Gov. John Kasich stood in an Otterbein University auditorium Tuesday evening in his hometown of Westerville to give his final State of the State address.
In a 55-minute speech centered on human values and the way citizens live their lives, he focused on love, compassion, humility, forgiveness, responsibility and justice.
“We need to live a life, all of us, a little bigger than ourselves,” Kasich said.
He highlighted improvements the state has made in health care, particularly health insurance, the treatment of mental illness and combating the opioid crisis.
“Because we have put into place guidelines that are tough and common sense, frankly they’re the best guidelines in America,” Kasich said. “We, this last year, will see a 30 percent drop in the number of doses, prescription doses for opiates that are written in this state.
He said Ohio is now experiencing a six-year low in the number of prescribed opiate deaths, and has begun to see heroin “level off,” adding the state still has “a long way to go.”
Kasich said at this moment, Ohio also is seeing the lowest entry into state prisons in the last 27 years. He emphasized a change toward keeping offenders in their local communities for rehabilitation.
Additionally, he announced the creation of Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area, Ohio’s newest state park, named after Olympian and Ohio State graduate and track icon, Jesse Owens. It will be located in Morgan and Muskingum counties and will encompass more than 13,000 acres of land.
The Minority leadership response to the address was seemingly filled with frustration pinned toward a lack of policy specification from the governor.
House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn noted Kasich’s lack of detail when it came to his claims of plans for the future.
“In the rhetoric, in the speech that we heard, which had really, really had some really nice thoughts, and we should do those things, we should go out and inspire people to be better, to help each other, but our job is to pass policy that creates a framework to let that opportunity happen, and that was what I did not hear in the speech,” Strahorn said.
The event began with a prayer by the chaplain for the Westerville Division of Police directed at the two officers who died on duty Feb. 10 and was followed by the presentation of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance. Each of the 1,035 seats in the Fritsche Theatre seemed to be filled.
The conclusion of Kasich’s address was a call to action for Ohioans.
“There’s so much more to do,” Kasich said. “Education, workforce, addiction, infant mortality, poverty. We just can’t get it all and we can’t get it all right. But I believe that because we have been faithful to practicing these values that I talked about earlier, I believe the state of Ohio is stronger today than it has been in a generation. We’re proud to be Ohioans. We’re more hopeful, we are more united and we have set a course for others to follow. Ohio is back and Ohio is strong again.”