State health officials say it’s too soon to tell how Indiana will spend the cash it’s slated to get from a federal bill aimed at fighting opioid abuse.
President Obama recently signed the 21st Century Cures Act, which, among other initiatives, will direct a billion dollars to states for use in opioid treatment programs.
While the official amount Indiana will receive is still up in the air, the White House has estimated the state is eligible to receive $19 million over two years. The final amount each state will receive is based on the strength of each state’s individual application and its level of need.
According to the White House, Indiana ranks 15th in the nation for its drug poisoning death rate. 18 people per capita died from drug poisoning in 2014 – 20-percent more than the national average.
Indiana Deputy Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall says much of the money is likely to go to rural areas—perhaps funneled through community health centers.
“What we’d like to start with is our areas of most impact, our most vulnerable spaces,” Walthall says. “We know that most of the work needs to be done in the rural areas of Indiana.”
The money will be distributed through the Family and Social Services Administration’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction.
Basia Andraka-Christou studies public health at IUPUI and says the Cures Act places an emphasis on addiction treatment and mental health care.
The money will be made available to states in the form of block grants—which means states will have to submit applications.
“And that plan needs to explain how they’re going to be using evidence-based treatment methods, along with a number of other things such as how they’re going to be integrating mental health and physical health care,” she says.
When asked if $19 million is enough to make a dent in the problem, Andraka-Christou says “in a way, any money is a lot of money.” She says the opioid crisis, historically, hasn’t really been addressed financially: “We have kind of a low bar here.”
In Indiana, the fight against opioids has taken the form of short-term, immediate solutions such as syringe exchange programs and naloxone repositories. The “Cures” opioid money could expand those.
Cures also allocates billions of dollars to research initiatives. According to Andraka-Christou, that’s where more long-term changes could start, including searching for better treatment methods or creating more fellowships for future addiction psychiatrists.