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Hoosiers hope for medicaid-funded drug treatment programs

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- With a deadline of next week, lawmakers in Washington are looking to pass a healthcare bill that would replace Obama's Affordable Care Act. This new version, though, does not including funding that would support Medicaid coverage for drug addiction treatment.

The news means hundreds of Hoosiers waiting to get into inpatient treatment facilities might be forced to wait even longer.

You may remember Erica Watkins. We introduced you to her in May. Her son, Joey, died of a heroin overdose because he couldn't get into an inpatient treatment facility that accepts Medicaid. His mother says it would have saved his life.

"Being a single mother and at that point, I wasn’t working due to the stress of his heroin addiction, I didn’t have the means to provide that deposit," Watkins said. "I think he would still be alive today."

This family's struggles aren't unique. State Senator Jim Merritt (R) said right now in Indiana, there are about 250,000 people dealing with addiction. A large number of those, he said, qualify for Medicaid.

An original draft of the healthcare bill to replace the affordable care act included money for Medicaid funded drug treatment. Those plans were scrapped in later drafts.

"The healthcare system is imploding and everybody in Washington is scrambling to get a bill together so that they have something to give the President to sign," Merritt explained.

Meanwhile, Hoosiers are waiting. The cost to fight addiction continues to be staggering. Merritt estimates the cost to be $200 million in Indiana alone.

He believes lawmakers will introduce a separate bill to address these issues and hopes Indiana puts families first.

"We need individuals who are Hoosiers to be treated in Indiana with their family around them, wrapping their arms around them and taking care of our own," Merritt said.

A separate bill could be introduced as early as next week.

Indiana received $10 million in federal funds called "21st Century Cures." The funds went into effect in April and they support drug addiction treatment and prevention programs. Senator Merritt said though, he believed Indiana should have received even more than $10 million of billions of dollars handed out to dozens of states.

"We should be 5th in line for federal money for addiction. We’re 16th because we can’t prove, because we haven’t collected the data on overdose deaths and saves and things like that. We need to improve our data collection and once we do that, more federal money will be coming to the state of Indiana," Merritt said.