Health leaders to get $21M to research, fight Indiana overdoses

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana has received the first installment of a multimillion-dollar upper hand to continue the fight against drug overdose deaths.

Through June in Indiana, 447 overdose deaths involved opioids. That number jumps to 689 when all drug-related overdose deaths through June are added.

Indiana reported a 12% drop in annual overdose deaths in 2018, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed to community efforts, better treatment and fewer opioid prescriptions.

To combat overdose deaths, $21 million is on the way to Indiana’s Department of Health over the next few years. The state on Sept. 1 received $7.1 million of that total. The next installment is scheduled to come in September 2020.

Katie Hokanson, the director of the trauma and injury prevention division of the Department of Health, said Friday, “I have yet to meet someone that has not been personally impacted by this epidemic. Just knowing that hurt, that pain firsthand for anybody, not just myself, but anybody is very real.”

The money comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Indiana’s plan is to use the cash to improve research and help create overdose prevention programs for recovery from substance abuse disorders.

“I’d say that’s definitely good,” said downtown Indianapolis visitor Anthony Zilinsky. “Those deaths are absolutely preventable if we give people the resources they need to help themselves and help others.”

Another downtown visitor, Rachel Schlachter, said, “That’s an excellent thing to be able to research and prevent.”

The $21 million will support at least six initiatives. One would help officials gather more timely data on overdoses treated in emergency rooms so health providers can respond to emerging threats faster.

Hokason said, “To get those toxicology results as quickly as we can monitor some of the shift’s we’re seeing in the epidemic. It really is changing between county to county.”

The money also will boost Indiana’s program to monitor prescription drugs, make access to patients’ prescription histories easier and help the Health Department keep working closely with coroners in Indiana’s 92 counties.

The bottom line: This new money could save lives.

“Treatment is available and recovery is possible,” Hokanson said.

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