State Senator Jim Merritt (R-31) has introduced a bill designed to measure the toll the "scourge" of drug addiction has on the Hoosier economy. The study would focus on governmental agencies and programs to insurance companies and other private businesses to individuals. Merritt says the state currently lacks the resources to properly deal with those struggling with addiction. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Merritt says the need for a healthy work force is at the center of the study.
Drug abuse, he says, has other effects. "If you don’t have a healthy state, no one’s going to want to come live here. It’s just like any other economic factor — having good schools or good roads — you want a society to be healthy," Merritt told Multimedia Journalist Mary-Rachel Redman at Launch Fishers. "The opioid scourge is 50 states wide, but I want people to know we have got this as a priority in this state and we are going to kill heroine in five years."
Merritt says the issue of drug addiction has become stigmatized as an issue involving "someone else’s child, someone who was unemployed, it was someone who was blue-collar," but the problem has reached a level that "knows no boundaries." To tackle the complex issue, he says leaders throughout the state need to "gather ourselves" and take a comprehensive approach to a solution. Merritt believes the public conversation needs to shift from a focus on law enforcement to one concerning health care. At the moment, he says Indiana does not possess enough psychiatrists, hospitals, health care clinics or a robust enough detox/recovery network to deal with the problem. "There are a lot of people who think that the only way someone can get clean is to go behind bars. That is not correct. That is not the right approach," he said.
In a statement, Merritt added "every facet of our communities and the economy feels the impact of drug addiction. It is important for legislators to know exactly how much this is costing the state and where we can do better."
You can connect to Senate Bill 223 by clicking here.