Progress, but serious, long-term challenges remain. That’s how Indiana’s drug czar describes the state’s fight against the opioid epidemic, emphasizing it will be a long, tough battle. Jim McClelland, who assumed the newly-created position of executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement 19 months ago, says he is encouraged by improving numbers in Porter and Clark counties and by some businesses taking a proactive role to address the crisis. “It is a constantly changing problem that requires a lot of resilience on the part of everybody trying to deal with it,” said McClelland.
In an interview on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, McClelland said Belden Inc. in Richmond has implemented its own answer to addressing the issue.
McClelland says overdose deaths in Porter County were down approximately 30 percent for the first six months of this year, compared to the same period a year ago. He says in southeast Indiana, Clark County saw a 33 percent drop in overdose deaths last year and expects a similar drop this year.
Despite the spots of encouraging news, the depth of Indiana’s addiction epidemic remains alarming.
Earlier this year, a report from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business estimated the number of opioid overdose deaths in Indiana has risen by more than 500 percent over the past 15 years, exacting an enormous human and economic toll on the state. The report predicted the economic damage from opioid addiction in Indiana will top $4 billion in 2018 — or approximately $11 million per day.
The report also indicated more than 12,300 Hoosiers are estimated to have died from 2003 to 2017 due to opioid overdoses — the approximate population of Pike County.
But in the face of those daunting numbers, McClelland says he is encouraged by people and organizations from around the state coming together in an effort to solve the problem.
Last week, McClelland joined State Senator Jim Merritt, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and a host of business and community leaders to launch the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative, or RALI, which aims to provide resources and education on opioid abuse prevention to organizations and communities statewide.
Also last week, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush hosted a Statewide Opioid Summit, which attracted more than 1,000 criminal justice, health and community officials representing every county in the state to the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.