IU will invest $50 million and its intellectual and research expertise toward addressing the state’s opioid addiction crisis. The problem is one of five priority areas targeted by Gov. Eric Holcomb, and a multi-layered, life-and-death scenario illustrated well at the first South Central Opioid Summit that attracted 600 participants to Bloomington last month.
Opioid addiction is ravaging Hoosiers from all walks of life. It is having a devastating effect on families, as well affecting health care professionals, law enforcement officers, businesses, the overall economy, social service providers, educators — entire communities.
IU’s commitment will fund Responding to the Addictions Crisis, a collaboration with state government and community partners such as IU Health. It will involve all seven of IU’s campuses around the state, which is appropriate because every corner of Indiana is at risk in this crisis.
IU states the initiative “aims to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce deaths from addiction, ease the burden of drug addiction on Hoosier communities and improve health and economic outcomes.”
The goal is lofty and worthwhile. It is just the kind of multidisciplinary, far-reaching, impactful problem Grand Challenges is set up to address.
The initiative will focus on five things, according to IU officials: ground-level data collection and analysis; training and education; policy analysis and development; addictions science; and community and workforce development.
One particular point made by Robin Newhouse, dean of the IU School of Nursing and principal investigator of the Responding to the Addictions Crisis initiative, illustrates the understanding that this crisis involves a disease that needs much more than a response of punishment. It talks about achieving “maximum impact toward the goal of more effectively treating patients and implementing preventative substance abuse programs.”
While the opioid crisis extends well beyond the Indiana state lines, there is evidence that the issue affects Hoosiers in a more severe way than in some other locales. Our state is one of four in which the death rate caused by drug overdoses has quadrupled since 1999.
Grand Challenges tackles the really hard stuff. The first project has a goal of curing at least one cancer and one childhood disease by 2020. If that’s not enough, it also wants to find a way to prevent one chronic illness and one neurodegenerative disease.
The second project is addressing multiple issues brought about by environmental change.
And the opioid addiction crisis is next.
By shooting for the stars, IU and its partners can make a huge difference for literally millions of people. Congratulations to McRobbie and the university for showing leadership in these areas of great importance.