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Opioid Fight Presses On After Friday's Emergency Declaration Extension

Indiana University VP of Research Fred Cate says the opioid epidemic "is a public health emergency whether the President says so or not."

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Last week, Network Indiana reported on Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly's call for President Trump to renew his declaration of the opioid epidemic as a "national public health emergency." 

"We have seen too little action taken relative to the magnitude of the problem and urge you to immediately renew the opioid public health emergency declaration," Donnelly says to the President in an open letter signed by several other lawmakers. "Work with us to push for substantial funding to address the opioid crisis as part of the upcoming budget deal and omnibus negotiations."

RELATED Sen. Donnelly Urges President To Re-Up Opioid Crisis Declaration

That declaration has been extend by acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargen last Friday. The declaration is good for another 90 days. Indiana University Vice-President of Research Fred Cate says the opioid epidemic is a national public health emergency whether the President declares it so or not.

"Anyone dealing with addictions knows it's a public health emergency," Cate said. "For us where going to keep moving ahead and working closely with the state and our other partners. Whether the President issues a formal declaration has no impact whatsoever on our work."

The work that Cate refers to is Indiana University's Grand Challenges. One of which is focused on fighting addiction. Cate says with $50 million that the university has invested in the programs, they are creating projects geared towards fighting opioid addiction in Indiana in a variety of ways.

One of which is called "Project Echo."

"One of the great challenges is we don't have enough addictions professionals in this state," Cate explains. "Project Echo provides assistance for people 'in the field', such as doctors or other service providers to connect on a regular basis using video, computers or telephones with experts who study these issues here at the university." 

Cate notes that these projects don't get a lot of financial support from the state or federal government, but this is made up for in strong partnerships they have with state and federal lawmakers. He says the strong support from Governor Eric Holcomb's administration reinforces a sense of optimism in fighting the opioid crisis. 

Still, he's not shying way from the fact that the epidemic is much worse than we might realize.

"Even though we talk about IU committing $50 million here, that's only a drop in the bucket compared to the challenge we are facing across the state of Indiana," Cate adds.

He says IU's Grand Challenge Projects on addiction are too young to have seen any real progress on a broad scale. Moving forward he says they are looking to expand into studying the effectiveness of needle exchange programs.

(PHOTO: Heroin_Thinkstock_Kenishirotie)

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