Indiana bill would allow nine more opioid treatment centers

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As Indiana continues to struggle with the opioid epidemic, lawmakers are considering whether to add nine new treatment centers around the state.

Indiana now has 18 treatment centers, including five new sites announced last year. But no additional programs have been permitted since then, under a moratorium that allows expansion only through legislation.

But the number of treatment centers could climb as high as 27, under a new bill that would allow Indiana’s Division of Mental Health and Addictions to approve nine additional programs.

Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Beech Grove, has introduced H.B. 1007 with the goal of making more treatment available and cutting down on the distance a patient must travel to get care. In recent years, she said, some people would have to drive nearly two hours to the nearest treatment center.

“With the opioid crisis and the demand for services, at one time there were people driving from Brookville (in southeastern Indiana) to Indianapolis to get treatment,” she said.

Health officials blame opioid addictions for contributing to the tripling of Indiana's heroin overdose deaths since 2010. The state reported 1,245 deaths from heroin overdoses in 2015, the latest figure available.

Last week, Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would seek to increase the number of opioid treatment centers “so nearly everyone in the state will be less than an hour’s drive to treatment.”

If the bill passes, the new treatment centers would be operated by hospitals. The Indiana Hospital Association has announced support of the bill.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has said treatment programs are helping. The centers use federally approved medications to help people manage their addictions, along with counseling and education.

“Medication-assisted treatment coupled with substance use disorder counseling continues to be the most effective treatment approach for persons with opioid use disorder,” Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Indiana FSSA, said in a statement.

Indiana’s Medicare program covers the cost of all services provided in the opioid treatment programs. So do many private insurance programs.

H.B. 1007 was referred to the House Committee on Public Health, which Kirchhofer chairs. She said she plans to set a hearing for Jan. 24.

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