[r73] Combatting Indiana’s drug addictions

Posted by: Lindsay Devlin  | Friday, February 13, 2015

As a member of the Public Health Committee I have created and advocated for legislation aimed at improving the quality of life for Hoosiers. My continued concern for Hoosiers’ health has prompted me to author two bills: House Bills (HB) 1448 and 1449. These two bills have both been passed by the House with unanimous votes. HB 1448, which I like to call “The Jennifer Act,” concerns coverage for mental health and drug addiction and HB 1449 gives community mental health centers the option of expanding their services and offering an opioid treatment program.  

The Jennifer Act is a way for family or loved ones to intervene and rescue someone from addiction. Sharon Blair lost her daughter, Jennifer M. Reynolds, to substance abuse and since then, Sharon has used her loss as a means to advocate for a law that can save lives and break the chains of drug addiction for Hoosiers.

Indiana, along with the rest of the nation, is experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of addiction and overdoses due to prescription medications. The Jennifer Act would make inpatient substance abuse detoxification services covered by Medicaid, which would allow more access and cost savings to addiction treatments. The goal of this bill is to encourage the use of non-addictive medications to treatment.

This bill will help those who are addicted and moving through the state’s correctional system. Because there is a shortage of medical treatment inside prison systems and options other than incarceration for those who commit crimes, this bill will provide judges, prosecutors and public defenders with training concerning involuntary commitment and diversion programs, or any other probationary program that could be an option for a low level offender suffering from addiction. 

It is my hope that this legislation will create an improved availability of recovery options for those who are struggling with addictions, and I am touched by Sharon’s commitment to help others. Those who have dedicated their lives to helping individuals battling mental health will be able to help more people under this legislation.

My other piece of legislation directed towards helping those with addictions is HB 1449. This bill will allow certified community health centers to apply to operate an opioid treatment program (OTP), or better known as a methadone clinic. Currently, Indiana has 13 OTPs and 10 are for-profit clinics. Many patients who are suffering from addiction are also battling some form of mental illness and community health centers offer the best source for dual diagnosis treatment. With more OTPs, more people will have the opportunity to receive quality healthcare that will lead to less drug addiction in Indiana.

As policy makers, the best thing we can do to attack the mental health and addiction problem is provide a healthy and available pathway for treatment, intended for those that want help. There is no silver bullet for substance abuse, but giving people a pathway to treatment and better access to care is something we can do. Addiction costs the state and society greatly. I am fervent in helping those who are struggling with addictions. I know this is not an easy problem to combat, however, measures such as these are imperative in addressing the ongoing issues our state faces with drug addiction.

I am confident these two bills will assist many Hoosiers who are so greatly overcome with their drug addictions which may link to a variety of health conditions such as cancers and heart disease. Drug addictions affect not only the individual and their families, but society as a whole. 

Addictions have also been a factor in the overcrowding of our prisons. In 2013, 26 percent of the Indiana Department of Corrections’ total admissions were for drug offenses and 88 percent of probationers were using drugs in 2012, according to a 2012 Indiana Probation Record. In order for these statistics to change, we need to continue to strive to end drug addictions.

In the coming months, I will continue to work on legislation and advocate for measures that strengthen our state’s public health and boost the economy. Please feel free to contact my office by phone at 1-800-383-9841 or email h73@iga.in.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.