More than 1,500 Hoosiers have died every year from drug overdoses since 2016 – including record-high years in both 2020 and 2021, according to data from the Indiana Department of Health.
A bill aimed at reducing fatal overdoses passed the House Committee on Public Health Monday and now heads to the House floor.
HB 1462 would require all emergency departments in the state to provide IDOH a plan that will be implemented when patients have a substance use related emergency.
Rep. Ann Vermilion (R-Marion) co-authored the bill and said she hopes it will prevent future fatal overdoses by connecting people to follow-up care.
“What resources do we have before we discharge them from our emergency department?” Vermilion said. “Can we connect them to the next level of care? Can we provide any prescription medication? Can we prescribe them a Naloxone kit before they leave?”
At Monday’s hearing, Brandon George, vice president for recovery and advocacy programs with Mental Health America of Indiana, said there is a discrepancy in the care emergency departments across the state give to patients with substance use disorders. He said the bill can fix that.
“The unfortunate truth is that people that are overdosing and going into emergency departments, we're touching them, we have them in our hands, they often don't get any real care, they leave and they die,” George said.
Vermillion said many of the larger emergency departments already have substance use plans, but HB 1462 would ensure all emergency departments across the state have plans in place.
“We're hoping that those employees and physicians and administration can just sit together and say, ‘What can we do for these patients?” Vermilion said. “And their plan may look very different than a large hospital, maybe in Indianapolis, or a hospital that may have a behavioral health team on site.”
Emergency departments would create their plans based on what resources are available to them.
Vermilion held back tears as she thanked House Public Health committee members for supporting a bill that she has personal connection to.
“This is impactful. It is impactful to my family members that have been in the ER and have died after,” Vermilion said. “So I appreciate it. I am thankful for everybody who has walked our journey, and my family’s journey. This will make us better.”
She said the bill coincides with SB 1, which would increase access to mental health supports across Indiana.
Contact WFYI health reporter Darian Benson at firstname.lastname@example.org.