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Indiana would get $19 million in funding to fight the opioid epidemic if President Barack Obama's budget request is granted.

Jonathan Miano, Times file photo

Indiana is in line for $19 million in funding if Congress approves President Barack Obama’s request for $1.1 billion to fight the opioid epidemic.

In 2014, 450 Hoosiers died from an overdose of opioids, a class of drugs that includes heroin and prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and fentanyl.

“The president has made addressing the opioid epidemic a key priority for his administration,” Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a conference call with reporters Friday.

“He recognizes that a substance abuse disease isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s a disease. He also recognizes we can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

The opioid epidemic takes the lives of an estimated 78 Americans every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Locally, the death rate from drug overdoses in Lake County has been on the rise over the past few years, mainly driven by heroin use, while Porter County has an even higher per-capita rate.

But when addicts want to seek help, there often are not a lot of places for them to turn. Indiana has one of the largest shortages of substance abuse specialists of any state, according to the Pew Research Center.

Jodie Hicks, a parent of a heroin addict, said during the conference call the nearest methadone clinic to her home in Lafayette is in Indianapolis. She recently took her son back and forth there every day for 10 months, and once she couldn’t any longer, he got back on heroin.

“With no other disease would we expect someone to drive 65 miles to get treatment,” Botticelli said.

In addition, Hicks said the treatment facilities in her community either have long waiting lists or don’t accept her son’s Medicaid insurance.

“When an addict decides they’re ready, you can’t wait,” she said. “I hope this funding can be passed before more lives are lost.”

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg shared a story during the call of parents in a nearby community who woke up one day to find both their teenage sons dead from drug overdoses.

“This is a public health emergency, and it’s something we clearly have to do a better job getting out ahead of,” he said.

“One thing we know we’ve got to do, is break the silence. And talk won’t be enough to address the problem. We need resources.”

“(President Obama) recognizes that a substance abuse disease isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s a disease. He also recognizes we can’t arrest our way out of this problem.” — Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy
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Health reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.