Indiana Releases 17-Point Plan To Tackle Addiction Epidemic, in Aftermath of HIV Outbreak

By McCarton Ackerman 12/08/16

Vice President-elect and Governor Mike Pence created the Indiana drug task force in response to a spike in HIV cases.

Indiana Releases 17-Point Plan To Tackle Addiction Epidemic, in Aftermath of HIV Outbreak

Indiana has unveiled a comprehensive plan to address the ongoing drug addiction epidemic in the state, which could become a reality as soon as next year. 

The state's drug task force, created by Indiana Governor and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, has released a 17-point strategy for tackling Indiana’s substance abuse issues. Ten of the 17 steps are focused on prevention measures, with four devoted to medical treatment and three centered on enforcement.

Although it will be up to the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse to follow through on these recommendations, earlier signs indicate disarray in the organization. Their scheduled first meeting earlier this year fell through because there was no quorum present.

The plan is also a partial rehash of previously implemented measures. Some of the plan’s recommendations, including stricter penalties for drug traffickers and increased access to naloxone, have already been put into place. Another recommendation focused on additional treatment options for the incarcerated has already broken ground in the form of pilot programs. Other steps, such as providing Medicaid coverage so addicted residents can find housing, won’t realistically be unveiled in the near future.

Dr. John Wernert, task force co-chair and secretary of the Family & Services Social Administration, acknowledged to the Indianapolis Star that “we all know there is much more to do,” but still called the report “ a good first step.” 

The 17-step plan would have been much longer if various wish list items weren’t omitted from the final document. The task force also wants to eventually create a regional high school for addicted teens and greater incentives for physicians to provide medication-assisted treatment, among other initiatives.

Pence created his drug task force in September 2015 after an outbreak in HIV cases across southern Indiana due to intravenous drug use. Some progress has been made since then, with Wernert noting that there is greater access to drug treatment and more coordinated services throughout the state.

But Indiana has remained in the throes of an addiction crisis. The Indianapolis Star reported that state overdose rates have increased sixfold between 2000 and 2014. More than nine percent of Indiana adults have used an illegal drug in the past month, while four percent have engaged in non-medical use of a prescription drug.

Many state health experts have also noted that addicts often require services beyond addiction treatment, including life-skills training and housing. They also want to see parity laws put into place that ensure substance abuse services are given the same type of coverage as medical and surgical services.

“We must do more to prevent this from happening,” said Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne, medical director at Fairbanks Hospital. “We are talking about comprehensive changes that need to be made.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.