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Important steps in addressing Indiana's opioid epidemic

The drug epidemic in Indiana has become a growing problem in search of a solution. Yet, few saw it coming. What started for many as prescription opioid use for a valid medical reason became life changing and, for some, life-ending addictions.

According to the state Department of Health, emergency room visits for non-fatal opioid overdoses in Indiana increased to 3,000, a nearly 60 percent increase statewide.

On behalf of Governor Eric Holcomb, the state’s new Director of Substance Abuse, Prevention and Treatment Jim McClelland unveiled a framework and action plan created after months of collaboration with various stakeholders combined with research on the state’s drug crisis.

Announced at a meeting of the Commission to Combat Drug Abuse last Thursday, the first step of the initiative will involve developing a network to distribute Narcan, an overdose-reversing drug, to local communities. McClelland sees the initial move as vital in countering the devastating drug epidemic plaguing far too many Indiana residents.

The Hoosier State also received a $10.9 million grant to pay for 60 to 75 new recovery facility beds. That money is in addition to $5 million already set aside by the state legislature for the initiative.

The focus is on substance abuse prevention, early intervention, treatment, recovery and enforcement. The state will bring together and focus the efforts of multiple state agencies that currently provide these services and resources. Their overall approach is to make sure everyone at the local, state and federal level has a stake in overcoming this serious and deadly problem.

While criminal penalties exist for illegal drug possession, fines and incarceration do little to stem the source of the problem: addiction. Indiana’s initiative is an important move towards overcoming an increasingly alarming problem that has devastated families, local communities and the entire state.

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