INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Overdoses have been on the rise during the pandemic, a local agency says, and minority communities are starting to feel the impact even more.
Though there has been progress when it comes to treatment, more work needs to be done.
The criminalization of people with drug addiction is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. The response to the current opioid epidemic compared to the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s shows there’s been a shift. And advocates say the benefits of that drug outreach isn’t equal across the board.
The Marion County Public Health Department reports 332 Hoosiers died from opioid overdoses between March 2020 and April 7, 2021. White people account for the majority of those deaths, with Black people coming in second. It’s similar to data around the country.
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“We’ve seen overdose rates increase at a high level; calls for crisis intervention have increased,” said Camille Anderson with Recovery Cafe.
But in Indianapolis, a string of agencies including Recovery Cafe and the Overdose Lifeline are working to do something about it. Those efforts include peer recovery groups, transitional assistance, counseling and treatment options, as well as access to potentially life-saving drugs, including Narcan.
“History here has always been sometimes the drug usage is a minority problem; it’s a poor problem,” Anderson said.
Lori Lane is a peer recovery coach with the Indiana Addiction Issues Coalition. She knows what it’s like to need help.
“I do believe that I have a passion for this and its because I can identify,” Lane said. “I was doing the very best that I could, but can you imagine, I try to imagine being at home every single day without an outlet.”
Advocates said there are plenty treatment options in the state, but minorities often struggle with access. They may not have insurance or money to pay for it. But also there is a mistrust and the fear of criminalization.
“Once it reached the white communities, then there was concern. Then there was more study. Then it was determined that substance abuse disorder is a chronic disease. So different things begin to open up,” said Charlotte Crabtree of Overdose Lifeline.
Ensuring safety for people seeking help, advocates say, will play a valuable role in stopping the epidemic.