INDIANAPOLIS – October will mark four years for Justin Phillips- four years since she lost her 20-year-old son Aaron to a drug overdose.
“I never would have imagined close to four years ago, when Aaron passed away, the problem would of this magnitude,” Phillips said Tuesday from Washington in a FaceTime interview.
Phillips is in Washington this week, determined now more than ever to funnel new resources to Indiana to battle and stop a drug crisis gripping the state. Since her son’s death, Phillips founded Overdose Lifeline, an organization committed to helping families and training first responders on the importance of using Narcan or Naloxone, a drug meant to reverse the effects of an overdose.
“The federal government is the biggest pocketbook, if you will,” she said.
One month has passed since President Donald Trump said he would officially declare the nation’s opioid epidemic a national emergency.
The White House though still hasn’t officially acted, leaving some to question when or even whether the president will follow through to expand access to treatment and federal money.
“Well I certainly hope so,” Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) said Tuesday.
Brooks has met with the president as part of his opioid commission, led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who has urged the president to move quickly.
“There’s so much that needs to be done,” Brooks said. “Some of it requires funding, not all of it does. Those are the kinds of focus I hope this commission and the national emergency declaration puts on this problem.”
On Monday a group of ten Democratic Senators wrote to Trump expressing their concern.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said work continues behind the scenes, both legally and administratively, to ensure the declaration is issued properly.
“It’s a national epidemic,” said Ryan Klitzsch, Overdose Lifeline’s board of directors president. “There are things that can be done at the state and local level, but you need the national, this is a national epidemic.”
State officials said they’re waiting for the next step from the White House as well, but added Indiana will seek and apply for any new federal funds that are made available.
“On average 142 Americans are dying a day – dying a day – from opioid and heroin overdoses,” Brooks said, citing the findings of president’s opioid commission report.
“We are in this public health crisis,” Phillips said. “That is requiring resources from all different avenues with no one specific solution.”