Cherry: Attacking the opioid epidemic

Posted by: Nick Seifer  | Friday, February 2, 2018 2:30 pm

In 2016, approximately 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, including 1,518 Hoosiers. It’s clear our state and country are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. The General Assembly is working to make addiction treatment more accessible through proposed legislation that would create up to nine new addiction treatment centers, greatly improving access for Hoosiers, particularly in underserved areas. Another proposal would work to provide further treatment opportunities for those convicted of opioid crimes.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2 million Americans misused or were dependent on prescription opioid medications in 2014. More than 500,000 Americans died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2015. According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2016, more people died from opioid overdoses than those from breast and prostate cancer.

Additionally, the CDC estimates the total U.S. economic burden of prescription opioid misuse at $78.5 billion a year. This includes the cost of healthcare, addiction treatment, criminal justice involvement and lost productivity.

Opioid addiction shatters lives and destroys relationships. The ripple effect felt by Indiana’s social service agencies and law enforcement continues to grow larger by the day. Our community, like so many others in the state, is no stranger to this epidemic.

In 2017, a record number of more than 20 overdoses occurred in Hancock County. People in our community are dying as often from drug overdoses as car accidents.

This crisis must end, and the General Assembly is working on legislation that would offer solutions to these problems.

 In 2009, roughly 23.5 million Americans needed care for a drug or alcohol abuse problem, but only 11.2 percent received treatment at a special facility. Although 18 opioid treatment centers are currently operating throughout Indiana, many Hoosiers live a long distance away from these facilities. House Bill 1007 would result in nine additional opioid treatment centers opening in Indiana, better ensuring every Hoosier is within an hour drive of professional help.

Other legislation would authorize the establishment of a pilot program providing state-supported drug treatment plans for individuals who have been charged with a misdemeanor drug offense. Under current law, this is only an option for those who have been charged or convicted of a felony. If we can help those who have committed a misdemeanor get addiction treatment services sooner, maybe we can prevent their slide toward more self-destructive behaviors and dangerous crimes.

The General Assembly has made fighting the opioid epidemic a top priority, and progress is being made.

To continue moving in the right direction, we must maintain communication. Please contact me anytime to share your thoughts on state issues by email at or by calling 317-232-9651. I encourage you to subscribe to my e-newsletter providing updates at To watch hearings and debates online, visit



State Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield) represents House District 53,

which includes portions of Hancock and Madison counties


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