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103016-biz-lacktreatment

Clients at Moraine House, a halfway house in Valparaiso for recovering addicts, take part in a relapse prevention support group in October 2016. The state of Indiana is offering free Lyft rides to drug treatment.

Hoosiers who need a lift to drug treatment are in luck.

The state is offering to pay for residents' Lyft rides to get help for drug addiction.

"That's a huge barrier that a lot of people face," said Allen Grecula, director of clinical services for Frontline Foundations, a treatment organization in Chesterton and LaPorte, said of that lack of transportation.

The pilot program is a partnership between the state Family and Social Services Administration and Indiana 211, a number people can call to be linked to community resources.

Thirty-nine percent of 211 callers in Indiana are seeking transportation to addiction treatment, according to FSSA.

And 35 percent of those people reported that, in the past year, lack of transportation had prevented them from going to medical appointments or getting medications.

Residents can get the free rides by calling 211. They can't be on Medicaid or have access to Medicaid's transportation program. Only people with a current or former addiction to opioids will be eligible through March 15, but after that people with any type of substance disorder will qualify.

In 2017, Indiana had the 14th-highest rate of drug overdoses in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; yet it was the 10th-hardest place to access drug treatment, a WalletHub survey found.

The initiative came out of last year's Open Beds effort, where Hoosiers can call 211 and be connected to available residential treatment centers.

"Since that time, we have learned that lack of transportation can be an additional barrier to connecting people with the treatment that they urgently need," said Marni Lemons, a spokeswoman for FSSA.

"Adding this pilot program to our partnership with Indiana 211 seemed the best way to determine if there is a need for this service and if this partnership will be successful in meeting that need."

In February, the first month of the pilot program, riders used the entire $4,500 that was allocated for Lyft rides.

The initiative officially starts March 16. The budget is $40,000 through June 30, 2020.

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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.