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OneOhio needs to use opioid settlement wisely

Pharmaceutical companies are paying enormous sums of money as punishment for their role in fueling the substance abuse epidemic that continues to cripple our region. The hundreds of millions of dollars flying around after settlements are reached will be distributed in Ohio based on the decisions of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation Board.

But a lawsuit filed by Harm Reduction Ohio claims OneOhio may be trying to make those decisions in the dark.

According to a report by Cleveland.com, the lawsuit says OneOhio officials have not responded to the group’s request for documents related to the board’s meetings in May and June “as well as ‘numerous’ committee meetings working on ‘hiring, finances, bylaws and other matters.'”

Remember, Gov. Mike DeWine’s RecoveryOhio initiative posted on its website that OneOhio would operate as if it was subject to Ohio’s open meetings law. Now, OneOhio says it is a private nonprofit, rather than a government entity. But according to Harm Reduction Ohio, the group has not been recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“If unnoticed meetings have taken place, this would be a violation of the Open Meetings Act regardless of how the meetings are labeled — committees, subcommittees, working groups, work sessions, etc.,” the lawsuit says, according to Cleveland.com.

OneOhio is entrusted with distribution of $440 million of an $808 million settlement with pharmaceutical distributors and drugmakers. That kind of money could tempt anyone. Harm Reduction Ohio’s president told Cleveland.com there is reason to believe the hundreds of millions controlled by OneOhio could become a “secret slush fund.”

Ohio residents fell prey to criminal exploitation of their vulnerabilities more than a decade ago, when the substance abuse epidemic skyrocketed. What a shame that there is any chance they might now also fall prey to the selfish interests of those who said they were going to help make it right.

Certainly those suspicions should be dispelled with the transparency Ohioans deserve.

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