CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - In an era of increasingly partisan politics, Ohio's two U.S. senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, both agree that no political fight can overshadow the state's fight against opiate abuse.
The senators spoke to Cleveland 19 together on Tuesday.
"This issue of combating substance abuse has typically been a bipartisan issue, I would say a non-partisan issue, and particularly now we've got a crisis in our state," said Portman.
Brown said it's the biggest public health threat to Ohio possibly in his lifetime.
"It's one of the biggest in our lifetimes, and we can't walk away from it just because some people say we should. It matters to far too many families," he said. "We've seen in every part of the state. In the cities, in the suburbs, in Appalachia, in western Ohio -- everywhere, and unfortunately Ohio has more opioid deaths than any state in the country."
Both agreed on the need for continued funding of the Medicaid expansion in Ohio to continue to help those suffering with drug addiction and/or mental health issues.
"This is a big deal to us in Ohio because it turns out the population that is being served by the expanded Medicaid in Ohio is getting hit hard by this opioid crisis. In fact the numbers are shocking," said Portman. "We gotta be very careful that we aren't losing the ability for these folks to get treatment because the alternative is, either they're not getting treatment at all and probably eight out of ten Ohioans are not. We want to get them into treatment, to stop the cycle, to stop the crime, to stop the devastation, but second is - if we don't get into treatment they're going to be choking the emergency rooms and that's much more expensive for all of us."
Both senators have recently introduced two separate bill in an attempt to further restrict the synthetic opiate fentanyl.
"At least (200,000 Ohioans) are getting opioid treatment. To upend that, to have repealed that against the wishes of both senators in Ohio and the governor, Governor Kasich would have meant would have turned their lives upside down," said Brown. "When you meet families of people who are addicted or going through treatment you know how it upends the entire family because the addict in the family, whether it's the mother, or the brother, or the daughter, or the son you know how everything's focused on the addict."