Partnerships helping Indiana fight drug addiction, overdose deaths



(The Center Square) – After experiencing a brief uptick in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana is now seeing the numbers decline.

Last month, the state’s progress report found those incidents declined by 5% in 2022. Douglas Huntsinger, Indiana’s executive director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement and a senior advisor to Gov. Eric Holcomb, credited community leaders working in partnership to address the issue.

“Communities have recognized the urgency of this crisis and have joined forces to address it comprehensively,” Huntsinger said in the Next Level Recovery report. “By combining our expertise, resources, and perspectives, we’re not only saving more lives from overdose, but we’re creating a network of supports to aid individuals on their path to recovery.”

One such program that has helped tackle the program was established in Huntington County. Two years ago, the state’s Family and Social Services Administration awarded the corrections department in the northeast Indiana community a $1.7 million grant to develop alternative sentencing programs.

A residential work release program and transitional housing initiative are at a 13-acre site previously serving as a nunnery. The first participant started in December 2022, and the first person was successfully discharged a couple of months later.

State Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, also credited prevention programs he and other lawmakers have supported for helping reduce the overdoses and addictions to opioids and other drugs.

“Hoosiers who suffer from substance use disorders and addiction deserve proper resources as they work through their treatment and recovery process,” Zay said. “During my time in the Senate, I have and will continue to fight for legislation that supports Hoosiers in crisis. I look forward to continued conversation on this issue as we head into the 2024 legislative session.”

The Indiana General Assembly started its 2024 session Monday.

According to the Next Level Indiana report, the state has nearly doubled the number of opioid treatment programs since Holcomb took office in 2017. There are 24 such programs available, up from 13 seven years ago. The state expects two more to open this year.

In addition to increased community-level programs to help those in need, Indiana is also seeing a stark decline in the prescription of opioids across the state. From 2017 to 2023, pharmacies saw the number of the highly addictive drugs decline by 29%.

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