Janet Garrett has been touring the 14 counties of Ohio’s Fourth Congressional District, listening to concerns about opioids, education, health care, jobs and business.
Nov. 6 will be the third time Garrett, a Democrat and a Troy native, will challenge U.S. Rep Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) at the polls.
“I look at our society and I wonder why it is that it seems like we’ve come to a place where we’re not as caring about each other as we used to be,” she said.
On her “Country Over Party” tour, Garrett hears from families suffering from the opioid epidemic, law enforcement officers, healthcare providers, small-business people, educators and others.
“The opioid problem is huge in every county,” Garrett said. “Every community we’ve been to is struggling. Every place says they have problems with finding workers to pass the drug test.”
She said that while the opioid epidemic has reached every state, Ohio is “an area most intensely hit” and that sometimes “rural areas suffer more than urban areas.”
“Government has a responsibility to do for us collectively what we can’t do for ourselves as individuals,” she said. “I don’t believe families and churches have the resources to deal with the epidemic.
“I believe President Trump agrees,” Garrett added, noting that a government commission has made 56 recommendations targeting the situation.
“The problem is very complex. We need to come at it from different angles,” she said. “Right now, we’re just circling the drain. Ignoring the problem is not the right course of action.”
Garrett said every county she’s visited expressed a need for more resources to handle the opioid problem.
“The good news is we know what to do,” she said. “There are models out there.”
She said there is a need for hospital beds dedicated to help people detox and a need for residential facilities with supervision and programs to help people get skills and plans needed to better their lives.
Garrett said that some people get this kind of help in prisons, but that providing programs in halfway houses would be far less costly.
Communities, she said, so far lack funding needed to tackle the problem.
“People are working hard with Band-aids and baling wire,” she said.
Garrett said $6 billion was allocated to deal with the opioid problem and that while that sounds a lot of money, it isn’t compared with the $106 billion allocated for Hurricane Katrina and the $105 billion for Hurricane Harvey.
“It sounds like a lot of money, but for the whole country for two years?” she asked.
Education is another tour topic about which Garrett feels strongly. She spent 35 years teaching first grade, kindergarten and special education.
“What I would like to do is standardize funding access throughout the nation so we will have a good quality education for everyone,” she said.
And she indicated that required testing has been a detriment to education.
“I’m not against testing,” Garrett said. “We have allowed the testing industry to take over how much time we spend on testing and test preparation, and we’ve taken away from education the children really need. If we don’t educate our children to compete in a global economy, America will not be able to compete in the long term.”
She said that not only does all the testing take away time to teach basics such as managing finances and being a good citizen, but that because few are good at tests, it doesn’t even adequately measure students’ abilities.
Garrett said she’d also prefer communities have more of a say in education.
“We have to return decision making to the local level. Politicians are not in a position to know what’s best,” she said, adding that educators and parents are in that position.
Health care is another of Garrett’s concerns and, she says, along with shelter, food and clothing is a necessity.
“Our healthcare situation in this country is getting worse, not better,” she said. “I’m not married to any one method, but the goal should be health care for all people. We need to address not just hospitalization, but office visits, dental, vision, mental health, nursing homes, addiction, everything that has to do with health care, so everyone can have the health care that is needed.”
Garrett said the funding of health care needs to be taken out of the hands of employers, that they don’t always have the resources and sometimes, even with adequate resources, under-serve their workers, offering part-time, rather than full-time, jobs to avoid paying for health care.
Jobs and small business
Garrett also spoke about the need to help small businesses, “the backbone of our economy,” adding they don’t get the perks and breaks accessible to big businesses.
She said employment is another important issue, that all people need a living wage.
“The economy is doing well for the wealthy, not necessarily for the average person. We need to give the middle class a raise,” she said.
Garrett compared her hoped-for role as a U.S. representative with that of a good teacher.
“I worked as a public school teacher for 35 years,” she said. “Our attitude as teachers is we take care of everybody. We don’t care where they come from, what language they speak, their religion. That’s the attitude I bring with me to this office. I expect to represent all the people, Republicans, Democrats, everybody.”
Garrett lives in Oberlin with her husband, Mike, and has three adult children.
Visiting county fair
Garrett continues to talk to people as she travels the district and plans to be in the Democrats’ tent at the Champaign County Fair from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331.