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Indiana University to invest $50 million in major initiative to combat opioid crisis

INDIANAPOLIS — In response to the nation’s growing opioid crisis, Indiana University will invest $50 million to collaborate with community partners to prevent and reduce addictions.

IU President Michael McRobbie made the announcement alongside Governor Eric Holcomb and IU Health CEO Dennis Murphy on Tuesday morning at the Statehouse. This is part of IU’s bicentennial Grand Challenges Program.

Utilizing IU’s seven campuses located across the state, and in partnership with state officials, IU Health, Eskenazi Health and others, this statewide initiative is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive state-based response to the opioid addiction crisis – and the largest led by a university.

The initiative aims to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce deaths from addiction, ease the burden of drug addiction on Hoosier communities, and help to improve health and economic outcomes.

The interdisciplinary team of IU researchers participating in this multi-faceted effort will be led by IU School of Nursing Dean Robin Newhouse.

Indiana is one of four states where the fatal drug overdose rate has more than quadrupled since 1999. Hoosiers are now more likely to die from a drug overdose than a car accident.

According to the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, the total cost of drug overdoses in Indiana tops $1 billion annually, measured in medical expenses and lifetime earnings losses. Indiana is not alone in this crisis. In 2016, more people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. than the total number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War.

The effort will leverage resources on the federal, state and local level, officials said Tuesday, with the ultimate goal being to significantly reduce the availability of and demand for opioids.

IU will focus its resources on five areas: data collection and analysis; training and education; policy analysis and development; addictions science; and community and workforce development.

“Indiana University is certainly not immune to the crisis. We’re all hearing almost daily about deaths and impacts of this devastating crisis. It affects IU faculty, staff, students and alumni,” McRobbie said. “People are dying and we must act.”

Murphy, IU Health’s president and CEO, said his facilities see the effects of the opioid crisis “every hour of every day.” It’s in the maternity wards, emergency rooms and overwhelmed substance abuse treatment centers, he said.

“It is the partnership with IU Health that the prescribing of opioid pain medications will be reduced,” Murphy said. “To start, we’ve updated our electronic health records to support compliance with new state limits on opioid prescriptions.”

Murphy said staff and patients are now more educated on the potential dangers of opioid pain killers.

“Substance abuse has worked its way into all our communities and all 92 counties,” Holcomb said. “I fully realize that this isn’t Indiana-centric or unique to our state. Every state feels like they’re on ground zero.”

Holcomb said it’s a personal, family, community and business crisis. And while he admitted that the state faces a daunting challenge, he struck a hopeful note.

“Thank you, Indiana University,” he said. “We’re going to beat this thing. I know it.”