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Ohio gets $26 million to fight opioids

Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 6:31 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 6:40 PM

Ohio gets $26 million to fight opioids
Ohio gets $26 million to fight opioids

The state will receive $26 million to fight heroin and prescription drugs, part of a pot of $485 million in grants that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is offering to battle the drug epidemic.

RELATED: Stark numbers show heroin’s local grip

According to Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, the money will be used over the next two years for medication-assisted treatment, prevention, screening, recovery supports and addressing secondary trauma among first responders, including law enforcement and emergency medical technicians.

The money comes from the 21st Century Cures act, a law enacted in December 2016 that will provide $1 billion over two years to fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic. Sen. Rob Portman fought for opioid funding to be included in the bill. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also supported the bill, but protested when the distribution of federal dollars was slow to go out. Brown and other Democratic colleagues sent a letter to President Donald Trump earlier this month calling for the money to be released.

A look at the statistics surrounding Springfield and Clark and County's battle with the heroin and opioid epidemic.

RELATED: Coroner investigates 145 suspected overdose deaths in month

Portman called the money “good news for Ohio.” He visited treatment and recovery facilities in Eaton and Massillon. “This legislation is now starting to benefit our state,” he said.

Brown said, “Ohio communities have long been asking for help to combat the opioid crisis, so I’m glad to see the resources we secured last year have finally been announced and will soon help individuals and families get the treatment they need.”

The Democrat also argued that repealing the 2010 health-care law known as Obamacare would also harm recovering addicts who rely on the Medicaid expansion for their addiction treatment.

Trump’s Afghanistan plan won’t lead to early exit

Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 @ 5:00 AM

            In this April 17, 2017 file photo, U.S. forces and Afghan security police are seen in Asad Khil near the site of a U.S. bombing in the Achin district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. Behind the detail-scarce rhetoric of the new Afghanistan strategy, elements of President Donald Trump’s broader approach to foreign conflicts emerge: secret military plans, no “nation-building” and a reliance on regional players to squeeze wayward nations and extremist groups. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
            Rahmat Gul
In this April 17, 2017 file photo, U.S. forces and Afghan security police are seen in Asad Khil near the site of a U.S. bombing in the Achin district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. Behind the detail-scarce rhetoric of the new Afghanistan strategy, elements of President Donald Trump’s broader approach to foreign conflicts emerge: secret military plans, no “nation-building” and a reliance on regional players to squeeze wayward nations and extremist groups. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)(Rahmat Gul)

As the United States prepares to send more troops to Afghanistan within days or weeks, a former top U.S. commander says Americans should not expect an early exit

“The option of pulling out of Afghanistan was the worst of all options,” retired Marine Gen. John R. Allen, a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in a conference call Tuesday with reporters.

President Donald Trump outlined Monday in a speech a regional approach to the long running war, suggesting more troops were on the way but refusing to say how many as he called on neighboring Pakistan to end acting as a haven for terrorists and India to help in Afghanistan’s economic redevelopment.

Trump declared the U.S. would not pursue nation building or exporting democracy as part of the strategy but keyed in on “killing terrorists.” Once calling for withdrawal from Afghanistan, Trump declared any U.S. departure would rely on conditions in that country and not a set timeline.

Allen said stability, governance and military action were “inextricably linked” to finding a solution to the war in Afghanistan.

‘No good solutions’

“There are no good solutions in Afghanistan, but we know what would happen if we pulled out,” said Frank Jenista, a retired U.S. diplomat who teaches international studies at Cedarville University.

RELATED: What is Trump’s plan for Afghanistan?

Other experts said Trump’s speech lacked specifics on the war plan.

“The strategy that the president announced … is not a strategy for victory, it is a strategy for buying us hope,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, an Afghanistan expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. where Allen is a senior analyst.

While Trump chose the “least bad option” to avoid the collapse of Afghanistan and the expansion of Taliban influence, she said, Felbab-Brown chided his decision to downgrade the importance of governance, calling it a “critical flaw, a fundamental flaw that almost guarantees to eviscerate whatever improvements on the battlefield take place.”

The nation has “systematic abuses of power” and “pervasive corruption” topped with poor delivery of services that boost the Taliban in its fight with the Afghan government, she said.

“The way the message will be read in Afghanistan is that the United States no longer cares about governance,” she said in a conference call Tuesday with reporters. “That it gives carte blanche for the atrocious politics that give the Taliban staying power and in fact are at the core of its capacities.”

‘Puzzled, disappointed’

Donna Schlagheck, a terrorism expert and a political science professor emeritus at Wright State University, said Trump’s speech was “eerily reminiscent of Vietnamization” in Afghanistan.

Trump failed to give specifics on the latest war plan, which she said did not appear to deviate much compared to prior strategies under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“I came away from that speech puzzled, disappointed, very curious,” she said, adding it was “a bit troubling” Trump would cede authority to the military on troop increases and strikes.

RELATED: Air Force testing light attack plane

The U.S. military was reportedly weighing sending about 4,000 more troops to the 8,400 in Afghanistan today. More than 2,300 U.S. troops have died in the war.

The long war has drawn National Guardsmen and reservists across Ohio and the nation and pulled both military and civilian personnel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. For years, the 445th Airlift Wing flew aeromedical evacuation and cargo-hauling missions from Wright-Patterson to Afghanistan and Springfield Air National Guardsmen have flown drone missions overseas.

“When you fight a conflict for 16 years and still can’t see light at the end of the tunnel — to use a phrase from the Vietnam War — that signals victory isn’t an option,” said Loren. B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Lexington Institute.

“The president says America will no longer be a ‘nation-builder,’ but the fundamental defect in our strategy has been the rampant corruption of the Afghan political culture,” he added. “If we can’t fix that, and we probably can’t, then the Taliban will continue to attract popular support despite its extremism.

“It is hard to connect the rhetoric in President Trump’s speech Monday night with the realities on the ground. Sending a few thousand more U.S. soldiers isn’t going to change the strategic situation,” Thompson added in an email.

“The U.S. has spent $700 billion trying to make Afghanistan something it will never be — a peaceful, democratic nation. Imagine how that money might have been put to work in places like Ohio. Apparently we will continue spending money over there rather than over here,” Thompson said.

While a small addition of troops would not achieve victory, it could change momentum in the fight against the Taliban, said Michael O’Hanlon, an expert with the Brookings Institution. “That by itself has a lot of benefits,” he said.

Schlagheck, who authored a college textbook on terrorism, doubted Trump’s approach in Afghanistan would reduce the threat of terrorism.

Increased security in the United States and shared intelligence internationally has protected the nation the most since the terrorist attacks nearly 16 years ago, she added.

‘Political micromanaging’

Jenista, however, praised Trump for pushing aside “political micromanaging and letting the military fight the war.”

“I think the only people who can criticize it are people who want to pull out and let the Taliban take over,” he said. “The Afghans lived under the Taliban, they know what’s coming and that’s why they (would) only go back under the Taliban at the point of an AK-47.”

He contrasted the size of the U.S. troop commitment in Afghanistan to other nations in Asia.

RELATED: Afghan who translated for U.S. troops finds new life at Wright State

“We’re not really putting a lot of attention to Afghanistan,” he said. “We’ve got 8,400 troops there. We’ve got triple that in South Korea and quadruple that in Japan. I would classify it more as a training and police action with some Special Forces,” he added. “This is not a full-on war.”

Thomas W. Spoehr, director of the Center for National Security at the Washington, D.C-based Heritage Foundation, said Trump’s refusal to set a timeline on withdrawal or to telegraph the number of troops that may be sent over was the right course.

He praised Trump for calling on India to aid in Afghanistan’s redevelopment and calling out Pakistan to clamp down on terrorists within its borders.

“Presidents have tiptoed around Pakistan and the difficulties we’ve had with them and he took the gloves off,” the retired Army three-star general said.

Trump threatens possible government shutdown if Congress won’t fund border wall

Published: Tuesday, August 22, 2017 @ 11:55 PM

At a raucous campaign rally in Arizona, President Donald Trump demanded that Congress fund his request for money to build a wall along the border with Mexico, saying that if lawmakers won’t go along with his plan, then it could mean a federal government shutdown showdown with Congress this fall, as Mr. Trump .

“Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down the government, we’re building that wall,” Mr. Trump said to loud cheers in a Phoenix rally.

No direct votes have been held in either the House or Senate on funding for the wall, as GOP leaders have been worried the plan to fund an initial $1.6 billion in extra border wall money might not be able to gather a majority in either the House or Senate.

“Believe me, one way or the other, we’re going to get that wall,” the President added, making clear his desire to gain approval for the money.

Unlike a year ago during the campaign for President, Mr. Trump made no mention of his familiar vow to make Mexico pay for the border wall, instead focusing his ire on Democrats in the Congress.

“Democrats in Congress who oppose a border wall and stay in the way of border security – you are putting all of America’s safety at risk, you’re doing that,” the President said.

Brown asks FBI for information on Ohio hate groups

Published: Tuesday, August 22, 2017 @ 5:39 PM
Updated: Tuesday, August 22, 2017 @ 5:39 PM

            U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

In the aftermath of an Ohio man charged with killing a woman in Charlottesville, Va., this month, Sen. Sherrod Brown asked the FBI Tuesday to provide him with any information the bureau has on “domestic terrorist organizations or hate groups” believed to have operated in the state of Ohio during the past two years.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Brown, D-Ohio, wrote that “the presence of domestic terror organizations and hate groups in Ohio” poses a “threat to both public safety and national security. And I firmly believe that every Ohioan, and every American, has a right to know whether domestic terror organizations or hate groups are known or suspected by law enforcement to have a presence in their community.”

RELATED: Groups like KKK preach white power, shun ‘hate’ label

Referring to James Alex Fields of Toledo, who has been charged with the murder of a 32-year-old woman after he ran his car into a crowd of people, Brown wrote, “The fact that an individual from Ohio is alleged to have traveled to Virginia and committed such an act while attending a white supremacist rally has caused many in my home state, including myself, to question the degree to which domestic terror organizations and hate groups are present and operate in the state of Ohio.”

Fields has been charged with second-degree murder, five counts of malicious wounding and three counts of aggravated malicious wounding. In addition to the death of the young woman, 19 other people were injured during the incident.

Last week, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper warned that “Ohio is unfortunately right in the middle of this problem. I don’t think you can sugarcoat this.”

Sanders tells Ohio audience: ‘Do not allow people to divide us’

Published: Tuesday, August 22, 2017 @ 4:58 PM

            PORTSMOUTH, OH - AUGUST 22: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a rally on jobs, health care, and the economy at Shawnee State University on August 22, 2017 in Portsmouth, Ohio. In the 2016 election, Sanders received more votes from people under 30 than Clinton and Trump combined. (Photo by Maddie McGarvey/Getty Images)
            Maddie McGarvey
PORTSMOUTH, OH - AUGUST 22: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a rally on jobs, health care, and the economy at Shawnee State University on August 22, 2017 in Portsmouth, Ohio. In the 2016 election, Sanders received more votes from people under 30 than Clinton and Trump combined. (Photo by Maddie McGarvey/Getty Images)(Maddie McGarvey)

Sen. Bernie Sanders ventured into the heart of Republican country in Ohio Tuesday to address what he said are the most important issues facing the country.

One of those issues was made clear by the hundreds of hands that shot up when Sanders, I-Vt., asked the audience if they knew anyone struggling with drug addiction.

Joe, a college dropout who is saddled with $30,000 in student loan debt, said his sister used to drive from Cleveland to Portsmouth to score prescription opiates.

“She didn’t get them from a drug dealer, she got them from a doctor,” he said.

RELATED: Dayton sues drug companies for role in opioid crisis

Devon, another audience member who spoke during Tuesday’s town hall meeting, said his father overdosed in 2008, his mother still struggles with heroin addiction and he was largely raised by his grandparents. His parents, he told Sanders, were fueled by a drug state and had forfeited all hope of a normal life.

Sanders spent more than an hour talking with some 650 people at Shawnee State University about the opiate addiction crisis as well as the need to make tuition free at public colleges, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, expand Medicare to provide health care to every American, institute criminal justice reform and provide jobs and hope to citizens.

“I am in Trump country because I think the issues you face here in southern Ohio are not any different than in Vermont or California or any other state,” he said.

RELATED: Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor opens up about sons’ opioid addictions

Trump won 65 percent of the vote in Scioto County.

“I think it’s high time we focus on the most important issues facing our country and do not allow people to divide us up based on the color of our skin, our sexual orientation…We have to be smarter than that,” Sanders said.

Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken said in a written statement: “The only place Bernie Sanders’ socialist sales pitch will be welcomed today is in Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office. Scioto County voters rejected socialized health care and the job-destroying economic policies of Sanders and Brown last year by overwhelmingly electing President (Donald) Trump. With the economy booming and the president keeping his promises, Sanders and Brown are out of touch and out of luck in Scioto County.”

Brown is up for re-election next year.

RELATED: Bernie Sanders rallies millennial vote in Cincinnati

Portsmouth was the second stop on a three-city tour for Sanders this week. He held a rally in Indianapolis on Monday and was scheduled to hold a town hall in Detroit with long-time U.S. Rep. John Conyers on Tuesday.

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat who served as a Methodist minister in Portsmouth, said while Scioto County voted for Trump, this isn’t Trump country.

“I think it was a temporary relapse,” Strickland said after the Sanders event. “I think that Trump had a message that resonated here, but being the charlatan that he is, it was a hollow message because there is nothing that he told the people who live here that he wanted to do for them that he has actually done. In fact, quite the opposite.”

Democrats need to win back voters in this area by emphasizing issues such as health care, jobs, the environment and education, Strickland said. Coincidentally, Sanders on Tuesday focused on some of those same issues.