Columbus lawmakers push for national designation of old Vets Memorial site


By Jessica Wehrman
Dispatch Washington Bureau
Posted Sep 13, 2017


WASHINGTON — To hear Reps. Joyce Beatty and Steve Stivers tell it, Columbus is an ideal place to host the National Veterans Memorial and Museum.

The state, they said hosts the sixth-largest veterans population in the U.S. If that’s not enough, it’s within an eight–hour car ride of almost half of the nation’s veterans.

Speaking before a House panel Wednesday, Stivers and Beatty argued that a memorial to the nation’s veterans was long overdue — and that Columbus was all too happy to change that. The site, argued Stivers, “will serve as a civic landmark to honor, inspire and educate all Americans about the service and sacrifice of more than 22 million veterans in this country.”

Under construction and scheduled to open next summer, the site started as a replacement for Columbus’ previous Veterans Memorial and then blossomed into something far more sweeping and ambitious, said Stivers. Now, he, Beatty and Rep. Pat Tiberi, R–Genoa Township, are pushing a bill that would designate it a official national museum.

It wouldn’t be the state’s only museum honoring the armed services or those who have served; roughly an hour’s drive away, Dayton hosts the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

During the hearing, Matthew Sullivan, deputy undersecretary for finance and planning and CFO for the National Cemetery Administration for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the department neither supports nor opposes locating the museum in Columbus.

“VA respectfully expresses no view on the proposed bill, which does not apply to VA or to VA’s core mission,” he testified.

But Alex Zhang, assistant director of national veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion, said his organization backs the bill. He said the Columbus facility would “represent American veterans with profound respect, connecting them with the civilian population, possibly inspiring others to serve and most importantly, educating youth about what these fine men and women have done for America.”

The organization, he said, “wholeheartedly supports” the “beautiful, thoughtful” memorial’s designation, he said.

Veterans of Foreign Wars also backed the legislation, with John Towles, deputy director of national legislative service for the organization, telling the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs “our country currently lacks a museum specifically dedicated to honoring and preserving the collective sacrifices made by this nation’s veterans.”

“This museum would serve to fill that gap,” he said.

Construction on the 50,000-square-foot museum and memorial Downtown on West Broad Street next to the Scioto River began in 2015, and more than $75 million was raised for design and construction.

The entire Ohio congressional delegation is cosponsoring the bill, and Stivers said he hopes to tuck it into a larger legislative package in the months ahead. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio, and Rob Portman, R–Ohio, are working on a similar measure in the Senate.

Beatty said the museum was in part the brainchild of former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, who died last year.

“If he were here today, he would highlight this museum and memorial,” she said. “He would talk about the 300-foot reflecting pool. He would talk about the memorial wall. He would talk about the sanctuary where veterans families and others could go.

“It’s a tremendous idea,” she told the panel. “And we ask for your support.”

House Republicans from Ohio testify on proposed solutions to opioid crisis

By Ripon Advance News Service

Washington, October 13, 2017


Republican U.S. Reps. Brad Wenstrup, Steve Stivers and Mike Turner of Ohio testified before a congressional panel on Wednesday about the opioid epidemic’s impact in their home state, and legislative proposals to address the issue.

Members of Ohio’s delegation testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health as part of a bipartisan “Member Day” that enabled lawmakers to share stories, cite statistics and highlight legislative proposals to address the opioid epidemic.

Wenstrup said his office recently surveyed constituents and received hundreds of pages of responses of heartbreaking stories about opioid addiction. One response was from a mother of four boys, three of which were struggling with addiction.

“Clearly, this epidemic is devastating for southern Ohio, as it is across the country,” Wenstrup said. “In one county alone, the overdose death rate was 37.5 per 100,000 residents. In another county, 318 residents died of an unintentional drug overdose in 2016. This spring, the Columbus Dispatch reported that at least 4,149 Ohioans died from unintentional drug overdoses in 2016.”

During his testimony, Stivers called for congressional oversight to ensure federal funding supports evidence-based treatments, and for data collection and research on new therapies to help vet innovative approaches in the future.

“There is no single legislative fix to this epidemic,” Stivers said. “But it is essential that we explore all possible avenues when it comes to helping individuals, families and communities that have been absolutely decimated by addiction.”

Additionally, Stivers noted that he drafted a provision of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that was signed into law in 2016 that allows for the partial fill of prescriptions. He also applauded the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for announcing it would no longer link patient satisfaction scores, which help determine reimbursement rates, to “pain management.”

“Physicians and pharmacists need to be able to have conversations with their patients about pain management, develop treatment plans that are unique to the individual and focus on the long term health of the patient over short-term benchmarks,” Stivers said.

Turner testified that current estimates suggest that 800 people could die from opiate overdoses in his home district’s primary county, Montgomery County, this year, which would more than double the 371 overdose deaths recorded there in 2016.

“Recently, working in conjunction with the county sheriff, I have called for the appointment of a Dayton-area drug czar to help us streamline and coordinate our region’s response to this epidemic,” Turner said.

He highlighted his bill, H.R. 982, The Reforming and Expanding Access to Treatment Act, the TREAT Act. “As the title suggests, the TREAT Act would increase access to substance abuse treatment by lifting two restrictions that hamstring full deployment of federal resources,” Turner said.

Facilities with more than 16 beds are currently ineligible for substance abuse treatment reimbursement through Medicaid’s Institutes for Mental Disease exclusion. Additionally, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) policy limits substance abuse treatment grants to community-based treatment facilities, which excludes jails.

“My TREAT Act offers a common sense solution that would eliminate these barriers to treatment for individuals who are incarcerated by allowing Medicaid to reimburse for substance abuse treatment services furnished to individuals who are incarcerated,” Turner testified.

“There’s no reason why someone who is Medicaid eligible should lose their benefits the moment they become incarcerated,” he added. “Lifting the SAMHSA policy that prohibits the use of grant funding for providing substance abuse treatment to individuals who are incarcerated would also assist.”

You can read the full story on the Dispatch Washington Bureau.