In Indiana, opioid overdose deaths rose 52 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Original Source: indystar.com
There is no single solution or secret weapon to end this epidemic: Indiana must attack substance abuse as aggressively as substance abuse is attacking Hoosier lives, families and communities.
The stories are gut-wrenching: babies born addicted to drugs; high school athletes who get hooked on the pills they’re prescribed for sports injuries; elderly Hoosiers with chronic pain problems. They come from all walks of life, and they are dying.
In 2016, more people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. than the total number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. In Indiana, opioid overdose deaths rose 52 percent between 2015 and 2016 and have more than doubled in the last three years. Over the same period, we saw drug-related arrests by Indiana State Police increase by more than 40 percent.
I didn’t intend to make attacking the opioid epidemic a part of my agenda as governor. But, as I traveled the state leading up to the 2016 election and saw firsthand the devastating effects of opioid addiction — I couldn’t look away from the lives and communities I saw ravaged.
What’s more, our goals for the state’s future success — a more diverse, vibrant economy and a better-prepared workforce — are seriously threated by this opioid epidemic.
Just hours after I was sworn in as 51st governor of Indiana, I signed an executive order creating a new position in state government dedicated to reversing the trend of opioid overdose deaths. I appointed the former CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, Jim McClelland, to fill the new role.
Less than a year later, Indiana has taken thoughtful steps to help shake the scourge of addiction from our communities. At the heart of these efforts is a strategic plan that sets the right vision with a comprehensive, community-based approach. The plan outlines a three-pronged framework to attack the epidemic through prevention, treatment and enforcement. Indiana’s lawmakers advanced legislation this year to reflect those three key lines of attack, with new laws that address opioid prescribing, allow locals to establish syringe exchange programs and create tougher consequences for those who rob pharmacies.
My administration is advancing other programs and initiatives in each of these areas, as well.
On the prevention side, we are taking steps to make sure medical professionals and state policymakers are equipped with the right data and information they need to make good decisions. Indiana is implementing technology statewide that will provide medical professionals access to patients’ opioid prescription history far more quickly, and state agencies are sharing opioid- and addiction-related data like never before.
We’re also working to increase treatment options. Within our Healthy Indiana Plan federal waiver application, we requested the ability to expand treatment services for addiction — which could mean $60 million to $65 million in additional funding for residential treatment and recovery. In July, we announced five new medication-assisted treatment sites around the state. And, with $10.9 million in funds from a 21st Century Cures Grant created by Congress, Indiana will increase residential treatment, create mobile intervention teams and place peer recovery coaches in high-need areas around the state.
Finally, our jails have become de facto detox facilities, but they lack the training, resources and space to provide the treatment people need. We need public safety approaches that complement our public health providers’ efforts. Across the state, there are examples of local sheriffs and police departments doing just that. For example, in LaPorte, those with an addiction who want help can walk into any police or fire station without fear of being arrested. Instead, volunteers assist local authorities in identifying treatment and transporting people to the help they need.
These efforts are just the beginning. We need to do more, much more. It took 20 years for the opioid epidemic to get to this point in Indiana, and it will take time for us to overcome it. But, together we can help those struggling with addiction get on the road to recovery.
And, the good news is there are people waiting to walk with them through every step of the journey back.