Leading Change in Indiana's Opioid Crisis
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - More than a decade after her daughter's first post-graduate job, Cindy Kirchhofer recalls the struggles of the families her daughter served.
Kirchhofer learned of one patient, early in the stages of methadone treatment, who traveled round-trip for three hours each morning to receive his treatment before work. The reason? Addiction treatment centers weren't closer to rural communities.
"It's a big inconvenience to drive three to four hours round-trip to get treatment," said Kirchhofer, who works in risk management at Franciscan Health Indianapolis. "It's a huge disruptor for families."
Kirchhofer, a Beech Grove Republican in her eighth year in the Indiana House, authored a bill that will in part expand the number of opioid treatment programs in Indiana by one-third, to 27 centers statewide. The bill, along with two others tackling the substance abuse crisis, will be ceremoniously signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb at Franciscan Health Indianapolis on Friday, April 6. The laws will go into effect July 1, 2018.
The new law aims to ensure all Hoosiers, particularly in underserved areas, are no more than an hour away from an opioid treatment center. Other elements of the law will include development of an employer-employee substance abuse treatment program and temporary permits for mental health workers while they are being fully credentialed.
"Hoosiers struggling with drug addiction need a place to go that is accessible and able to address all their healthcare needs," said Kirchhofer, who serves as chair of the House Committee on Public Health. "To ensure patients have qualified mental health professionals available to them, this new law will streamline the hiring process for addiction treatment providers."
Kirchhofer, who is a risk manager with the hospital's legal team, said allowing qualified employees to begin work while completing a substance abuse treatment program, employers now have the option to hire individuals who have failed a drug screening.
"This will help keep those vulnerable to drug addiction out of negative environments," she said.
For Kirchhofer, these changes are about improving access to treatment at a time when opioid abuse is exploding in Indiana.
"People have to be motivated first to kick their addiction, and when they are, often they don't have resources to pay," she said. "It's financially devastating to a family. It's everywhere. Everyone has a story of a family member, a son, a parent."
Watch remarks and the signing of the legislation April 6 at Franciscan Health Indianapolis.
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