Vol. 49, No. 3

In this edition

The rise of ISIS. The expansion of China. The very real danger that Russia poses to the West. With the possible exception of China, these threats were unimaginable before 9/11. Yet today, they represent perhaps the three greatest challenges we face around the world.

Putin’s Push for Power

In 2009, the Obama administration “reset” relations with Russia, an attempt at unilateral withdrawal and concession to gain cooperation from Vladimir Putin’s regime. Unfortunately, the reset has proved to be a miserable failure because Putin respects only strength.

Is Time Working for or Against Putin?

Even though Vladimir Putin faces no political opposition at home, he is presiding over a troubled economy that would keep any politician up at night. What ails the Russian economy? Take your pick.

Separating Fact from Fiction

As Russia attacks the post-World War II security structure, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is cutting through the haze of propaganda to make sure the truth is told and the message of freedom and democracy is promoted in oppressed regions of the world.

The War on ISIS: Getting Beyond Stalemate

One year after the President announced a campaign to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an examination of what the campaign has — and has not — achieved, and what more needs to be done to restore some semblance of order in the Middle East.

Why the Stakes are so High in the South China Sea

The South China Sea lies at the nexus of a global economy on which the prosperity of all major trading nations depends, which is why China’s expansion in the region is so alarming, and why the United States must stand with its allies and partners across the region.

The Price of Our Security

In the face of growing budget constraints, lawmakers must find a way to bridge the partisan divide and reach agreement on a plan to guarantee the nation’s security in an increasingly dangerous and volatile world.

The Indispensable Nation

A generational struggle is underway to win a battle of ideas around the world. As the battle rages on, one country must lead the way to victory — America.

A Lesson in Hope from Dharavi

In the past 20 years, free enterprise has transformed India. Between 1965 and 1975, per capita income in the country rose by just 0.3 percent annually. But from 2005 to 2013, that figure has more than doubled, from $740 to $1,570.

Tackling a Troublesome Tax Code

More than 40 states currently impose a personal income tax on income earned within their borders, regardless of the earner’s state of residency. With more Americans traveling out of state for their jobs, two Members of Congress have introduced legislation to ease this burden.

The New Epidemic

With the price tag for heroin, alcohol and other drug abuse totaled more than $6 billion annually in Kentucky, a look at how one community in the state is trying to fight the problem and prevent this scourge from ruining — and ending — more lives.

Ripon in the Reagan Years

With THE RIPON FORUM celebrating its 50th year of publication, one of the journal’s longtime editors looks back at the accomplishments of The Ripon Society in the 1980s and how the organization fought to keep the vision of “broad Republicanism” alive.

Ripon Profile of Larry Hogan

The Governor of Maryland discusses his first year in office, which has been marked not only by his successful effort to roll back the “rain tax,” but by his courageous battle to defeat cancer.

The New Epidemic

How one community is leading the fight against heroin

After three and half years in the Boston area, I returned home in 2014 to take the helm of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Northern Kentucky refers to the region of Kentucky across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, with over 400,000 residents as well as Cincinnati’s airport. (Yes, when you fly to Cincinnati, you actually land in Kentucky.)

I spent the first several months on the job becoming reacquainted with my hometown. During those early conversations, one topic kept coming up over and over – our region’s heroin epidemic. The best way to tell how widespread this has become is to list a few statistics:

• Heroin overdose admissions to emergency rooms in Northern Kentucky tripled between 2011 and 2014.
• Kenton County Jailer Terry Carl estimated that 80% of those in his jail are locked up for heroin-related offenses.
• A recent survey found that 26% of respondents in our region said they knew someone who has experienced problems with heroin.
• In 2011, St. Elizabeth Hospital treated 28 babies born with neonatal opioid withdrawal. This year, that number is projected to be at least 134, four times as high.
• Northern Kentucky’s Hepatitis C acute infection rate is 24 times the national rate.

Heroin is incredibly addictive and currently very cheap and plentiful, thus posing a problem for any town in America. Our region is particularly vulnerable given our population size; proximity to Chicago and Detroit, which serve as import hubs for the drug; and the lowest per capita allocation of federal and state funds for treatment of substance use and mental health disorders among Kentucky regions.

We estimated that Kentucky’s price tag for heroin, alcohol and other drug abuse totaled more than $6 billion annually when considering crime, medical care, workplace accidents, and lost wages. This staggering figure doesn’t include lower productivity from employees worried about their addicted family members.

We estimated that Kentucky’s price tag for heroin, alcohol and other drug abuse totaled more than $6 billion annually when considering crime, medical care, workplace accidents, and lost wages.

This staggering toll – both financial and human – convinced the Chamber to become involved early on. Passing a comprehensive heroin plan became one of the Chamber’s top legislative priorities in 2014, and our top priority in 2015. We were very proud when Michael Botticelli, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told the Chamber in April 2015 that no other chamber in the nation had stepped forward as much as us. In fact, Director Botticelli announced last month that Kentucky will be among the select few states that will be sharing a $2.5 million federal grant for the Heroin Response Strategy – a program that helps Federal, state, and local authorities to coordinate drug enforcement operations, support prevention efforts and improve public health and safety.

We worked to bring together all of the diverse parties — representatives from government, law enforcement, treatment, advocacy and business communities — in an umbrella organization, the Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response Team, which issued a plan of action in November 2013. That plan is centered on four major strategies that are enveloped within a larger context of reducing the supply of drugs on the street and advocating for legislative enhancements that support the initiative: Treatment, Prevention, Support and Protection.

Partisan politics prevented passage of such a plan in the state legislature in 2014, but legislative leaders identified passage as a top priority and worked diligently to pass a comprehensive bill in 2015. The result was Senate Bill 192, which passed the Senate 34-4 and the House unanimously.

Among SB 192’s highlights:

• A Good Samaritan law providing immunity for those who report an overdose to authorities
• Increased penalties for trafficking in large amounts or any amount across state lines
• Increased availability of the rescue drug Naloxone to reverse overdoses
• Authorized local option needle exchanges to stop the spread of Hepatitis C and to encourage those exchanging needles to enter treatment
• Increased availability of Vivitrol to wean addicts off heroin
• Funding ($10 million in first year, $24 million thereafter) to improve substance-abuse programs, speed up prosecutions and hire more social workers

It is expected that legislators will work to identify additional funds in the 2016 session to expand treatment programs, such as providing more adolescent treatment beds, because no adolescent beds outside of the juvenile justice system were funded in SB 192. In addition, lawmakers will likely debate tweaking some of the reforms, including one of the more controversial provisions — the needle exchange.

The state’s first such exchange program, implemented in Jefferson County, does not require an actual exchange, which has concerned some lawmakers, many of whom were reluctant to embrace needle exchanges in the first place for fear of enabling addicts. As legislators learned about the increased numbers of Hepatitis C and HIV cases resulting from shared needles used by heroin addicts, and the cost of treating those diseases, however, almost all came around to support such exchanges.

Our community still has a tough battle in front of us. The disease of addiction, specifically heroin, is a tough opponent. The past few years have shown that when we come together, we can start to make a difference. But this battle is a long way from being over. In fact, in many ways, it has only just begun. We hope that other communities can benefit from our experience and get a jump start on this epidemic before it arrives, as it surely will.

Trey Grayson is the President and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce You can follow him on Twitter @KYTrey.