ZANESVILLE, OH — AUGUST 23: Democratic Ohio U.S. Senate nominee Tim Ryan (center right) greets the staff at an outpatient facility operated by Pinnacle Treatment Centers offering addiction treatment for men and women addicted to opioids and is the only methadone treatment provider in the six-county area, August 23, 2022, at the Zanesville Treatment Services, Zanesville, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Only republish this photo with the story with which it appears.)
In a pair of Central Ohio campaign stops Tuesday, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Tim Ryan drew distinctions with his Republican opponent and tried to mend fences with skeptical supporters.
At Zanesville Treatment Services Ryan got a look behind the scenes at an outpatient addiction treatment clinic. Executive director Brad Hess gave Ryan a tour from intake to counseling to dispensing. Most of the facility’s patients are on methadone, but they offer other medication-assisted treatments like suboxone and vivitrol, too.
On the tour, Hess showed him a small room they use for telehealth visits. It’s an offering they’ve come to rely on more since the start of the COVID pandemic, but often in the opposite of what you might expect. Patients who don’t have access to a phone or computer can visit the clinic for visits with staffers who are still working from home. Less stringent telehealth rules are also handy for a clinic that has to share its physician with another facility in Athens.
But it’s not quite helpful enough.
Shanae Allen, Pinnacle’s regional director for Southern Ohio, explained doctors may prescribe some treatments remotely, but not methadone.
“So, if someone was to walk in, and they’re in extreme withdrawal, and they’re looking for a place to go for treatment and we don’t have a physician, we can’t admit them that day, we can’t start to decrease their withdrawal symptoms,” she described.
“And that decreases the hope,” she said. “Because we know every time someone walks out our door, the chances of them coming back in decreases.”
Ryan told her he’d connect her with his staff, to see how he could lobby for rule changes. Speaking later, he said one of his biggest takeaways was the need to expand the range of medical professionals who can actually prescribe treatment in the first place.
“We’re losing too many people who come but they have to see a doctor, and I think there’s a lot of people that are skilled enough in this field that would be able to get them the medicine that they need to stay sober.”
He also carved out a moment to take a shot as his Republican opponent J.D. Vance, under fire for a nonprofit he started to help address the opioid crisis.
“Clearly, he’ll say whatever he’s got to say,” Ryan argued. “But anybody who runs a sham nonprofit on opiates, to try to like, you know, fool Ohioans and launch a political career and bring in big pharma to do it, clearly will say whatever they got to say.”
Early Tuesday evening Ryan got an earful at a townhall hosted by the Asian American Commerce Group, a non-profit that promotes entrepreneurship in Central Ohio’s AAPI community.
Ryan drew condemnation early in the race for an ad in which he repeatedly says “China.” Many worried that rhetoric could incite racism or violence against the broader AAPI community. Tuesday’s event was his first specifically geared to Asian Americans since the ad went up.
It’s no longer running on air, but Jona Hilario from Asian American Midwest Progressives, pressed him on why it’s still up on sites like YouTube.
Ryan didn’t address leaving the ad up. And he insisted — as he has throughout — that his focus was on the Chinese government and not people of Chinese descent.
“I think the greatest strength of this country is our diversity,” Ryan said. “I’m here because Italian immigrants and Irish immigrants came to this country. I understand and appreciate the power of diversity and I will always be a defender of that.”
His explanation wasn’t satisfying for Hilario and several other attendees, but a few more piped up, too, eager to move on to different subjects.
“I just want to make the point,” Ryan said, trying to put the matter to rest, “One is I love you. Two, is I will always defend you and never let anybody try to hurt you — not on my watch,” Ryan said. “But we have got to absolutely and decisively defeat China economically. And if we don’t do that, you’re gonna have these countries dictating the rules of the road for the entire world.”
But the final word went to Ajmeri Hoque.
Like Ryan, she explained she needed to get home to kids. And that, in part, was why she refused to drop the matter.
“It’s not because we’re not voting for you, I am for sure,” she said, noting she’s been to three of his events already and even donated to his campaign.
“But I just want you to be better,” she went on. “I want you to be a better candidate. I want to be able to tell my 10-year-old feminist anti-racist daughter that this candidate who I voted for, who may have had an ad that was taken incorrectly, will not have that ad again in his next cycle.”
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