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10/8/2017 6:12:00 PM
EDITORIAL: The staggering costs of Indiana's opioid epidemic

Evansville Courier & Press

The numbers associated with Indiana’s opioid epidemic are staggering — a 136 percent increase in drug overdose deaths, 3,000 emergency room visits a year for nonfatal overdoses, thousands of children flooding the state’s foster care system because their parents abuse drugs.

But the crisis is about much more than the numbers. It’s first about people.

The Evansville Courier & Press, along with the Indianapolis Star and other Gannett news outlets in this region, is launching a yearlong exploration of an epidemic that grips our cities, suburbs and small towns. It’s important to see those affected by opioids for who they are and for all that they’ve suffered.

Opioids cost Kristi Nelson her son, Bryan. He was only 20 years old when he died from an overdose in 2009.

“I think it’s closer to home than people think,” Nelson said. “It doesn’t discriminate against family or friends or loved ones.”

Kristi Nelson’s heartbreak is shared by hundreds of families a year across our state. Parents lose their sons and daughters. Children lose their mothers and fathers. We all lose neighbors far too soon. The human cost is devastating. The community cost in terms of lost human potential is incalculable In response, state and local governments, as well as nonprofits and other organizations, have poured millions of dollars and other resources into the fight against opioid abuse.

But progress remains much too slow.

Efforts to end the epidemic need to center on two primary tasks: prevention and treatment.

Prevention starts with better education about the dangers of opioid abuse, alternatives to pain management and broader public awareness of how to responsibly dispose of unused pain medication.

“There are probably 10 really great prevention programs in the state of Indiana; there needs to be 100,” said Sen. Jim Merritt, an Indianapolis Republican who’s become a Statehouse leader in the fight against opioid abuse.

Hoosiers also need much better access to effective treatment programs in all regions of the state.

Jim McClelland, appointed this year to lead the state’s efforts to stem the epidemic, says that creating more options for treatment is one of his top priorities. “Treatment for an opioid use disorder generally takes longer and the risk of relapse is higher,” McClelland said. “This makes it especially important to have strong, sustainable supports in recovery.”

Those support systems must be built for the long haul. We are in for a tough fight, and it’s one that will not be easily won. But the stakes couldn’t be higher as we battle for our children and our communities.

One day Indiana’s opioid epidemic will end. The horrors of this crisis will pass. May we all commit to doing all we can to ensuring that day comes soon.

Related Stories:
• Drug epidemic in Vanderburgh County grows deadlier year by year
• EDITORIAL: Hoosier chief justice brings new muscle to opioid fight
• Deadly drugs take a lengthy journey to Lafayette
• EDITORIAL: Our most valuable assets are at stake in Hoosier opioid crisis
• Howard County: 2017 Drug summit held because drug overdoses at record level
• IU to spend $50 million in addictions crisis initiative, focusing on five areas
• FIGHTING A KILLER: Monroe County officials create commission on opioids

Copyright 2017 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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

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