INDIANAPOLIS – Freshman Governor Eric Holcomb has made fighting the opioid crisis a top priority…for the 2019 legislative session. The governor is refusing to provide additional resources this year, subscribing to Statehouse lore that lawmakers skip budget issues during short legislative sessions. Meanwhile, the crisis is ballooning out of control and Holcomb’s own drug czar says the skimpy $5 million the state spends annually isn’t enough.
The Indianapolis Star Indiana likely won’t put more money toward fighting opioid epidemic next year
“Sen. Jim Merritt, who was responsible for much of the opioid legislation last legislative session, and Holcomb’s appointed drug czar, Jim McClelland, say $5 million a year just isn’t enough.
It’s still not enough in many advocates’ eyes.
“It’s frustrating that we’re still talking and still deciding and not doing,” said Justin Phillips, founder of Overdose Lifeline, which provides prevention tools, distributes Naloxone and offers support during recovery. “People are dying.”
“We have a $250 million problem in the state … $10 million just scratches the surface,” Merritt said. “We got caught unaware, and we’re losing right now…”
For comparison, lawmakers earmarked $15 million annually to the Business Promotion and Innovation Fund. This while business leaders describe a job market where finding an employee who can pass a drug screen as a major issue.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody questioned the governor’s decision.
“Hoosiers are suffering. We need to mobilize resources right now, not when it’s convenient for the governor,” said Zody. “Senator Merritt is right, we’re losing. The governor’s own drug czar says we aren’t doing enough. Will the governor admit holding off until next year was a mistake and make additional resources available to turn back this crisis right now?”