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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 19, 2017 1:00 am

State drug czar outlines strategy

Specifics to come to fight 'scourge'

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The state's new drug czar Thursday laid out a broad-brush strategy for fighting substance abuse in Indiana that includes expanding treatment programs and reducing the number of people who start using.

Jim McClelland spoke to the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse and said he deliberately focused primarily on opioids such as painkillers and heroin.

“That's the crisis we are currently facing. We are working to reduce the incredibly negative impact that scourge is having,” he said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb tapped McClelland as the executive director of drug prevention, treatment and enforcement this year. The six-page strategy is the first public work-product from the new office, which was given a $5 million budget to help align all agencies and resources.

He said the strategy is a guide and promised more specifics in the coming months.

“We have a huge need for greater access to effective treatment programs,” McClelland said. “We are woefully short.”

But a new $11 million federal grant is set to help in that area. About $7.6 million of that money will be spent on expanding treatment in the state, including residential inpatient services for the indigent.

Kevin Moore, director of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, said that money will increase inventory between 60 to 75 beds a day for a year.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, asked how that compares to demand.

“It chips away at the iceberg,” Moore said.

Pierce said state officials should know the number if lawmakers are to react appropriately.

But Dr. Jerome Adams, the state health commissioner, said the commission should be careful about quantifying need because some people don't need traditional inpatient treatment. He said the state should rethink how treatment is provided to people with substance use disorder and look for innovative models for outpatient help.

But Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, said even if the state can't afford all the treatment beds it should still quantify the need.

“What does the iceberg look like?” he asked, noting that two young adults who spoke earlier in the meeting had to go to California to get clean.

nkelly@jg.net