Governor Makes Ending Opioid Epidemic a Priority
By Jim McClelland
Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement
State of Indiana
Attacking the drug epidemic is one of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s top priorities. On the day he was inaugurated, he signed an executive order creating the position I am privileged to hold. In that role, I am charged with coordinating, aligning and focusing the relevant resources of numerous state agencies that touch substance-abuse issues. In addition, we seek to leverage the state’s resources with resources from other sectors, such as business, health care, higher education, not-for-profit and philanthropic, to maximize impact. 

The opioid epidemic cuts across all socioeconomic lines. We see it in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural areas. Every day, it is destroying lives, devastating families and damaging communities. It also affects large and small employers, who increasingly are having difficulty filling vacant positions because so many applicants cannot pass a drug test. 

This is a crisis we must end, and we must have a strong sense of urgency to do so. How are we going to do this? In the efforts I lead, our approach will be strategic and data-driven. It will be designed to substantially reduce the incidence of substance use disorder (SUD) and help those with SUD become – or return to being – productive, contributing members of their communities. 

To accomplish this, we must incorporate complementary public health and public safety strategies that recognize SUD as a chronic disease and help reduce the supply of and demand for illicit substances. And, while we will work toward long-term goals, we must also recognize and be able to respond well to short-term imperatives. 

In broad terms, our top priorities include the following:
  • Doing all we can to keep people alive. Access to sufficient quantities of naloxone is crucial – particularly in light of the rapidly increasing presence of illicit fentanyl and the number of naloxone doses often needed to reverse overdoses where fentanyl is a factor.
  • Greatly expanding access to effective treatment – particularly medication-assisted treatment. We are woefully short of the capacity we need, and we have a major shortage of trained addiction-treatment professionals. We must and will address this.
  • Providing support for people in recovery. This means doing all we can to ensure that, once a person is in recovery, comprehensive wraparound supports are available to help that person become – or return to being – a productive, contributing member of the community.
  • Greatly increasing efforts to prevent a similar epidemic from happening again.
While the problem is massive, I’m encouraged at the number of people who want to be part of a solution. Some of the ways readers of ISMA Reports can help include the following:
  • Supporting implementation across disciplines of new evidence-informed prescribing practices that reduce the duration and number of doses of opioid pain medication.
  • Always accessing INSPECT before prescribing an opioid.
  • Using, where appropriate, alternative pain management treatments and therapies and hospital-driven postoperative pain management protocols.
  • Supporting improved, relevant education and training for prescribers and patients.
  • Increasing awareness of high adverse childhood experiences (ACE) scores as a risk factor.
  • Becoming part of community-based collaborations aimed at prevention and treatment.
No individual or entity can do everything. But, all of us can do something to help eliminate this scourge. Thank you for your work toward that end. 

NOTE: This article expresses the individual views of the author.