Officials from Purdue University and Indiana University Health say a recently-announced collaboration effort is a “great opportunity” to fight the opioid epidemic in two rural east central Indiana counties. The Consortium for Opioids Response Engagement-East Central Indiana, or CORE-ECI, is dedicated to battling substance abuse locally in Blackford and Jay counties, particularly after the isolation and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. IU Health Blackford Hospital President Dave Hyatt says the counties have been dramatically impacted by the opioid epidemic.
Hyatt joined Melanie Cline, director of Purdue Healthcare Advisors, to talk about the effort with Business of Health Reporter Kylie Veleta.
He says the difficulties in the two counties are compounded by the fact that they are health professional shortage areas.
“Based on our population, we don’t have enough healthcare access for our populations, so while we try to provide that access, we do have some gaps, especially in behavioral health,” said Hyatt. “What’s unique to us is we have two counties right next to each other both with IU Health hospitals…and thanks to Purdue, we also have Purdue Extension offices in each county, which have really made this a great opportunity to work collaboratively not just in our own communities, but across county lines because we are a region and we aren’t islands.”
The CORE-ECI involves seven community organizations and Hyatt says the group is working to not only help with the treatment and prevention of substance use disorder, but also reduce the stigma surrounding it.
“There’s not a stigma around diabetes or other healthcare conditions and we have to treat substance abuse disorders just like those others,” he said. “If people have these issues, it’s hard enough to get to a point where you want to seek treatment, but we’ve got to make sure that these people don’t feel that they’re threatened by their community and we want to make sure access to care is easy to get.”
While opioids are the main cause of the epidemic, but Cline says the community in the two counties has shifted more to other drugs, such as methamphetamines. She says the consortium aims to focus on the underlying issues surrounding drug abuse, such as stress, poverty and childhood issues.
“Generally, addiction problems start in childhood, so we really want to look at all the underlying causes for what the family stress is impacting on the child’s development and the family and really look to ways to interrupt those cycles of addiction that are so common across the country,” said Cline.
The CORE-ECI program is slated to run through August 2024.