A Strategic Approach to Addressing Substance Abuse

IHA worked alongside Gov. Holcomb, state legislators and various health care leaders to pass SEA 226 in the 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly. SEA 226 aims to reduce risks of long-term opioid reliance and potential addiction by limiting the amount of certain medication that can be prescribed in acute pain situations. The bill was signed into law on June 28.

Preliminary data gathered from state health departments and compiled by The New York Times estimate that drug overdose deaths rose 19 percent from 2015 to 2016, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the U.S.—and early data from 2017 suggest the problem will continue to worsen. Official numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected later this year due to the delay with toxicology test results, but Indiana stakeholders aren’t waiting for final numbers to put their plans into action.

Hoosiers have a dedicated advocate in Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has made addressing the epidemic one of his top priorities. Through the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse, the state has outlined a strategic plan that engages various groups and state agencies. When creating the commission, Holcomb noted that an urgent and coordinated effort from all areas of the state would be necessary to fight one of Indiana’s most pressing issues.

As the leader of a critical state agency in this work, Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Family and Social Services Agency (FSSA), discussed the state’s plan at the June IHA Board of Directors Retreat along with Dan Evans, who brings his health care background to the role of deputy director of the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse. Support from FSSA and the governor’s office has been crucial in developing action steps that leverage funding Indiana received from the 21st Century Cures Grant and coordinating the work of numerous stakeholders. The strategy takes a three-pronged approach: triaging the current emergency situation, expanding treatment access and preventing drug use.

Within those three categories, Walthall shared ideas for the IHA board to consider as they discussed the continued role for hospitals and providers in addressing the epidemic: help increase access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, implement prescribing guidelines and increase drug take-back programs, which prevent medication abuse by providing a safe way to dispose prescription drugs.

Resources to implement these ideas and other best practices have been compiled for hospitals to use in an IHA Addressing Substance Abuse Toolkit. This new toolkit features resources and member success stories on the many components of care needed to reduce overdose deaths, keep hospital staff safe and start discussions in the community about the importance of mental health and emotional well-being. This toolkit is available to all hospitals, and members are encouraged to add their own best practices to this ever-growing resource. Review the Addressing Substance Abuse Toolkit at www.IHAconnect.org/member/resources/pages/checklist.aspx.


At a recent meeting of the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse, Kevin Moore, director of the Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA), presented the state’s plan to implement the funding received from the 21st Century Cures Grant. The grant is a provision of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in 2016 and allocates $1 billion nationwide over the next two years to fight drug abuse. The $10.9 million grant awarded to Indiana will go toward the following:

  • Enhancing INSPECT ($150,000)
  • Anti-stigma campaign ($500,000)
  • Project ECHO ($300,000)
  • Recovery coaches and support initiative ($600,000)
  • Expansion of residential and outpatient treatment ($7.6 million)
  • Naloxone distribution ($500,000)
  • Training of addiction workers ($150,000)
  • Mobile addiction treatment teams ($600,000)
  • Strategic plan and evaluation ($300,000)