New State Drug Director Favors Harm Reduction, Mental Health Treatment

Jan 13, 2017

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On his first day of office, Governor Eric Holcomb signed an executive order creating an Executive Director of Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement.

The new director, Jim McClelland, is a former CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. He takes a firm stance that addiction should be understood to be an illness.

In his new role, he will coordinate drug-related efforts across state agencies such as the state health department and the Family and Social Services Administration.

In his words, the position has the power of the governor’s office, but he sees his job as more of an advisor, facilitator and coordinator.

McClelland says he learned the difficulties of working with disparate government agencies—all with their own focus—during his time at Goodwill.

Neither one of those sectors is really structured to deal effectively with complex social problems, and we’re not going to remake any one of those sectors, so how can we find a way to make better use, more effective use…of some of these pieces that do exist?” he says.

He says when Goodwill opened its own school to help adults receive high school diplomas, he came face-to-face with how structural social issues—poverty, low education levels, crime rates and health issues—interconnect: “They re-enforce and compound each other, but as a society, we don’t tend to treat them that way,”

McClelland says addiction is a mental health issue, and he favors harm-reduction efforts such as naloxone grants and syringe-services programs.

Yeah, maybe they shouldn’t be doing this,” he says, “but my gosh, if we can keep them from getting some of these diseases associated with these syringes, isn’t that better than doing nothing?”

He says one of his first priorities is figuring out how to attract more mental health professionals to the state.