INDIANAPOLIS – More than 900 officials from around the state attended an opioid summit Wednesday that focused on the intersection of the law and medicine.
The agenda featured the science of addiction and evidence-based treatments for substance-use disorders.
The day was sponsored by the Indiana Supreme Court, Family and Social Services Administration, Indiana University and the Association of Indiana Counties.
Counties are struggling with the ongoing opioid crisis and Huntington County Prosecutor Amy Richison said she attended with an open mind.
“I came with the hope of getting more information on alternatives so we can make better informed decisions with the defendants in front of us,” she said.
Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush kicked off the day, noting that the judicial system is the primary means of referral for addiction services.
“Like it or not, jails have become sort of de facto detox centers,” she said. And local prosecutors, judges and police need to know the options.
A four-page handout was provided to educate justice system professionals on medication-assisted treatment such as methadone. There has been some hesitation about using that option, but the state is opening more treatment centers.
“A common myth is that (medication-assisted treatment) simply replaces one drug of abuse with another,” the sheet said.
“When used as directed, methadone and buprenorphine reduce cravings and withdrawal. They prevent relapse without a high.”
No one knows whether the crisis has crested in Indiana, but FSSA Chief Jennifer Walthall said there are a few bright spots on the horizon.
She said a few counties in Indiana have reported a plateau of decline in opioid deaths, though she cautioned that other factors could be affecting the numbers such as less potent opiates or a move to methamphetamines instead.
“We need sustained decreases,” she said.
Fred Cate, vice president for research at Indiana University, also attended. He administers IU's $50 million Grand Challenges initiative, Responding to the Addiction Crisis.
“It's often said that Indiana is at the center of the national addictions crisis and that is certainly true,” he said. “But we are also at the center of addressing that crisis.”