Four Indiana health centers will receive more than $1.5 million in federal funding to address heroin and opioid abuse.
The funds are part of a $95 million initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services distributing funds to federally-recognized clinics called health centers.
Julia Wernz is the Director of Behavioral Health at Valley Professionals Community Health Center near Terre Haute, which is getting $406 thousand.
She says the HHS giving money specifically to community health centers makes sense because health centers offer treatment to underserved and financially troubled individuals.
The money’s target is indicative of where the opioid addiction problem is hitting the hardest—those in poverty who may not have access to traditional health care.
Wernz she says in order to be federally recognized, they have to offer behavioral and mental health treatment, too.
“Most of the time when patients develop a substance-abuse disorder, there is some behavioral health diagnosis,” Wernz says. “A lot of times we are finding these patients have some form of past trauma and they’ve used substances to self-medicate, or there may be [for example] an undiagnosed attention-deficit problem that they’ve started self-medicated, and it’s turned into a full addiction.”
Indiana Rural Health Association Director Don Kelso agrees, saying “Psychiatric and behavioral health services…those are key to the opioid addiction problem.’
Kelso says he understands why the money went to the particular health care centers—In Clinton, Muncie, Goshen and Indianapolis. The HHS sent the funding to more densely-populated places so it reaches the largest number of people, he says.
But Kelso is concerned about the lack of attention given to rural areas in the southern part of the state, where opioid use in areas such as Scott County has received national attention.
“All the 2, 2.5 million people south of Interstate 70, where Scott County is, are not going to benefit from this funding,” he says.
Centers received anywhere from $325 thousand $406 thousand.
Wernz says Valley Professionals is using the money to cover a psychiatrist’s salary. They’ll also use it to hire therapists and an addictions coordinator who can connect patients with treatment and work with primary care doctors.
Last month, Attorney General Greg Zoeller traveled to Washington to advocate for an increase in federal funding for addiction treatment programs, saying the number of people affected in Indiana is, in his words, “beyond our capacity to address.”