Frye: Attacking Indiana’s Opioid Epidemic

Posted On December 01, 2017

Letter from Indiana State Representative Randy Frye (R-Greensburg)

Last year, nearly 64,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses, and half of those deaths were opioid related. In Indiana, opioid overdose deaths rose 52 percent between 2015 and 2016, and have more than doubled over the last three years. In Southeast Indiana, our communities are all too familiar with the opioid crisis, as many of us have family members or close friends who have been affected by drug addiction.

In his first year of taking office, Gov. Eric Holcomb, in collaboration with state lawmakers, has taken thoughtful steps toward attacking this growing health crisis. Implementing a comprehensive, community-based strategy, the governor and his administration have focused their efforts on improving drug prevention, treatment and enforcement. Under this three-pronged framework, the General Assembly passed several laws attacking the state’s opioid epidemic during the 2017 legislative session.

Currently, families in rural areas often cannot find drug treatment in or within close proximity to their community. In order to better serve these parts of the state, lawmakers created mobile addiction treatment teams comprised of healthcare professionals. These teams cover underserved areas and offer counseling, detoxification and treatment to families in need.

Unfortunately, there are many cases in Indiana of pregnant mothers exposing their unborn children to harmful drugs. In order to protect these newborns and ensure they receive immediate care, legislators added neonatal abstinence syndrome as an eligibility factor when determining if a child is in need of court-ordered services. Under the law, these children can receive medication-assisted treatment, which uses a combination of medicine and behavioral therapy to treat withdrawal symptoms. We also established a new program to help expecting or new mothers with opioid addiction begin their path to recovery.

To prevent opioid abuse, it’s critical to equip healthcare professionals, law enforcement and emergency personnel with the data and information they need to tackle this issue. Indiana has technology in place that provides physicians with access to patients’ opioid prescription history, but prescription abuse still occurs. To address over-prescribing, a state law limits first-time opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply. In many of these cases, a patient only needs a few days of opioid-strength medication. Shorter prescriptions reduce the likelihood of developing an addiction and the chance of leftover pills falling into the wrong hands.

In addition, the governor recently launched Next Level Recovery, which is an easy-to-use, online portal for all state resources addressing the opioid crisis. Through the website, health care providers, pharmacists and first responders have access to information about the state’s current efforts. You can access the site at www.in.gov/recovery.

It’s important to understand that it will take time to overcome Indiana’s opioid epidemic. We have tremendous resources and programs already devoted toward this effort. However, as a state, we can do more and will do more when lawmakers return for the upcoming session in January.

As always, please contact me with questions or input at 317-234-3827 or by email at h67@iga.in.gov. I appreciate hearing from you in order to better represent our district. Stay up-to-date with the work being done at the Statehouse by signing up to receive my email updates at www.in.gov/h67.