Proposal for substance abuse board has merit, deserves support

Bartholomew County officials leading the fight against opioid addiction spent much of 2017 getting the initiative up and running.

With a strategic plan in place, and growing buy-in from local agencies and the public, the next step for the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County is to turn ideas into reality.

Doing so will take money. But with people’s lives at stake, the funding process will work best if it is streamlined in local government.

That’s why we support the proposed creation of a Substance Abuse Public Funding Board. It’s intended to serve as the sole place the alliance will have to turn for approval of requests, rather than submitting proposals to multiple units of government.

This year an increase in the Local Income Tax will generate more than $2.3 million for a new public safety fund, from which money can be used for the opioid-addiction initiative.

With public money being spent, this group’s meetings should be open to the public.

The board would be composed of Mayor Jim Lienhoop, Columbus Regional Health CEO Jim Bickel, a city council member, a county commissioner and a county judge.

An oversight committee would be part of the process, too, tasked with vetting proposals for validity, cost/benefit ratios and feasibility before sharing its views with the board. Oversight committee members would include the sheriff, police chief, a city administrator, a Columbus Regional Health representative, the county prosecutor, an addiction services provider and an ASAP member.

The proposed funding board seems to fit well with other steps being taken locally to solve the addiction problem. It includes key stakeholders who are close to the issue, and is intended to support the initiative’s efforts.

When new ordinances are proposed later this month or in February to create the board officially, we hope strong support is given and approval granted.