Across Indiana, local governments attack opioid epidemic

Paul Wyman, commissioner of Howard County, explains Howard County’s new partnership with Turning Point that will connect individuals to services such as treatment and counseling. Abrahm Hurt | TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Local communities from Lawrenceburg to Kokomo are taking on the fight against opioid addiction.

On Thursday, the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse met to highlight three new programs, give an update on the OpenBeds program and hear about where federal money will be spent to combat the opioid epidemic.

Howard County recently opened its new private and public partnership that will connect individuals to services such as treatment and counseling. Turning Point, which opened on Monday, April 30, was able to refer and connect its first individual to six services around the community.

“Despite the efforts of so many great organizations to say, ‘Here we are,’ there’s just never been that coordinated effort,” said Paul Wyman, Howard County commissioner. “Now we have that place. When somebody in our community says. ‘I just don’t know where to go,’ our response is very simple. You’re going to go to Turning Point.”

Wyman said the program will focus not on just connecting persons to services but actually following up with them.

In the city of Lawrenceburg, a quick response team is continuing to work on ways to close gaps among treatment, recovery and intervention.

A quick response team is a group composed of a law enforcement officer, a community mental health and addiction counselor, Mayor Kelly Mollaun and an EMS or member of the fire department. The team visits overdose survivors and their families within 48 hours of their overdose to give them information on what they can do next.

“We’re a small community but we’re just as affected as the larger communities,” Mollaun said. “Every family, everybody in this room, has been affected by it in one way or another.”

In Bartholomew County, Jeff Jones, the executive lead of Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress, is working to create a physical hub to connect people to service providers and recovery support programs.

ASAP is an initiative dedicated to coordinating a community-wide response to Bartholomew County’s growing opioid crisis.

While the hub is still only a concept, Jones said the program will continue to focus on prevention.

“We also reminded ourselves every day that the vast majority of people in our county are not currently addicted or dependent and we need to keep it that way,” he said.

At the state level, the OpenBeds program that combined with Indiana 2-1-1 help line in March has successfully connected more than 100 individuals to services in six weeks.

OpenBeds is a software platform that helps government health agencies increase access to behavioral health care and decrease costs. Indiana 2-1-1 works to produce healthcare and resource referrals.

Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, cited an example of how the partnership connected a man suffering from a heroin addiction to the help he needed.

“Within four hours of his call and referral via OpenBeds, he was scheduled for treatment assessment,” she said. “And he is now successfully in outpatient treatment.”

Indiana also received another $10.9 million from the Opioid State Targeted Response grant to help fund evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery efforts at the state level.

The grant is the result of the federal 21st Century Cures Act. In 2017, Indiana received the same amount of funding, which was put towards expanding residential treatment centers, anti-stigma campaigns and enhancement of INSPECT.

INSPECT is a website which allows practitioners to check a patient’s controlled substance prescription history.

The money will be spent in many of the same areas again this year but it will also put more toward prevention efforts.

Abrahm Hurt writes for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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