Governor’s focus on opioids crisis

When Gov. Eric Holcomb and his security detail left Nick’s English Hut after an interview with a journalist March 30, they were met by a troubling scene. Police cars and ambulances were nearby at Peoples Park; emergency workers were treating a man who had overdosed.

Holcomb recalled that day during an interview in his Statehouse office recently, which was dominated by talk of the opioid crisis facing the state and nation.

The governor took some recent criticism related to the opioid issue when Indiana Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura’s resignation letter stated that she didn’t feel like she could protect children in the state because of cuts to funding and services “in the midst of the opioid crisis.” She blamed Holcomb.

Holcomb said the opioid issue goes “hand in glove” with the issues at DCS, while standing by his administration’s support for DCS.

He said the agency’s budget request during the last budgeting cycle has been not just met, but has been far exceeded.

“We’ll make sure the Department of Child Services has the funding they need to meet the menu of programs to make sure the health and well-being of the children of the state of Indiana are attended to,” he said.

The opioid crisis has affected the state’s entire system of care, he said, from the foster care system to the criminal justice system to the health care system.

He said “all the money in the world won’t solve the problem” without behavioral changes and access to treatment, which he said must be available more quickly and closer to all Hoosiers.

He said solutions won’t be “one step or 10 steps … it’s no specific dollar amount. It’s through a number of collective, methodical steps … We have to recognize … this is the issue of the day that is cutting across local, state and federal responsibility lines.

“We’re trying to pursue policies that will help identify how big this iceberg really is … If we’re truly just seeing the tip of it, how do we better gauge what’s beneath the surface that we’re not catching right now?” he said.

One promising step is the Indiana University Grand Challenges project “Responding to the Addictions Crisis.” Holcomb was at IU President Michael McRobbie’s side when he announced the university will commit $50 million to the project.

He had high praise for IU.

“(IU) took a giant leap forward on one of the most pressing issues of the decade, not of the day, but of the decade,” he said. “The state of Indiana is eternally grateful.”

This was distributed by the Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.