Kasich creates nonprofit to guide opioid settlement to hospitals

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and West Virginia University President Gordon Gee are creating a group focused on guiding funds from any national opioid settlement to hospitals rather than state and local governments, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Citizens for Effective Opioid Treatment, a 501(c)4 organization, will seek to educate the public and policymakers about the effects of the opioid epidemic on health care infrastructure, the two told AP.

"It's an educational effort," Gee said.

"We want to help people understand that this is a crisis and that the caregivers - the hospitals, in particular - are really leading the charge in order to be able to both give care and solve the problem," he added.

The group's launch comes amid an emerging debate about how to allocate the billions of dollars that could potentially come from a national opioid settlement with drugmakers and distributors.

Gee and Kasich said their nonprofit isn't intended as an attack on local governments.

"I'm not here to kind of tell the attorney generals what to do. If they can get a settlement and these communities can be reimbursed, good for them," Kasich told AP.

"But I don't want the money to go to fill potholes or to fill a budget gap or something like that. I want the money to go to the people who are on the front lines, because they are right up against the wall," he said.

Opioids were involved in more than 47,000 deaths per year in 2017 and 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.