New initiative enlists Indiana employers in the fight against opioid abuse

State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, left, and Jennifer Pferrer, executive director of the Wellness Council of Indiana, stand behind safe drug disposal kits that the newly formed Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative plans to distribute to Hoosier employers as part of an effort to reduce and prevent worker opioid drug abuse and deaths.

INDIANAPOLIS — A new coalition of business, government and health organizations launched Tuesday to provide financial support and education for state and community groups working to eradicate Indiana's opioid abuse crisis.

The Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative, also known as RALI or "rally," aims to save lives by initially working with employers to prevent and destigmatize addiction, in part through improved access to information and treatment.

RALI awarded its first $25,000 grant to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's Wellness Council of Indiana to promote the council's workforce recovery initiative that provides employers drug prevention tools and supports employee drug abuse treatment.

"It will allow us to convene employers to help them better understand what they can do internally to support their employees through treatment, education and, more importantly, recovery," said Jennifer Pferrer, wellness council executive director.

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More than 1,500 Hoosiers died due to a drug overdose in 2016, with 785 of those deaths attributable to opioid abuse, according to the State Department of Health. 

Kevin Brinegar, CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said businesses have been significantly affected by the crisis in terms of lost productivity, higher health care costs and an inability to fill open positions with workers who don't use drugs.

He said RALI "will bring desperately needed resources to the groups on the ground working to save lives and communities."

A separate major prevention effort is set for Wednesday, when more than 1,000 judicial branch and other government and community leaders meet for the first  Opioid Summit focused on spreading opioid abuse awareness and sharing best practices.

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