Bacon: Combating Indiana’s drug epidemic

Posted by: Hannah Carlock  | Monday, March 27, 2017 8:50 am

As vice chair of the House Committee on Public Health, we recently set aside a day to hear proposals to combat Indiana’s opioid crisis. There were more than 1,200 drug-related Hoosier deaths in 2015, with heroin and opioids noted as the leading causes. Serious drug abuse is plaguing communities throughout our state, and lawmakers hope these bills work to help Indiana turn the corner against the current drug epidemic.

Lawmakers are working to improve access to the Indiana Board of Pharmacy Prescription Monitoring Program database for doctors throughout the state. Better known as INSPECT, this online system tracks and produces reports regarding the amount of controlled substances a patient has been prescribed in Indiana, the practitioner who prescribed the pills and the dispensing pharmacy where the patient obtained the medication. 

Started in 2006, INSPECT was designed to serve as a tool to address the problem of prescription drug abuse in Indiana. Very often, opioid addicts and dealers would “doctor shop,” obtaining multiple, simultaneous prescriptions without the prescribing physician’s knowledge. An INSPECT report allows medical practitioners and medication dispensers to prevent overprescribing medications that could be abused by patients.

Last year, lawmakers made it easier for medical providers to share INSPECT data to further tackle doctor shopping. Coroners can now access INSPECT reports as well when investigating a cause of death. We also put more pressure on so-called “pill mills” by creating a criminal offense for knowingly and intentionally overprescribing.

This year, our committee advanced legislation to include more helpful information on an INSPECT report, such as whether a patient is in a pain management program. And, we are working to expand access to and compliance with INSPECT. Unfortunately, only 32 percent of eligible healthcare end-users, such as doctors and dentists, have registered with the program. A lack of broadband connectivity might be preventing some from using INSPECT.

Another proposal we are advancing for this year would limit the amount of pain medications a physician can prescribe. With a few exceptions, including for those who are terminally ill, their prescription would be limited to a seven-day supply. Many experts say a growing number of heroin addicts started using the drug as a less-expensive way to feed an addiction to prescription painkillers.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. By limiting the amount of pain medications being prescribed, patients would be prevented from abusing the highly addictive drugs and be in contact with a medical professional if they need more pain management options.

As a policymaker, I am committed to our community’s wellbeing and public safety. I’ll continue to support commonsense reforms and programs that will reduce substance abuse and improve addiction treatment.

As always, please contact me with questions or input at 317-232-9833 or by email at h75@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/h75. 

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State Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) represents House District 75,
which includes portions of Warrick, Pike and Spencer counties.

A high-resolution photo of Bacon can be downloaded by clicking here.