(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star
The opioid epidemic has relentlessly infested itself in American communities over the past decade. Today, it has grown into the major public health crisis of our time.
For years, the scourge of methamphetamine was considered public enemy No. 1 and consumed law enforcement agencies and public health resources. While that battle has never really ended locally, the rise of opioid addiction and abuse opened a new flank in the drug war. It stresses drug treatment programs and created a need for additional training for first responders to deliver life-saving antidotes for victims of overdoses.
The opioid problem hit Vigo County with a vengeance earlier this year when four heroin overdose deaths were recorded in a one-month period. In previous years, the county would not even have that many overdose deaths in a year.
In addition to heroin, the family of opioids include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and other opiate pain relievers. While overdose deaths have increased, so as emergency treatment of non-fatal opioid overdoses.
Opioids have had, and continue to have, a devastating impact on Indiana and surrounding states. The epidemic and the related practice of needle sharing directly contributed to the worst outbreak of HIV in the state’s history two years ago.
Recently, Indiana health agencies issued a public warning that toxic batches of heroin laced with elephant tranquilizer had arrived in the state. It’s called “Gray Death” because it looks like concrete and can cause instant death.
With such a crisis looming, Indiana is fortunate to have high-ranking elected officials who understand the scope of the problem and the need to address it vigorously. Gov. Eric Holcomb talked extensively and constructively about the opioid epidemic, and upon his inauguration in January, he made the issue one of the five pillars of his public policy agenda.
Recently, his administration unveiled a plan to combat drug abuse. Its strategy is focused on substance abuse prevention, early intervention, treatment, recovery and enforcement.
We applaud the governor’s work so far. His administration’s efforts represent a strong first step in attacking the problem.
We’re pleased to see that Gov. Holcomb, a Republican, has a bipartisan ally in this battle. Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, has stated repeatedly that the federal government needs to continue to be a partner with states and communities in addressing this public health crisis. He has been critical — and rightly so — of the Trump administration’s reported cuts the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
As Donnelly has stated, more investment of public resources is needed to created a united front in this important battle. We urge other members of Indiana’s congressional delegation, including 8th District Rep. Larry Bucshon, to join Donnelly and Holcomb in their well-focused fight.