Law signed to add 9 new opioid treatment centers

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Indiana now has three new laws to help fight the opioid epidemic in the state.

Friday morning Gov. Eric Holcomb signed legislation that will better track the number of deaths caused by opioid overdose, created a database to help stop "doctor shopping" for the drugs, and increased the number of opioid treatment centers across the state.

13 Investigates first uncovered overwhelmed treatment centers in 2015, showing cars "snaking" around an Indianapolis treatment center during the pre-dawn hours. Several patients at the Indiana Treatment Center told 13 Investigates they had to travel more than an hour to get Methadone or Suboxone treatment because there were no other sites closer.

Under the new law, nine more treatment centers will open across the state, in hopes of getting those in need of treatment within a one hour drive of a patient’s home.

(Pink, already opened centers; blue, to be open by June 30,2018)

Following the ceremonial signing, Gov. Holcomb told 13 Investigates access to treatment was the most important accomplishment.

"We're not going to forget those who are struggling," Gov. Holcomb openly promised.

The sites of the new clinics will be strategically selected in order to fill gaps across the State.

Representative Cindy Kirchhofer (R) Beech Grove, said a couple of other measures were added to her bill, including measures to help social workers and behavioral workers get into the workforce more quickly. She also said HB 1007 will allow employers discretion to help workers who fail a drug test to get into recovery programs. But like the Governor, Kirchhofer is pleased to make treatment more accessible, telling 13 Investigates, "No more 'snaking,'" referring to the lines of people trying to get daily medication at just a few sites before heading to work.

The newly signed legislation will also help Indiana better track the number of people dying from opioid overdoses. Senator Jim Merritt, (R) Indianapolis sponsored the bill. It will require county coroners to test bodily fluids of those suspected of a drug overdose and report the findings to the State Department of Health in hopes of determining the types of controlled substances that caused the death.

State lawmakers also voted to expand the use of the State's Inspect Program to provide more electronic information about prescription histories for patients. The goal is to doctors avoid over-prescribing opioid and benzodiazepine medications and to keep addicts from going from doctor to doctor to get pills. Sen. Erin Houchin (R) of Salem said Hoosiers should see "dramatic decreases in 'doctor hopping'" as a result of the INSPECT program. According to Houchin, other states that have implemented a similar electronic monitoring program have seen significant success.