As Indiana’s opioid epidemic ensnares more and more people, emergency rooms throughout the state are filling with patients overdosing on heroin, fentanyl and other similar drugs.

In 2016 alone, Johnson County hospitals reported 276 people admitted to the ER for non-fatal opioid overdoses. Those patients, having come so close to dying, are often at the point where they realize they need help overcoming their addiction.

But finding a facility anywhere in the state, let alone nearby, is often a confusing and complicated search.

Indiana officials have developed a system they hope will make finding help much easier, connecting people in need of inpatient addiction services to treatment facilities ready to serve them.

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Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration announced Thursday that they have partnered with OpenBeds, a software platform that helps manage health services by connecting different providers.

The goal is to provide real-time, updated information on the types of inpatient treatment centers available to patients.

The third partner in the venture is Indiana 2-1-1, a nonprofit organization that can connect people in need to services such as health care, disaster assistance, legal aid, food assistance and housing, said Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration.

“When hospitals and medical providers use the OpenBeds platform, the process is streamlined to avoid unnecessary delays in securing available beds for individuals needing treatment so more Hoosiers can be saved from this disease,” Walthall said.

Hospitals and social workers will be able to see what facilities have openings, as well as using criteria such as a patient’s age, location and how they’d pay for treatment to find the best fit. Treatment centers would be notified of a potential patient in need of help, and the center could work immediately with social workers to quickly admit the person.

Walthall compared the program to a “command center” for combating the drug crisis and will make it easy to quickly access treatment services. The opioid epidemic is similar to a natural disaster or emergency, and in addressing it, officials need to approach it in a similarly coordinated way.

“The goal is to take the barriers away from patients and treatment needs,” Walthall said.

The program is being funded through federal money provided to the state through the 21st Century Cures Act. Indiana has received $10.9 million from that initiative, and has helped increase the number of inpatient treatment facilities by 26 percent in the past 18 months.

In early 2017, there was about 800 beds in residential addiction treatment facilities in Indiana. Currently, there are 1,008 beds available, Walthall said.

The new program launched Thursday and is now in use with inpatient residential facilities that accept Medicaid. The hope is to quickly expand it to other providers, including those who provide outpatient services, Walthall said.

At a glance

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has partnered with OpenBeds and Indiana 2-1-1 to provide a new service that will allow hospitals and social workers to quickly find help for patients struggling with addiction.

What is it: A system that would show where an inpatient treatment center has openings, based on a patient’s age, location and how they would pay for services.

Who can use it: Hospitals and social workers.

When: The system is running now. In the future, officials hope to expand it to include outpatient services as well.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.