Surgeon General Talks Indiana Opioid Crisis

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Jerome Adams took office in 2017. Jerome Adams took office in 2017.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who served three years as Indiana's state health commissioner, says better partnerships are key to putting a dent in the opioid crisis statewide and throughout the country. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Adams said the combination of more federal dollars and a focus at all levels of government on "better health through better partnerships" is a good start toward getting a handle on the issue. The omnibus spending bill introduced in Congress this week includes nearly $4 billion for resources to fight opioid abuse, which has been declared a national emergency by President Donald Trump, and is a stated priority for Governor Eric Holcomb.

Adams said the issue really hits home for him. His brother is in the state prison system with a substance abuse disorder that Adams says has not yet been treated. Support, he says, is "never going to seem like it's enough and it's never going to be fast enough," but he is complimentary about Indiana's efforts, including the work done by Holcomb, State Health Commissioner Kristina Box and Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Jennifer Walthall.

He says communities must now "lean in" to the assistance available. "Unfortunately, many communities still don't recognize it as an emergency where they live," Adams said. "We need them to convene non-traditional partners like law enforcement, and public health, and health care, and the faith-based community, and if we do all of those things, I'm convinced we're going to make a difference."

Adams believes improving collaboration between health providers and law enforcement would go a long way. "The law enforcement community certainly could use some of the tools that public health has available. We had a big debate about harm reduction and syringe service programs in Indiana that's still ongoing," he said, "but we also know that the public health and health communities need to be more sympathetic and empathetic to the challenges that the law enforcement community faces. It can't be one or the other, it's got to be both together." Instead of providing funds to "the same old silos" that received it in the past, Adams is urging stakeholders to pull together to reduce supply and demand and make the money go as far as possible.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the issue really hits home for him.
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