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home : most recent : statewide implications August 20, 2018

7/28/2018 12:59:00 PM
Here's what you missed at the Indiana Opioid Summit
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For more information on substance abuse treatment and recovery programs in the Tri-State, visit

Tori Fater, Evansville Courier & Press

INDIANAPOLIS — State agencies are working to collect more complete data on how opioids affect Hoosiers’ daily lives to fight the drug epidemic causing deaths across the state.

“We would like to use predictive analytics to get ahead,” said Jim McLelland, Indiana’s drug czar and chairman of the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse.

McLelland was part of a panel on Indiana’s drug statistics during Wednesday’s statewide Opioid Summit. Officials are compiling information on the number of emergency medical services runs, the number and cause of overdoses, the drugs police officers seize during arrests and more to understand the opioid epidemic.

The Opioid Summit brought law enforcement, members of the court system and health experts to Indianapolis from all 92 Indiana counties to consider Indiana’s opioid epidemic and the justice system’s role in combating it.

Fatal overdoses are on the rise across the state, and Vanderburgh County is no different.

Maps published by state data analysts and shared Wednesday during the statistics panel can show where opioid abuse is concentrated in the state.

For example, one map shows Vanderburgh County’s reported rate of opioid-related deaths was higher than the statewide rate every year from 2008 to 2012 and in 2016.

More: The science of opioids, explained

More: Webb: Here are the overdose stats for 2017. They're bad.

Forty people died of opiate overdoses last year in Vanderburgh County, nearly half of all 82 drug-related deaths in the county. In 2016, 35 people died of an opioid overdose, almost three times as many people as 2015’s total of 13 opioid overdose deaths.

Analysts with the Management Performance Hub, which analyzes reports by agencies like Indiana State Police and the state Department of Homeland Security, spoke to an audience of members of law enforcement and the justice system Wednesday.

Opioids, both prescription drugs like painkillers and street drugs like heroin, are considered the “main driver” of the rise in fatal overdoses across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Opioid Summit panelists explained that while fatal drug overdoses overall increased 39 percent in Indiana from 2014 to 2017, opioid-related fatal overdoses increased by 97 percent during that same four years.

The City of Evansville and Vanderburgh County have each filed a federal lawsuitagainst prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors, claiming those companies were partly responsible for the opioid crisis.

Other panelists talked about the science of addiction, medication-assisted treatment and better data collection that could track how opioid abuse affects Indiana communities.

Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn of the Family and Social Services Administration explained that people need to consider how to maintain treatment after the initial drug detoxification or the first dose of overdose antidote naloxone. 

“That is not the end of the treatment, that is just the beginning, to keep them alive,” she said.

More: Indiana likely won't put more money toward fighting opioid epidemic next year

That’s where medication-assisted treatment, a combination of counseling and medications like methadone or suboxone, comes in. Hulvershorn said it can prevent the cycle of withdrawals and cravings and get rid of compulsive behavior, and is the recommended course of treatment.

“If we’re not offering this treatment to people, their odds of relapse is incredibly high,” Hulvershorn said. “To me, it’s unbelievable that we still don’t offer this treatment to everybody. It’s as though we’re withholding chemotherapy from cancer patients.”

The “tight link” between opioid use disorder and other addictions, as well as mental illness, means describing Indiana’s issues exclusively as an opioid problem is too narrow, according to Dr. Andrew Chambers of the IU School of Medicine.

He said addiction is a progressive neuropsychiatric disease like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, one that destroys healthy motivation.

“Really, we have an untreated addiction and mental illness problem,” Chambers said.

Speaker Douglas Marlowe of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals called on members of the justice system, particularly in drug courts, to determine whether a person’s substance use was mostly compulsive, because of an addiction, or willful before making decisions in a case.

“If you don’t know whether or not they’re addicted, you can’t do your job right,” Marlowe said.

Related Stories:
• Law officials urged to help Hoosiers in opioid crisis
• 15 die due to drugs so fare in 2018 in Howard County, but rate is lower than 2017
• New Lilly R&D chief planning blitz of drug launches
• Lafayette hoping new methadone clinic can help address the opioid crisis
• Southern Indiana group visits city hit hard by opioids to learn best practices
• A STEEP COST: Opioid usage, abuse costs Indiana $43.3 billion -- $11 million daily
• Clark, Floyd counties in top 20 for opioid cost, says IBRC report
• Study: Opioid crisis has cost Madison County $2.2 billion since 2003
• 2018 overdose deaths decrease dramatically in Vigo County; officials credit antidote

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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