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The Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment and Prevention

Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services and former Lake County juvenile judge, listens in August as Dr. John Wernert addresses the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment and Prevention at Indiana University Northwest in Gary. That group helped draft the approach for combating the state's substance abuse crisis that was announced Thursday.

Indiana officials announced plans Thursday for resolving a drug crisis that takes the lives of an average of three Hoosiers a day.

Since taking office in January, Gov. Eric Holcomb has made reducing substance abuse a key part of his administration's agenda.

The plan, revealed at a Commission to Combat Drug Abuse meeting Thursday in Indianapolis, emphasizes treating addiction like a health issue, while also more strongly disrupting the supply chain of illegal narcotics.

"We want to make sure we have public health and public safety strategies that are complementary to each other," Jim McClelland, Indiana executive director for drug treatment, prevention and enforcement, told media after the meeting.

"Substance abuse disorder is a chronic disease. It causes changes in the structures of the brain. It can be treated. The improved enforcement component to this — that's not sufficient in and of itself, unless you're talking about going after the suppliers. We like to think Indiana is the best state to do business in. We'd like to see it become the worst state in the nation to do that kind of business in."

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly stressed the need for the federal government to continue to partner with states and communities to address what he called "a public health crisis," in a news release Thursday.

"As Indiana's state government rolls out its strategy to combat the opioid abuse epidemic, we know it will take all of us — federal, state and local officials, communities, doctors and prescribers — working together. ... This is a time to invest in more prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, and I will continue to push for important resources to help Indiana combat this epidemic."

He highlighted his opposition to reported cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy in President Donald Trump's Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which is expected to be released this month.

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The state's strategies include:

  • Improving access to affordable treatment with a preference for medication-assisted treatment.
  • Encouraging alternatives to opioids for managing pain.
  • Increasing access to needle exchanges.
  • Encouraging initiatives that provide counselors in emergency rooms to help overdose victims enter treatment.
  • Exploring licensure of recovery coaches.
  • Expanding access to and training for naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
  • Training paramedics to follow up with people in under-served areas who have been released from treatment.
  • Instituting prescribing practices that limit the duration and number of opioids prescribed.
  • Realigning state law enforcement resources to better dismantle drug trafficking.
  • Coordinating anti-drug trafficking efforts with local, state and federal agencies, particularly neighboring states.
  • Making Indiana's prescription monitoring program more user-friendly and integrating it with electronic health record systems in all Indiana hospitals.
  • Implementing evidence-based drug prevention programs for kids.
  • Developing a public awareness campaign to reduce the stigma of addiction.
  • Supporting increased use of drug courts.
  • Using technology, including telemedicine, to expand access to treatment.
  • Engaging local health departments in opioid addiction treatment and prevention.

The plan, however, was short on specifics, including how much all this will cost.

"We're going to move as fast as we can to do as much as we can with the resources we have," McClelland said, "and do the best we can to attract more resources."


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.