Chief Justice O’Connor Announces Support for Prescription Database Access for Drug Courts
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor today applauded Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to expand access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, known as the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), to include the state’s drug courts. She urged the General Assembly to move legislation as quickly as possible.
“At a time when Ohio faces the most significant drug abuse problem in its history with the opioid epidemic crippling individuals, families and our state, it is important that our courts have access to every tool available to combat this scourge,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “I applaud Gov. Kasich’s initiative and, as I have in the past, support expanding access to this critical tool.”
Nineteen states allow access to their prescription drug monitoring programs by judges and prosecutorial officials.
Chief Justice O’Connor noted that “courts and key justice partners must be able to understand the prescription history of individuals under court supervision so that we can identify, treat, and hold them accountable to the law based on a fuller understanding of their drug use.”
Ohio’s drug court judges have access to OARRS but only through their probation offices. “It is important that drug court judges have direct access to the system in order to speed up response times and enable judges to make direct, real-time queries of the system,” the Chief Justice said.
Established in 2006, OARRS collects information on all outpatient prescriptions for controlled substances dispensed by Ohio-licensed pharmacies and those personally furnished by Ohio prescribers. Addressing possible privacy concerns about granting drug courts access to OARRS, the Chief Justice observed: “Judges use sensitive information to make life-altering decisions every day in every courtroom across this state. Drug abuse is often the foundation for a host of other social and criminal justice problems. It is not unreasonable that we provide judges with the tools needed to make better decisions.”
Ninety-six certified drug courts operate throughout the state. Drug courts connect high-need, high-risk defendants with the treatment they need.
“Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, drug courts across Ohio report ever-increasing numbers of opioid-addicted offenders,” the Chief Justice said. “But as we confront this problem we should be clear on one point: what we are seeing across Ohio, in and out of our courts, is not a problem of overdose deaths but a problem of self-administered poisonings.”
“The term ‘overdose’ suggests there are appropriate doses of heroin, or fentanyl-laced opioids, or carfentanil. The reality is that the appropriate dose of any of these substances is zero,” she said. “Anything over zero is just self-poisoning with death often being the result. While we provide courts with new tools we also need to change our language. Poisoning is the only appropriate term when it comes to this problem.”