It’s almost too big of a statistic to wrap your brain around: since 1999, there has been an 883% increase in drug deaths, according to the state’s health department. In 2017 alone, five Indianans died every single day from an overdose. But born out of those devastating numbers are new, effective and inspiring Hoosier-designed solutions.
The Innovation Now initiative recognizes innovators across multiple sectors needed at the table to address addiction – prevention, treatment, recovery, criminal justice, research, health professionals – leaders who are creating solutions and driving change.
The Indiana Innovation Now report highlights nine extraordinary programs addressing addiction and saving lives.
Losing a child is the most horrific event a parent could experience. Justin Phillips lost her son Aaron to a heroin overdose and decided to speak out. “I didn’t want another mother to have to feel my pain,” says Justin. Justin created Overdose Lifeline to help individuals, families, and communities impacted by addiction. The program developed an evidence-based youth prevention curriculum addressing the opioid epidemic. The program has reached over 30,000 students and will keep expanding the message.
Launched in 2017, Indiana University developed the Grand Challenge program. This includes 3 specific challenges, one addressing addiction. The Grand Challenge’s goal is to reduce substance use disorders, decrease the number of opioid overdose fatalities and reduce the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The amazing part of this program is that it brings together leaders in different sectors to combat the crisis. Government, business, and nonprofit leaders head the efforts to achieve the Grand Challenge’s common goal.
Instead of a positive pre-employment drug screening disqualifying someone for the job, Belden Pathways to Employment makes it an opportunity to help someone struggling with addiction. If potential Belden employees are denied positions because of a positive drug screen, they will be offered the opportunity to participate in an individualized drug rehabilitation program. Once participants complete rehabilitation, they will begin their job at Belden.
Sometimes one conversation can spark change. Montgomery County Health Department administer, Amber Reed, began shining a light on addiction in her community and the risk for opioid addiction. That led to a conversation and the formation of a Quick Response Team to discuss the community's unique needs. The Montgomery County Substance Use Disorder Integrated Health Initiative encompasses prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery and uses firefighters and EMS workers to fill the existing gaps in addiction care. Together, they have made over 160 touches in just two months.
Becky Savage lost two of her four sons on the same day to an overdose. Touched by tragedy, she spoke out by sharing her story to local high schools and groups. Teenagers were responding positively to her message, so she knew something could be done. Becky started the 525 Foundation to bring awareness to the dangers of prescription drug misuse by promoting prevention through awareness. Later she began a Drop2Stop, a program that has drug drop boxes prominently placed at 10 grocery stores to encourage people to properly rid their cabinets of old prescription medicine. In just 23 months, the boxes have collected over 3 tons of medication.
The moment someone is ready for help is the moment they need to be connected to treatment. The window of opportunity can be short, making the hot hand-off to treatment extremely important. The Indiana 2-1-1 OpenBeds® Program seizes on the moment of opportunity to immediately connect people with available inpatient or residential treatment services. Indiana 2-1-1 does this by partnering with the OpenBeds® Program, a software platform that helps government health agencies increase access to behavioral health care and decrease costs. Callers are linked to over 70,000 social service agencies. Within the first month of operation, 100 people called and were connected to services.
Judge Wendy Davis saw her community become increasingly impacted by addiction. While on vacation in Hawaii, she sat in court and watch an amazing program operate (most tourists go to the beach; Judge Davis is forever drawn to court). She brought it back to Indiana and called it HOPE Probation. The program offers addiction treatment to low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. The HOPE Probation team, includes the prosecutor, public defender, community corrections, service providers, probation, and a faith-based representative, and together they have helped 354 people graduate from the program.
“Treatment is not the goal, recovery is the goal,” says Brandon George, director of Indiana Addiction Issues Coalition (IAIC). IAIC is a grassroots effort to promote recovery through advocacy, public education and services. Their goal is to have a network of a recovery community, family members and care providers. How amazing would it be if every community had a network of people to advocate on behalf of those impacted by addiction? When everyone comes together, we can solve this.
High school can be a struggle for anyone, but it can be nearly impossible for students with a substance use disorder to balance treatment, recovery and schoolwork. Hope Academy makes it easier. It’s a recovery high school for students in 9th-12th grade where they attend regular high school classes in addition to recovery programs where they create a plan. This incredible program offers hope to the many high schoolers struggling with addiction.
Although Hoosiers have suffered from too many lives lost , they are leading the charge in finding solutions: parents are turning unimaginable losses into hope for other families, judges and officials are offering better paths for those struggling with a substance use disorder, and schools are providing new resources for students battling addiction. Real people. Real innovation. Real change.