Indiana University experts who assessed the state’s opioid epidemic have made recommendations for how Indiana can better address the crisis.
The report released last week recommended changing state laws and policies, increasing the number of needle exchange programs and improving health care for people struggling with substance abuse, The Indianapolis Star reported .
The report is the first result of the university’s $50 million Grand Challenges program. The program launched last fall and enlisted 16 teams to study various aspects of addiction over the next five years.
The state can do more to prevent deaths caused by the opioid crisis, said Nicholas Terry, a university law professor and the report’s lead author. Opioid overdose deaths increased by more than 50 percent from 2015 to 2016.
“This is a crisis like no other,” he said. “One of the things we brought to this as health care folks is a much broader perspective on the opioid crisis.”
Arresting people isn’t the sole solution and more treatment is needed, Terry said.
Indiana law currently requires a person to have naloxone, which can reverse overdoses, in order to qualify for immunity for having drug paraphernalia. The report suggested encouraging more people to seek help by extending immunity to bystanders and to those who are overdosing.
“If there’s a very significant risk out there, it will prevent people from acting,” said Ross D. Silverman, a professor at the law school and the public health school who was a study author.
Indiana has fewer than 10 needle exchange programs, despite their legalization for the past few years, Terry said. Such programs provide people with clean syringes to discourage needle sharing and reduce the spread of disease. But illegal possession of a syringe without the program’s consent is a felony.
Silverman said the program can leave some people unsure if they can safely possess needles and not risk arrest.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star