Indiana is struggling with addiction. Since 2010, heroin overdoses have almost tripled. Our state has led the nation in meth lab incidents for the last three years. These statistics are heartbreaking, and I am working with my fellow lawmakers to drastically lower these numbers. We have already passed laws that will help reduce illegal drug use in the state. In fact, it was one of our top priorities last session.
Thanks to modern medicine, we are now able to save lives in the event of an opioid or heroin overdose. Because of legislation enacted earlier this year, Narcan and similar overdose intervention drugs are now available at local pharmacies without a prescription. Narcan is a safe, non-addictive medication administered in single doses to immediately reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This law was built on our previous work to equip first responders throughout the state with the life-saving drug. Our state also provides Narcan training for law enforcement and the general public.
Hopefully, those saved by Narcan will realize how close they came to death and will enter professional treatment. Addiction is a sickness and should be treated as such. Oftentimes, we see many repeat offenders come in and out of the criminal justice system. The General Assembly passed a bill that requires Medicaid coverage for inpatient detoxification for the treatment of opioid or alcohol dependence. If we can get a person who enters the system sober and in treatment, they are more likely to turn their lives around. With this new law, I hope that we begin to see fewer repeat offenders overburdening our local jails.
In addition to all the work the legislature has done, the Indiana Attorney General created the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, which is devoted to significantly reducing the abuse of controlled prescription drugs and decreasing the number of deaths associated with these drugs in Indiana. Abuse of prescription painkillers is the leading gateway drug to heroin.
Meth labs are dangerous, toxic threats to our communities. They poison innocent children, spark fires and blight neighborhoods. Lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year that empowers local pharmacists to determine if there is a real medical need for pseudoephedrine (PSE) – an ingredient in certain cold, flu and allergy medications and an essential precursor to make meth. When considering this legislation, we worked to strike a balance between limiting meth cooks’ access to PSE, without affecting legitimate medication access for law-abiding Hoosiers. Additional legislation now also requires an electronic stop-sale alert be issued in real-time when a meth-related felon attempts to purchase PSE in Indiana.
As a former sheriff, I know that the steps that have already been taken are great first steps. Thanks to our hard working law enforcement officers and our recent legislative efforts to keep meth precursors out of the hands of criminals, the Indiana State Police has reported a 36 percent drop in meth lab incidents. But there is still more we can do to help lower illegal drug use in Indiana. One of the most important things we can do is begin having conversations with our children, friends and family. Awareness is key.
Each year, the Red Ribbon Campaign works with schools and organizations across the country to raise awareness about the dangerous effects of drug use. Next week is dedicated to Red Ribbon Week – over seven days are devoted to creating a drug-free America. Visit redribbon.org to learn more about this campaign.
There are many resources available to those who suffer from drug addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, I encourage you to reach out for help by visiting www.in.gov/idoc and click on Programs.
State Rep. Kevin Mahan (R-Hartford City) represents House District 31, which
includes Blackford County and portions of Delaware, Grant and Wells counties.
A high-resolution photo of Mahan can be downloaded by clicking here.