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Sen. Leising addresses opioid epidemic

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Three million pills – legally prescribed opiates – were dispensed in Henry County over the past year.

State Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) told a crowd of about 50 people at Friday’s Third House Forum that before the ongoing illegal drug crisis facing so much of Indiana can be dealt with, the legal ones must be addressed first.

“Every one of the counties I represent has issues with drug addiction, some worse than others,” Leising said. “I have been on a mission this year to really try and take a look at some of the opiate issues, the legal prescription issues.”

Leising said the Henry County problem, while not as severe as neighboring counties like Randolph, is still signficant.

“In Henry County alone, over 3 million pills, legal opiate pills – like hydrocodone, Vicodin, those kinds of things – were prescribed in the last full year,” Leising said. “When you look at the number of prescriptions, it was almost like one prescription per person in your county. The last numbers I had, it was like 47,000 prescriptions compared to 49,000 population in your county. That is an amazing number.

“I would tell you we keep pulling back on what doctors can prescribe,” Leising continued. “They can only do a seven-day supply now but truthfully I have had senior citizens in assisted living situations who take the medicine until it’s gone, even if they don’t need it.”

Leising is author of a bill short in length, but perhaps powerful in its simplicity.

“One of the bills I have does a real simple thing,” she said. “It just requires the label to say ‘this is an opioid.’ I’ve had a lot of nurses and administrators tell me there are people, good people, who don’t understand that it’s any different than taking Motrin or Tylenol. They just know it works for their pain.”

Drug addiction was cited as the third-most pressing legislative issue, according to Leising’s recent constituent survey responses.