Senator sets 5-year goal to combat drug epidemic as Gov’s Task Force releases recommendations

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - From heroin to prescription pain pills, Hoosiers are dying from drug overdoses at an alarming rate and now the Governor's Drug Task Force report is out with steps to fight back.

The Task Force spent a year researching the deadly epidemic and put together 17 recommendations to tackle enforcement, treatment and prevention.

Some recommendations have already come into fruition, like stiffer penalties for drug dealers and expanding the state's Lifeline Law to include immunity for drugs.

But State Senator Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) said the report is merely scratching the surface on how to fix this widespread problem.

He's introducing a bundle of bills this upcoming legislative session and a goal he calls #KillHeroinIn5. His focus is to get the state to see addiction as an illness.

"In the State of Indiana you can commit murder, be convicted, go away, serve your time in jail, and then get out and be eligible for food stamps.  If you commit a drug felony in the state of Indiana, and you’re convicted, and do your time and get out, you cannot get food stamps," said Merritt. "There are laws that we need to change that recognizes that the drug addiction is an illness not a character flaw.”

He's also proposing two pilot projects; a sober living facility that works with a county court system for folks with misdemeanors and a program which provides services for pregnant addicts.

He confessed, Indiana doesn't have enough treatment options for users.

"You have to commit a felony in the State of Indiana to go into the Department of Corrections to get treatment," he said. "We need to start serious and meaningful incremental change and public policy is first this coming session."

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