban, suburban and rural areas, hitting people in all income brackets.
You can and should expect government officials to place more emphasis on drug addiction in coming years. There will be new programs and counseling services and other initiatives that’ll require taxpayer support.
In the meantime, you should make like Kasich and tell everybody you run into to stay away from drugs.
“It’s going to take all of us to fight this,” he told a Columbus audience a few weeks back. “We need to fight this in our schools, we need to fight this in our churches, we need to fight this on the athletic fields. Think about what you can do to spread this message.”
Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.