South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is among the Indiana leaders pushing Congressional lawmakers to approve $1.1 billion in funding that would be used to combat heroin and opioid drug abuse around the country.
Buttigieg took part in a White House conference call Friday along with Michael Botticelli of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Kendallville Police Chief Rob Wiley and Jodie Hicks, a Lafayette woman whose son is a heroin addict.
If Congress approves the money, Indiana could get as much as $19 million over two years to expand inpatient and outpatient treatment options for those who abuse heroin and opioid drugs.
“I know that there are providers here in our community who would be able to put these resources to use tomorrow,” Buttigieg said during the conference call. “One of the reasons I appreciate this being on the table is this isn’t a fuzzy idea of programming in general. This is specifically about an issue where we actually know what has to be done. We just don’t have the resources to do it.”
Buttigieg said that the problem in Indiana has become an epidemic that has no boundaries.
“I’ve seen an estimate that 80 percent of Indiana employers are affected by prescription drug abuse by employees. There’s research that $60 billion annually is the national cost of this problem,” he said. “To me, this is not only a human issue, it’s also an economic issue.”
The issue makes headlines often in Indiana, including in the South Bend area. Just this week, South Bend Police said they found $27,000 worth of heroin in a home where they arrested a suspected dealer. Two brothers, Nick and Jack Savage, overdosed on opioid drugs after a house party in Granger in 2015.
Buttigieg mentioned the Savage brothers during the call, and also told the story of a man who spent time in jail in connection to his heroin use, but didn’t have access to drug treatment resources when he was released. He didn’t realize that his tolerance changed while he wasn’t using the drug in jail, and ended up overdosing and dying.
He called the question of whether or not to approve the money a matter of “life and death.”
“There’s no question that communities across our state, including South Bend, are facing a crisis,” Buttigieg said.