Governor Pence announces new task force to combat drug abuse across state

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 1, 2015) – Gov. Mike Pence has announced the creation of a special task force designed to combat drug abuse in Indiana.

The “Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment and Prevention” was formed in response to a surge in drug overdoses across the state, the governor said Tuesday morning. From 1999 through 2009, health officials saw a 500-percent increase in the rate of drug overdose deaths. In 2013, Indiana ranked 16th nationally in overdose rate.

“Drug abuse problems are not unique to Indiana, and while multiple entities are doing their part to combat drug abuse, we must work together as a state identify gaps that hinder us from preventing drug abuse, treating drug abuse, and effectively enforcing drug laws," Pence said.

"Together is the best way to reduce, prevent, and treat drug addiction in Indiana.”

Pence said the new task force, which will include doctors, law enforcement officials and lawmakers, will meet monthly for the next three months in different regions of the state. The meetings in Indianapolis, Evansville and South Bend will include testimony from local experts and families affected by the epidemic.

Learn more about members of the  Task Force here.

The group will focus on four specific areas:

  • Statewide assessment
  • Enforcement
  • Treatment
  • Prevention

The task force will then release a report with findings and recommendations.

Still, some political opponents felt the move was in some ways, too little, too late.

“I think today’s announcement shows the Governor is again late to the game on addressing a real problem for Indiana,” said John Zody, state party chairman for the Indiana Democrats. “The task force that he’s formed has some deliverables, which is good, but this is one more example of how he’s late to the game.”

Regardless, the drug problem is one they know all too well at the Dove Recovery House for women.

“I didn’t know another way of life besides getting out there and getting high,” said Ashley Hammers, a former addict who now works at the Dove House.

“We need people to be talking about this,” said executive director Wendy Noe. “This is truly an epidemic. This heroin situation is affecting every single person.”

In fact, Noe says about three-quarters of the people they serve are dealing specifically with a heroin addiction. And she likes the idea of a statewide task force.

“I think it’s a great step in the right direction,” said Noe. “Governor Pence’s new task force is really bringing forth a bunch of different experts from the addiction level to mental health to criminal justice.”

“Personally, I feel like we just need to step out and do more,” said Hammers. “We need to break the silence. There are people out there and they need help.”

If you know someone who needs help, the Dove Recovery House has more information available on its web site.