Holcomb’s office unveils new tool to combat opioid epidemic

State officials unveiled a new tool Thursday that they believe will help combat Indiana's opioid epidemic by making it easier for addicts to get drug treatment.

The announcement by Gov. Eric Holcomb's administration is their latest effort that seeks to address an addiction crisis that "every day is destroying lives, devastating families, and damaging communities," said Jim McClelland, who is Holcomb's drug czar.

The tool, in this case, is a software platform that will allow certified addiction treatment providers to quickly locate and connect people with available inpatient or residential treatment beds.

Addicts can also seek a referral through the system by calling 211, a service that can connect people with local resources.

Indiana's opioid epidemic has expanded, which has driven more children into foster care, according to a recent analysis by the not-for-profit Indiana Youth Institute. Holcomb has said combating the crisis is a top priority.

He's successfully advocated for more treatment locations, higher criminal penalties for drug dealers and an expanded system that monitors opioid prescriptions.

Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Jennifer Walthall said the crisis the state is experiencing is similar to a natural disaster in many ways.

"We need to have a command center — to have a global and real-time assessments and resources for individuals in their time of greatest need," Walthall said.

She likened the new software platform to such a command center.

Walthall said the service is provided through a partnership between the state, the health services software manager OpenBeds and the nonprofit organization Indiana 2-1-1. It's being paid for with $10.9 million in federal funds that the state received through the 21st Century Cures Act.

So far, about 50 health care providers have joined the platform and more are in the pipeline, said Steve Carroll, the chief business development officer of OpenBeds.

Krista Brucker, emergency medicine physician at Eskenazi Hospital, said that the tool "is not only good for patients but it's also really good for the people at the front line trying to help."

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