Indiana University plans to invest $50 million in comprehensive efforts to reduce and prevent drug addiction in the state.
IU President Michael McRobbie announced the investment Tuesday at the Indiana Statehouse, alongside Gov. Eric Holcomb and IU Health President and CEO Dennis Murphy.
Indiana’s drug overdose rate has increased by more than four times what it was in 1999. The Responding to the Addictions Crisis initiative is part of the university’s bicentennial Grand Challenges Program and is one of the largest state-based efforts against the epidemic.
Through the multi-faceted research project, IU will partner with state and health officials to collect and analyze data, train medical professionals and work to create better policy.
IU School of Nursing Dean Robin Newhouse, who will lead the large-scale effort, says perhaps the most important collaborator in the fight is the public.
“It’s not just the scientists, it’s not just the teachers,” Newshouse says. “We need to partner with our community to understand their experience and the interventions, and the support they need in partnership with us to help address this opioid crisis.”
Holcomb has listed the state’s opioid epidemic as one of his top priorities. The republican supported a bill this year that makes it easier for local counties to create needle-exchange programs.
“Indiana University’s Grand Challenge is going to go such a long way to help turn the tide of this crisis of addicition,” Holcomb says. "It’s going to give more hope to the far too many hopeless.”
The $50 million investment from IU comes from reprioritizing existing funds, according to Fred H. Cate, the vice president for research. The university announced two other Grand Challenges initiatives prior to the opioid crisis effort.