New task force to address drug abuse in Indiana 

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Gov. Mike Pence announced the creation of a drug task force Tuesday to address the state’s growing epidemic of substance abuse.

“We’ve created the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment, and Prevention because it is time to take a holistic and collaborative approach to addressing substance abuse and its many heartbreaking repercussions in our state,” said Gov. Pence. “Drug abuse problems are not unique to Indiana, and while multiple entities are doing their part to combat drug abuse, we must work together as a state identify gaps that hinder us from preventing drug abuse, treating drug abuse, and effectively enforcing drug laws.”

The Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment and Prevention is made up of a team of 21 experts with various specialties. The force is co-chaired by Dr. John Wernert and John Hill. Wernert is the secretary of Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration and Hill is the deputy chief of staff for public safety.

The force has been charged with four main goals.

First they are to evaluate the extent of resources, identify gaps in enforcement, treatment and prevention and make recommendations for improvement.

Secondly, they are to identify effective strategies so federal, state and local law enforcement can successfully work together to combat drug abuse.

The force is charged with analyzing available treatment resources and identifying best practices for treatment of drug addiction.

And lastly, the team is asked to identify programs and/or policies that are effective in prevention of drug abuse, including programs that focus on youth.

“An effort of this magnitude requires the insight and involvement of all three branches of government, multiple state agencies, local municipalities, experts in the fields of drug treatment and youth intervention, community outreach, medical authorities and I welcome the input of all of those who will be involved in this critical undertaking,” said Pence. “Together is the best way to reduce, prevent, and treat drug addiction in Indiana.”

The task force will meet for the next three months around the state where they will hear testimony from local experts and families impacted by the epidemic. The task force will provide recommendations to Pence throughout the process of meetings and will create a final report of all findings and recommendations.

Democrats say Pence is too late to the game.

“While today’s executive order by Gov. Pence may seem encouraging to some, it doesn’t hide his consistent failure to protect the health and well-being of our most vulnerable Hoosiers,” said Democratic Party Chairman John Zody in a statement. “While Scott County was in the heat of its HIV outbreak, it took 65 days for Governor Pence to react – catapulting cases from 10 to 79.”

From 1999 to 2009, Indiana saw a 500 percent increase in the rate of drug overdose deaths, and in 2013, Indiana ranked 16th in highest overdose rate in the nation.

Task Force Members:
  • Jerome M. Adams, M.D., Commissioner of the IN State Dept. of Health
  • Sen. Jim Arnold, D-La Porte
  • Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, Dir. of IN Dept. of Child Services
  • Doug Carter, Superintendent of IN State Police
  • Michael Diekhoff, Blooming Chief of Police
  • Juge Roger Duvall
  • Dr. Joan Duwve
  • Dr. Joseph B. Fox
  • Tony Gillespie, Indiana Minority Health Coalition
  • Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin
  • John H. Hill, Deputy Chief of Staff for Public Safety
  • Dr. Timothy Keller, Community Health Network
  • John R. Layton, Marion County Sheriff
  • Bruce Lemmon, Commission of the IN Dept. of Correction
  • Justice Mark S. Massa
  • Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon
  • Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis
  • Dan Miller, J.D.
  • Dr. Charles Miramonti, Chief of Indianapolis EMS
  • Rev. Rabon L. Turner, Sr., New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Evansville
  • Dr. John J. Wernert, Secretary of FSSA is a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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