New Indiana Governor Creates Drug Czar Position

By: - January 12, 2017 12:00 am

Gov. Eric Holcomb and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch raise their arms in celebration after they were sworn in to office during an inaugural ceremony in Indianapolis. Holcomb has created a drug czar position to coordinate the state’s battle against drug abuse and addiction.

© The Associated Press

On his first day in office, Indiana’s new Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, signed an executive order creating a new state-level position to coordinate anti-drug efforts, a move at least two other states made last year to turn back the rising tide of opioid addiction.

The person Holcomb tapped for the post, Jim McClelland, former CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, will coordinate the drug-related activities of nine state agencies. McClelland also will gauge the impact of state programs designed to reduce addiction, a huge and growing problem in Indiana.

At least two other states, Idaho and New Hampshire, created similar posts last year, and a gubernatorial transition team in West Virginia is recommending that incoming Democratic Gov. Jim Justice create a similar executive-level job. Huntington, West Virginia, the state’s hardest hit city, created a citywide drug czar position in 2015.

As the opioid epidemic expands, states and cities are attacking the problem on multiple fronts, including law enforcement, public health, emergency response and treatment. States also are creating registries to prevent patients from receiving opioid painkillers from more than one doctor, and working with the medical community to set safer guidelines for prescribing the highly addictive drugs.  

“Since 1999, Indiana has seen a 500 percent increase in drug overdose deaths. This is an epidemic tragically affecting Hoosiers from every walk of life in every part of our state,” Holcomb said. “This new position will provide the urgent and concerted attention required to effectively reduce the impact drug addiction is having on families, individuals and children.”

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.