Indiana University has stepped forward to help the state of Indiana in it's fight against the opioid epidemic.
Original Source: indystar.com
Indiana University will tackle the state’s opioid crisis head-on, devoting $50 million over the next five years and more than 70 researchers to the problem, university officials announced Tuesday.
The initiative comes as part of the school’s Grand Challenges Program, announced in 2015. The university decided in the five years between the program’s inception and the school’s bicentennial in 2020, it would spend $300 million on targeted research areas to maximize results rather than allocating piecemeal dollars here and there across departments.
At a press conference at the Statehouse on Tuesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb hailed the announcement from Indiana University saying it goes beyond a grand challenge.
”I also see it as a grand opportunity to do what we do best and confront the issues that face our state,” he said.
“This new commitment, the Grand Challenge from Indiana University, is, simply put, going to save lives.”
Since Holcomb took office, he said, he has made reversing the rising tide of the opioid epidemic one of his top priorities. In the past 10 months, he said, Indiana has expanded the number of treatment centers, given local governments authority to initiate needle exchange programs, and most recently launched a website Next Level Recovery Indiana that serves as a repository of information on the opioid crisis.
Holcomb repeatedly thanked Indiana University for taking up the challenge.
“It’s not just rhetorical to say we’re all in this together,” he said in an interview after the press conference. “They put their money where their mouth is.”
But Holcomb said he did not expect the state to allocate any additional funds to address the crisis in this year’s short legislative session.
Like many other states, Indiana has been hard-hit by opioids. It is one of four states where the overdose death rate has more than quadrupled since 1999. The state ranks 15th in the country in overdose fatalities.
Nor is Indiana alone. Opioid overdoses kill more Americans each year now than died in the Vietnam War.
“People are dying and we must act,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said at Tuesday’s press conference.
“Now is the time to bring together the resources of all the Indiana University campuses to address this public health crisis.”
The roots for this Grand Challenge, however, came from outside the university. Last winter when Holcomb delivered his state of the state address he identified the drug epidemic as one of five “transformational priorities” for his administration.