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Indiana University to spend $50M researching drug addiction in state

Gov. Eric Holcomb, left, and Jim McClelland, Indiana's drug czar, speak to reporters Oct. 10, 2017.

Indiana's first "drug czar" is set to leave his post early next year after leading the effort to combat drug abuse and addiction across the Hoosier State since 2017.

Jim McClelland, whose official title is executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement, last week announced his intent to retire Jan. 9, 2020.

During his tenure, McClelland coordinated the state's Next Level Recovery initiative, working with partners in the Region and elsewhere in Indiana to increase access to quality substance use treatment, implement prescribing guidelines and enhance prevention efforts to help younger Hoosiers avoid becoming substance dependent.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana drug overdose deaths declined 12.9% in 2018, improving twice as much as the national average.

Opioid prescriptions in Indiana also have dropped 12%, again falling faster than the national average, CDC data show.

In addition, the federal Medicaid waiver Indiana secured in February 2018 expanded access to substance abuse treatment and so far has helped 56,000 Hoosiers get treatment.

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"On the day I took office, I called for an all hands on deck approach to combat the drug crisis and help more people recover, and Jim McClelland selflessly set his retirement aside to answer that call," Gov. Eric Holcomb said.

"His passion and expertise in building systems that work to help people have given Indiana's response to the drug crisis strong positive momentum. I'm grateful for his service to our state and congratulate him on his well-deserved retirement."

Prior to becoming Indiana's drug czar, McClelland spent 45 years at Goodwill Industries, including 41 years as president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana.

Holcomb said following McClelland's departure, his deputy, Douglas Huntsinger, will become Indiana's new drug czar and chairman of the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse.

Huntsinger is a Frankton, Indiana, native who previously served as executive producer of the Indiana State Fair and policy director for former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Huntsinger also is a member of the Indiana Jail Overcrowding Task Force.

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