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Mayor reflects on governor's address

by MACKENZI KLEMANN - mklemann@wabashplaindealer.com

Mayor Scott Long says there has been a noticeable change in working with the state to address drug abuse under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration.

“I think we’ve got a state administration now that has sat down and taken a hard look at this,” Long said on Wednesday. “I don’t want to say it was ignored in the past, but I think it’s more in the forefront of this administration. They’re trying to put steps in place to help us at a local level.”

Attacking the state’s “drug epidemic” is one of the five pillars of Holcomb’s agenda, as outlined in his second State of the State address on Tuesday evening.

Holcomb’s approach includes treatment, prevention and enforcement. Last year, the governor appointed Jim McClelland to head a taskforce on topic.

This year, Holcomb is supporting legislation to require all Indiana physicians to use the state’s prescription drug monitoring system, INSPECT. He also plans to improve reporting of drug overdose deaths and to increase the number of opioid treatment centers from 18 to 27 so that all residents will be within one hour’s drive of a center.

Holcomb said on Tuesday that he will also support efforts to charge dealers and illegal drug manufacturers with the “highest-level felony” when the sale is linked to an overdose death.

“I’m happy to see they’re looking to increase the number of treatment centers so that everyone will be within one hour’s drive,” Long said. “In the past, you had to drive much further than that. The more opportunities we have available for someone who truly wants to seek that treatment out … they’re helping us out.”

The unfolding crisis with the state’s Department of Child Services is related to the issue. On that topic, Holcomb plans to commission a study before making changes to the agency.

The issue is felt here in Wabash along with the rest of the state.

“I’ve got personal experience with my own grandchild being within that system,” Long said. “I’m not going to say its broken, it’s a system that’s overwhelmed … I think (the state) is attacking it from several different angles.

“It’s taken a long time to get to where we’re at today. It will take us years to fix the problem. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”