The opioid epidemic does not discriminate based on zip code – it has touched every community in Indiana. All but three of our state’s counties have reported an overdose death from heroin or opioids within the past five years. Drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. Every 25 minutes, a child is born addicted to opioids. This has become a generational problem that must be solved.
Our country declared war on drugs in the 1970’s, and the repercussions of those battles still affect us today. I remember the “say no to drugs” campaign and how it impacted the black community. It was launched to save lives, but rather than showing compassion and providing help to those in need, the “war” resulted in increased incarcerations for non-violent drug crimes and established mandatory prison sentences for certain drug offenders. The reactive policies of the 1980’s failed to take a holistic approach to the drug problem and many Hoosiers continue to suffer from the fallout.
Fast forward to today, where we are now confronted with an opioid epidemic that has its roots in rural America. This has become a tsunami that has overwhelmed many Americans.
To combat this growing crisis, we must engage multiple points along the supply chain – manufacturers, physicians and medical professionals, public safety experts, caregivers and families. We must both reduce the vast supply of opioids available and expand support for treatment. I support:
- Increased federal funding for programs that provide substance abuse education, treatment, prevention, and ongoing recovery.
- Expanding the research and development of alternatives to narcotics for pain relief.
- Access to health care coverage for all Americans, including addiction treatment. It should be easier to access treatment than to obtain prescription painkillers.
- Broad availability for naloxone. Increasing the availability (and lowering the cost) of naloxone (which is an emergency rescue drug for narcotic overdoses) will help first responders save lives, and will make it possible for family and friends of those struggling with addiction to reduce the chance of a fatal overdose.
- The legalization of medical marijuana as a therapeutic alternative for Americans struggling with chronic and severe pain.
- Criminal justice reform to ensure that every American is treated fairly.
Working together, we can combat this epidemic and lift up all struggling Hoosiers.