Efforts to combat heroin important

The outbreak of heroin abuse in Indiana is wreaking havoc on our communities. Just last week, Bartholomew County experienced three suspected heroin overdoses. One of them was fatal.

Last year alone, there were 21 people booked into the Bartholomew County jail on heroin drug charges. Only three months into 2016, deputies already are on track to arrest twice as many heroin offenders.

In 2014, 170 Hoosiers were killed from heroin-overdose related instances. One overdose is one too many, and legislators are currently working to combat this drug epidemic.

One of the ways that public officials are combating heroin abuse is by increasing the availability of naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, which is a safe, non-addictive medication that reverses the effects of overdoses, helps keep an individual breathing normally and can ultimately save lives.

Through a recently announced naloxone grant program, $1.3 million will help fund the training and equipping of Hoosier first responders in the use of Narcan. This grant will better ensure that our first responders have the tools they need to treat overdoses and save lives.

Currently, Indiana residents need a prescription to obtain Narcan, which poses a difficult problem for users’ family members, concerned friends and other loved ones who need the drug in emergency situations. It is crucial that we allow Hoosiers to easily purchase this life-saving medicine over-the-counter so that in the event of an overdose they can act quickly and hopefully save a life.

Senate Bill 187 allows an individual to purchase the medication without a prescription, but it does require pharmacies and emergency ambulance services to keep a record of the number of times the drug is sold and administered. While purchasing Narcan does not prevent heroin abuse, it plays an important part in saving lives, and hopefully heroin abusers are prompted to receive the rehabilitation they need to quit their deadly addiction.

A bill I sponsored, Senate Bill 14, would protect an individual who uses over-the-counter Narcan on a victim of an overdose for the purpose of resuscitation by giving them immunity.

This would not give the same protections to the overdose victim. In hopes to save more lives, this proposal is similar to Indiana’s Lifeline Law, which protects individuals who stay with a victim of alcohol poisoning.

Another way that Indiana lawmakers are fighting the heroin problem is through the development of the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse (ICCDA). Senate Bill 271 would require the newly established commission to identify ways for state agencies and local programs to coordinate and create a comprehensive plan to address substance abuse through treatment, prevention and law enforcement. Members would be required to submit a report on their work to the legislative council and the governor each year. This would be a long-standing governing body solely dedicated to addressing drug abuse in Indiana.

Heroin is a public safety issue resulting in increased crime. It is a health issue resulting in the spread of diseases like AIDS. More important, it is a dangerous drug robbing families of their loved ones. Hoosiers young and old are battling this demon. Addicted parents are neglecting their children, mothers are burying their sons and siblings are walking into their home only to find a deceased sister. This is sad, but it is a fact that we cannot ignore.

Defeating heroin and its grip on our communities requires a united front. As your State Representative, please contact me with input or questions as we work to end this epidemic. I can be reached by calling 317-232-9793 or by sending an email to h57@iga.in.gov.

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, represents Shelby County and portions of Bartholomew and Hancock counties.