Lawmaker plans college initiative to combat opioid epidemic

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio legislator is proposing an initiative that would help high school students affected by drug use in their families get to college.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger presented a partial plan for the OhioCorps program Thursday during a news conference in Columbus. The program seeks to help high school students whose parents use drugs.

Under the plan, high school students would earn scholarships by volunteering in their communities. OhioCorps would also allow college students to mentor at-risk students for college credit.

Rosenberger, a Republican from Clarksville, isn't sure how much the program will cost but he is talking to Gov. John Kasich's administration about using Ohio's General Reserve Fund to support it. Rosenberger is also working on getting funding from private companies in the pharmaceutical industry. Ohio is currently suing drugmakers over the opioid epidemic.

The pharmaceutical industry can help address the crisis, Rosenberger said.

Strong support for the bill is coming from Ohio universities. Ohio University is one of the state's 14 public universities that pledging its support.

"For a crisis of this magnitude, we truly need all hands on deck," university president Duane Nellis said.

The Inter-University Council of Ohio is also supporting the bill. Council president Bruce Johnson believes providing at-risk students with a chance to go to college could mean the difference between life and death. Johnson cited a study by Ohio State University that found people who only completed high school were 14 times more likely to have an opioid overdose compared to individuals with college degrees.

Waverly High School student Daisy Tolliver hopes to attend college and major in business despite growing up in a family affected by the opioid epidemic. The freshman talked to Rosenberger about OhioCorps and has high hopes for the initiative.

"Instead of thinking of your mom on drugs, you can think about going to college, you can be someone," Tolliver said.

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