The man charged by Governor Eric Holcomb to lead the state’s fight against drug abuse admits Indiana is facing a daunting challenge. Statistics show that since 1999, deaths by overdose have increased by 500 percent and Indiana now ranks 15th in the nation in overdose deaths. "It’s an enormous problem that cuts across all socio-economic lines," said Jim McClelland, the former longtime chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. "There are more people dying from drug overdoses now than traffic accidents or homicides."
In an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, McClelland said a syringe exchange program will be just one aspect of a multi-faceted approach to the problem.
In one of his first acts as Governor, Holcomb created the position of executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement, a cabinet-level post that will coordinate the drug-related efforts of nine state agencies and report directly to the governor. In his new role, McClelland will also serve as chairman of Indiana’s Commission to Combat Drug Abuse.
In his State of the State address, Holcomb listed attacking the state’s drug epidemic as one of the "five pillars" of focus for his administration. "This is a problem that is taking an enormous toll across the country, and Indiana has not escaped the pain," said Holcomb, in his first State of the State. "This epidemic causes ripple effects with devastating impacts on our children and families, our cities and towns, our schools and government agencies, our health care system and health care costs for each of us, and our economy."
McClelland, who retired in 2015 after serving for nearly 41 years as CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, said "I couldn’t say no" when asked by Holcomb to help attack a problem he says impacts far more than the drug user. "It affects their families, their friends and employers," said McClelland. "Companies tell us they can’t fill all of their vacancies because so many people are flunking the drug tests."
Indiana joins states including New Hampshire and Idaho in creating state-level drug czar positions.