Candidates address opiate crisis

O’Brien, Lovett spar over commissioner’s record

By Melanie Yingst -

Editor’s note: This is a follow-up story to Wednesday night’s annual Meet the Candidates Night. Due to time constraints for deadline, the event was broken down into two stories.

MIAMI COUNTY — The annual Meet the Candidates night kicked off with some terse words between John “Bud” O’Brien and George Lovett, two of the four Republican candidates for state representative for the 80th district who participated in the forum on Wednesday.

Candidates were given two minutes to make their introductions, which O’Brien used to address a mailer from an out-of- state political action committee “Growth and Opportunity PAC,” which appeared in mailboxes across the district on Wednesday.

Holding up the ad, O’Brien said he wanted to use part of his time to address the “dirty, negative” campaign of the election.

O’Brien said the ad was sent by a “shadow” of a PAC out of Lexington, Ky. “to spew venom against people they know won’t play their game and bow to their wants.”

The ad pictures O’Brien holding handcuffs with wording stating “lied to prosecutor” and “A politician who thinks he’s above the law and now he wants to write them.” The PAC’s website was not active as of press time. The ad also states it is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

The ad cites news article coverage of the investigation regarding a $2.5 million heating and air conditioning project at the county’s Hobart Center, ties to the owners of the Waibel company and O’Brien’s campaign contributions in 2012. Special prosecutor Andy Wilson found O’Brien had lied to former Prosecutor Gary Nasal, but there was insufficient evidence that O’Brien performed any action that could charge him with obstruction of official business and his actions were not deemed unethical in March 2014.

“Basically they want puppets in Columbus to do their bidding. They support one of my candidates and I’ll let you decide which one that might be,” O’Brien said. O’Brien said voters of Miami County “rejected this story four years ago” during his re-election bid for county commissioner.

“I have faith in voters in Miami and Darke counties will reject this also,” O’Brien said.

Troy Community Radio moderator Bill McIntosh asked how Lovett justifies the ad campaigns the “Growth and Opportunity” PAC has placed, which called O’Brien “a liar.”

“The brochure that Mr. O’Brien held up I saw for the first time today. I’ve got nothing to do with it. I don’t know anything about this PAC and I have no affiliation with it,” Lovett said. “As far as Mr. O’Brien’s public record, he’s a public servant. His service in that capacity is highly relevant in this campaign. In 29 years as a lawyer, in eight years of being on city council, in my time as mayor (of Tipp City), in service in 12 different non-profits, I’ve never, ever had anyone question my public integrity,” Lovett said.

O’Brien responded, stating he’s never “gone negative” in his prior campaigns as commissioner.

“I’ve always talked about my accomplishments. I will disagree with Mr. Lovett’s explanation of my record and I think it’s wrong. I will give Mr. Lovett one piece of credit — he at least attached his name to that attack. Whoever that PAC, who is from another state is supporting, hasn’t done that. Folks, I’m proud of my record. I’ve served Miami County for many years. You guys know my record. You know what the truth is and you know what the truth isn’t. I look forward to your vote on election day,” O’Brien said.

J.D. Winteregg and Jena Powell made statements regarding their independent campaigns. Troy Daily News emailed a list of questions to the treasurer, Eric Lycan, of the Growth and Opportunity PAC. As of press time, a response was not available.

Candidates plan to combat the state’s opiate crisis

Troy Daily News moderator David Fong asked candidates to share their plan at the state and national level to combat the state’s opiate crisis:

Democratic representatives to Congress, 8th District: There is no Republican primary race. The 8th Congressional District includes Miami, Darke, Clark, Preble, and Butler counties and a portion of southern Mercer County. The winner will face Rep. Warren Davidson in November.

Bill Ebben of West Chester: Ebben said the opiate crisis was an important topic for him, due to losing his son, Tim, 14 months ago to an opiate overdose.

“What we are doing now is stupid. It doesn’t work … there are other things we can do. Other countries do a lot of different things. We could find one that would work for us, but first we’d have to be willing to stand up and say what we are doing now doesn’t work,” he said.

Ebben shared how the “war on drugs” is more likely to kill someone on drugs, than help them.

“The programs don’t work because we take away all hope first. Why would anyone work on a program if they knew the rest of their life they would have to check that box that says have you ever been convicted or arrested for drugs.”

Dr. Vanessa Enoch of West Chester: Enoch shared how she was a chemical dependency counselor during the “crack”epidemic, calling the opiate crisis “a very different animal.”

“It did not start on the street. It started because the pharmaceutical companies were engaged with medical providers and we need to provide treatment for individuals. It is not a criminal issue, it’s a medical issue,” she said. “The way we combat the opiate crisis is through insuring that we give people proper treatment so they can get better and the current administration is looking at avenues such as a war on drugs, which is not going to be effective when we are not dealing with a problem that didn’t originate on the streets. “

Matthew J. Guyette of Greenville: Guyette said addiction is not a money problem and “throwing more money at a problem like addiction doesn’t solve anything.”

Guyette shared how he has been sober for 15 years from his addiction to alcohol.

“I think we need to have resources available when people want to kick their addiction, but at the same time, getting sober and getting clean only works when the person is ready to do it,” he said. “I think we need a two-prong approach. We need to have resources available for people who really want to change, but we also need to pursue law enforcement. There needs to be consequences for people who break the law or turn to crime or abuse their families.”

Ted Jones of Piqua: Jones said education and funding were the keys to combating the issue of opiate addiction.

Jones said addiction is particularly difficult to fight due to dealing with economic and social issues, the person’s physiological issues and the law enforcement component of the drug issue.

“All those are going to need funding,” he said.

• Republican candidates for State Representative, 80th District: There is no Democratic primary race. The 80th District includes all of Miami County and the southern portion of Darke County.

George H. Lovett of Tipp City: Lovett advocated for a short- and long-term approach to the issue.

“Education is the long term solution. There is no other long-term effective solution, ” he said.

Lovett said the short-term solution is “putting out the fire.”

Lovett noted the Tri-County Board of Mental Health’s “One Wellness Place” building project, which will place a variety of social services under one roof upon its completion, including addition services and other medical and social programs.

“It makes it more likely fo rhem to succeed. In the course of doing that, we are going to make it more efficient and save over $200,000 a year in operating costs,” he said.

Lovett also said if the One Wellness Place model is a success, it should serve as an example to other communities.

John W. O’Brien of Monroe Twp.: O’Brien noted the Miami County Task Force and its efforts to combat the heroin and opiate epidemic.

O’Brien said education, law enforcement and how to help those in active addiction is key to the opiate crisis.

“We need to educate our students to make sure they understand the perils of what drugs can do to their systems, their lives, and their families. Secondly, we need to work with our law enforcement to try to eradicate any drugs within our community. Thirdly, we need to look into how we can help those folks who are addicted to any type of drug, whether it’s an opiate or anything else,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said as commissioner, he’s helped agencies like the Tri-County Board of Mental Health fund programs to help get people off opiates within the county jail.

Jena Powell of Arcanum: Powell said the opiate crisis has likely affected everyone in attendance in one way or another.

Powell said she didn’t believe another government-run program would bring a solution to the problem.

Powell said she advocates for a three-step process of first securing the borders and revoking sanctuary cities; overhaul the health care system and end Medicaid expansion; and third, strengthen families by tax cuts.

“With that three-step plan, you’ll see communities thriving. It’s easy as a legislator to pat yourself on the back when you create a new program, but more government regulation is not a solution to this problem,” she said.

J.D. Winteregg of Troy: Winteregg advocated for private solutions to address the opiate issues.

“A lot of this problem started because the public, government has gotten involved,” he said.

Winteregg called the Medicaid expansion “troublesome” due to its lack of quality of care.

“While I may hear of people who have more coverage, what they are getting is worse care. They are going in and seeing a nurse practitioner for a minute, get prescribed pills and that’s it. It doesn’t mean there’s a no pain, they aren’t taught how to deal with it. That’s something that’s contributed to flooding our market with pills,” he said.

Winteregg said limiting prescriptions “has helped a bit.”

For those who have been convicted of drug offenses, Winteregg said the government could help those who are clean and figure out a way “for them to thrive.”
O’Brien, Lovett spar over commissioner’s record

By Melanie Yingst