Indiana University joins forces to fight opioid crisis

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows hydrocodone-acetaminophen pills, also known as Vicodin, arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Indiana University to doing its part in the fight against the opioid crisis.

IU President Michael McRobbie joined Governor Eric Holcomb to announce a five year, $50-million initiative to tackle the problem.

University officials say this initiative will be the nation's largest and most comprehensive state-based response to the opioid addiction crisis-- and the largest anywhere led by a university.

"Drug addiction is a major public health crisis that is taking an increasingly severe toll on the health of far too many Hoosiers and it is devastating communities throughout Indiana,” said McRobbie.

McRobbie says the opioid epidemic is so severe that Hoosiers are more likely to die of a drug overdose than a car accident.

"In 2014, more than 1,100 Hoosiers died from drug overdoses marking a 500-percent increase since 1999 and placing Indiana fifteenth nationwide for drug overdose fatalities,” said McRobbie.

He says 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.

"It is the partnership with IU Health that the prescribing of opioid pain medication will be reduced. To start we updated our electronic health records to support compliance with new state limits on opioid prescriptions,” said Indiana University Health CEO, Dennis Murphy.

Murphy says they see the effects of substance abuse every day in its emergency rooms and maternity wards.

Governor Holcomb repeated a similar sentiment. He says Hoosiers have shared their stories with him and it’s clear this crisis affects everyone from every walk of life.

"I've often said if I could do one thing as governor, accomplish just one major thing, it would be to bend the trajectory of opioid abuse down and stay on the road to recover,” said Holcomb.

He says because of this historic commitment from IU the tide is starting to turn.

"Thank you, Indiana University, we're going to beat this thing together I just know it,” he said.

WSBT 22 reached out to IU South Bend to learn more about its involvement in the initiative. A spokesperson says the local campus is happy to support Indiana University in this project. It has not heard any specifics about its role at this time.

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