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Critics: President's Opioid Approach Should Include Treatment

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About 286,000 Hoosiers say they have engaged in non-medical use of opioid pain relievers. (
About 286,000 Hoosiers say they have engaged in non-medical use of opioid pain relievers. (
November 6, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS -- Now that President Donald Trump has declared the nation’s opioid crisis a public health emergency, those working the front lines want to see an actual increase in funding.

Last week the president promised to loosen regulations and increase flexibility on funding for states. He also unveiled a TV ad campaign designed to warn Americans of the dangers of drugs.

Critics are wondering if it's enough. Indiana is one of four states where the fatal drug overdose rate has more than quadrupled since 1999.

Porter County coroner Chuck Harris called the president's action a baby step. He said the progress made in the Hoosier State with law enforcement and education has been in the right direction, but he believes the focus also must be on treatment. And that’s where Indiana is failing.

"Indiana is one of the worst states in the entire nation for availability for people who receive treatment for drug addictions,” Harris said.

Indiana University officials announced last month a five-year, $50 million initiative to study and curb the Hoosier State's opioid crisis. More than 70 researchers will participate and will make policy recommendations to state government leaders.

More than 1-in-20 people in Indiana, or 286,000 Hoosiers, report having engaged in non-medical use of opioid pain relievers. More people now die in Indiana from drug overdose than in car accidents.

Harris said he hopes the president's declaration of a public health emergency will free up funding to ensure all first responders have the life-saving drug Narcan on hand.

"It's a step,” he said. "When you can start preventing deaths and you're giving people more of a chance to get treatment, it's not a solution, it's another step in getting rid of this crisis."

The drug epidemic continues to put a strain on law-enforcement agencies and the court system. Between 2015 and 2016, drug-related arrests by Indiana State Police increased by more than 40 percent.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN