The Need for Indiana Harm Reduction

Drug use is an individualized and complex phenomenon. We should all be suspicious of simple answers to complex issues.
Some of the social issues that led us to this point:
Racialized drug laws.
Social dislocation.
Lack of opportunity for connection.
lack of affordable housing.
Untreated mental health issues, especially trauma.
Adverse childhood experiences.
Adverse adult experiences.
Stigma and criminalization.
Social vulnerabilities associated with race, immigration, poverty, gender identity, sexual preference, class and physical and mental abilities.

The Facts About the Current Epidemic:
The current manifestation of drug related social problems is only “current’ in relation to how it affects the white, suburban and rural communities. Marginalized communities have been devastated by policies that exacerbate problems associated with drug use for well over a century.

In the 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies began aggressive, dishonest campaigns to saturate the nation with highly addictive opiates. In 2012 the CDC declared a national prescription opioid epidemic and more strict regulation of opiate prescribing began, though 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids in that same year. Many who have unwittingly found themselves physically and mentally dependent on opiates have begun to turn to illegal markets to meet their needs. In fact, a full 80% of heroin users today began with prescription drugs. Treatment centers are not able to handle this sudden increase (cost and waiting lists set high barriers too high for most of those affected, anyway), medically assisted treatments are over-regulated and hard to access, and our jails are filled to capacity with people afflicted with addictions.

Beginning in 2015, over 200 cases of HIV emerged in Scott County, the worst HIV outbreak in US history, with new cases continuing to be diagnosed to this day. The epidemic was preceded by a marked increase in Hepatitis C infections a year earlier. In 2015, the Monroe County Health Department declared a Hepatitis C epidemic. In the few short years that this unfolded, drug overdoses in Monroe county increased by 500%. And so we find ourselves today at the center of international attention as our communities come to terms with some of the most severe consequences of the national opiate epidemic.

The Indiana Recovery Alliance was created to address these issues with education, advocacy, harm reduction supplies and low barrier outreach services.

The Economic Facts If We Don’t Respond:
– The lifetime cost for Scott County HIV and HCV treatment will total over $250,000,000.
– The cost for treating the 200 people who tested positive for Hepatitis C in Monroe County in the last 12 months will reach well over $20,000,000. If left untreated, the costs for liver transplants and Hepatic Cancer dwarfs this estimate.
– In a 6 day period in August 2016, 174 people overdosed in Cincinnati and the neighboring Indiana counties.
– The war on drugs, which directly led to the above economic and public health crisis, has grown to historically unprecedented incarceration rates and budget crippling associated costs with maintaining this system.
– Taken as a whole, the state of Indiana literally faces billions of dollars in associated costs to the current epidemic.

The current tax payer cost for a program like the Indiana Recovery Alliance is $0 (because we are funded through grants and donations). If $200,000 were allocated, studies show more than $1.5 million would be saved.