No more state money coming in 2018 for growing opioid crisis

Published: December 5, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The fight against Indiana’s opioid crisis won’t be getting any extra state money next year.

But, lawmakers say it won’t be a problem although opioids have many Hoosiers in their talons.

Katie Butler, substance use program supervisor for Families First in Indianapolis said, “Opioids … they really grab hold of a person. It’s a much harder one to deal with, to withdraw from.”

It is a problem that is taking a lot of money to fight. But state lawmakers’ hands are tied as far as putting any more money toward it for at least the next year.

The reason why has to do with how Indiana’s government is structured and operates. The year 2018 is not a budget year.

“That’s just the nature of our state legislature. Nobody’s getting more state funds next year because it’s not a budget year,” Stephanie Wilson, a spokesperson for Gov. Eric Holcomb said Tuesday. “There is zero concern that money is going away. The problem isn’t going away. We’re committed to solving this opioid crisis in our state.”

To some who help in the addiction fight, that’s a concern.

Butler said, “While it’s great they’re not cutting funding, that’s a great thing, we don’t want to lose any funding. To know we’ll be getting the same amount, but having to serve an increasing number of people, it does cause a little bit of stress.”

She said Families First relies on state and private funding to help Hoosiers overcome addiction. Butler said, “It’s so important. because it allows us to provide services.”

State Sen. Jim Merritt, a Republican from Indianapolis, said lawmakers approved $5 million per year for two years in the 2017 session.

“We all know how big of a problem this is,” Merritt said. “We know how much money we have to spend. We’re just going to have to get creative and get to work.”

Holcomb’s office pointed to his 2018 NextLevel agenda plan to fight drugs and said previously set-aside state money was expected to help. Also, more than $60 million in federal dollars were anticipated before the new year.

Merritt said, “To me, you can’t depend upon that. We’ve got to make do with what we’ve got and make sure that we’re spending every dollar efficiently and successfully.”

No matter what goes on within state government, Butler said she hopes people will “still seek help because it will be there, regardless of the funding.”