U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, center, talks with a guest at a Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce briefing Friday morning at Heidelberg Distributing’s Moraine distribution center. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Photo: Thomas Gnau/Staff
Photo: Thomas Gnau/Staff

Portman challenges businesses to ‘step up’ as part of opioid fight

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman met with business leaders in Dayton Friday and challenged them to “step up even more” in the fight against opioids.

”I’m deeply concerned about where are our country is heading in terms of the opioid crisis, and all of the consequences,” Portman said in an appearance before the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

RELATED: How to get help: An opioid addiction resource guide

Portman, R-Ohio, is backing recent federal legislation that would impose a three-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain.

The legislation would also authorize $1 billion for prevention, enforcement, treatment and recovery programs, he said.

“It is affecting our communities in every way — and one (way) is workforce,” Portman said. “We’re not able to use our workforce that we would want to use in this county because so many people are addicted, and therefore stepping out of the workforce altogether.”

Because so many people have dropped out of the workforce and are not part of the official unemployment statistics, Portman said the true unemployment rate in Ohio is probably around 9 percent, instead of the 4.7 percent that was recorded in January.

“I think it’s a crisis,” he said.

RELATED: Three local toddlers have overdosed on opioids in less than a year

Portman said the key is getting people into treatment programs “and here in Dayton, there are good groups who are doing just that,” he said.

Portman spoke before a chamber breakfast audience at Heidelberg Distributing’s Moraine distribution center, and then met privately with a group of Dayton-area business leaders.

A champion of the tax cut that Congress passed in December, Portman said it is already paying dividends. He pointed to Apple bringing $350 billion from overseas to invest in the U.S. over the next five years.

“I’m hearing all over the state as a I travel around that (businesses) … are taking advantage of this tax reform and are investing,” Portman said. “I heard that today, too, from folks in this room. I appreciate any input that I get.”

After Portman posted his appearance on his Twitter page Friday, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper replied, “Someone didn’t get the Pennsylvania memo.”

Pepper was referring to the special election in Pennsylvania on Tuesday in which a Democrat, Conor Lamb, won an apparent victory over Republican Rick Saccone. Although outside groups spent millions promoting the tax plan for the GOP, Lamb’s victory in a district that Donald Trump carried by 20 points in 2016 raises questions about how effective the message will be in this fall’s congressional elections.

“Ask Saccone about the message,” Pepper wrote on Twitter.

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