‘I Couldn’t Ignore Opioid Addiction,’ Indiana Governor Writes In Op-Ed

By Kelly Burch 10/09/17

“These efforts are just the beginning. It took 20 years for the opioid epidemic to get to this point in Indiana, and it will take time for us to overcome it."

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb Photo via YouTube

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb never planned on fighting drug addiction during his time in office. However, once he began traveling the state—which has seen drug overdoses double in the past decade—he realized that addressing opioid addiction needed to be a priority. 

“I didn’t intend to make attacking the opioid epidemic a part of my agenda as governor,” Holcomb said, writing an editorial piece for the Indy Star newspaper. “But, as I traveled the state leading up to the 2016 election and saw firsthand the devastating effects of opioid addiction—I couldn’t look away from the lives and communities I saw ravaged.”

Holcomb goes on to outline the ways that opioid addiction affects the state—from rising drug-related deaths to the births of drug-dependent newborns, to threatening Indiana's economic growth. 

“Our goals for the state’s future success—a more diverse, vibrant economy and a better-prepared workforce—are seriously threatened by this opioid epidemic,” the governor wrote. 

Holcomb was the lieutenant governor of Indiana when current Vice President Mike Pence was governor.

Shortly after taking over in January, Holcomb signed an executive order creating a new state role aimed at slowing opioid deaths. The governor has also crafted what he says is a “comprehensive, community-based approach” to combating opioid addiction.

One of the key aspects of the plan makes it easier for healthcare providers to share information in order to prevent "doctor shopping." 

“On the prevention side, we are taking steps to make sure medical professionals and state policymakers are equipped with the right data and information they need to make good decisions,” Holcomb wrote. 

The state has also increased funding for treatment to help people who are dependent on opioids. There has also been a focus on providing treatment rather than incarceration in some instances. 

“Our jails have become de facto detox facilities, but they lack the training, resources and space to provide the treatment people need,” Holcomb said. “We need public safety approaches that complement our public health providers’ efforts.”

Although Holcomb outlined the progress that has been made in confronting addiction, he did not shy away from the fact that defeating the opioid crisis in Indiana will take a long time. 

“These efforts are just the beginning. We need to do more, much more,” he wrote. “It took 20 years for the opioid epidemic to get to this point in Indiana, and it will take time for us to overcome it. But, together we can help those struggling with addiction get on the road to recovery.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.