South Bend Tribune

Gov. Eric Holcomb is proving Indiana is serious in its intent to combat an opioid crisis that’s resulted in hundreds of Hoosier deaths in recent years.

Holcomb and his newly appointed drug czar have announced details of a long-range plan to reverse the state’s troubling trend of opioid deaths.

The number of heroin overdose deaths between 2010 and 2015 climbed from 54 to 239, a 300 percent increase. Opioid painkiller-related deaths increased nearly 20 percent during that same period, according to state statistics.

For the first time in at least six years, drug overdose deaths in 2015 outnumbered murders and fatal auto crashes combined in St. Joseph County. And in LaPorte County, heroin deaths have been in the double digits annually for the past several years, with deaths exceeding 20 some years.

A recent study by the Fairbanks Foundation, and conducted by the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, found that opioid overdose deaths cost the state $1.4 billion in 2014.

Jim McClelland, the state’s new drug czar, said in a report that he plans to focus on two areas: making sure people who overdose have access to naloxone, a drug that can revive them, and creating more options for effective treatment.

Both objectives are costly. According to the report, the price of naloxone recently shot from about $31 a dose to about $84 a dose because of its increased use across the country. Add to that a shortage of inpatient treatment facilities and limited federal funding and the enormity of the crisis becomes clear.

Indiana did receive a nearly $11 million federal grant this spring to help pay for treatment costs. About $7.6 million of the grant will help pay for 65 to 75 additional treatment beds statewide for those who cannot pay for their own care.

More money will be needed to pay for treatment options and to fund efforts to disrupt the illegal supply of opioids, but the state can’t count on that help coming from the federal government.

Holcomb’s plan is a good first step in addressing the state’s opioid crisis and an encouraging sign that the governor is committed to attacking the impact drug addiction is having on Hoosier families.

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