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Multi-sector Collaboration Needed to Fight Addiction Stigma

By: Suzanne Crouch

In 2021, more than 107,000 Americans died from a drug overdose.

In Indiana, we lost nearly 2,800 Hoosiers to drug overdoses - a record number of deaths for the second consecutive year.  From downtown Indianapolis and the suburbs of Fort Wayne to small towns dotting the hills of southern Indiana, the disease of addiction knows no boundaries.

The precious lives lost are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, from all corners and all walks of life in our great state. No family is immune from this disease, including my own.

My mother suffered depression. My sister committed suicide. My brother battles alcoholism. When you live with a family member that is facing these challenges, it affects the entire family, not just that individual.

Whether it is the person in the middle of the battle or a close friend or family member watching the struggle, stigma can create feelings of hopelessness and shame. These feelings can lead to a reluctance to seek help whether from a professional or even a friend.  Changing attitudes about mental health and addiction and empowering Hoosiers to get help for themselves or a loved one will take all of us speaking out.  This is why I share my story.

Even as we celebrate freedom from addiction in September with National Recovery Month, our Administration knows that stigma from addiction and mental health remains a key barrier to break down in communities across Indiana.

As Lieutenant Governor, I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made in changing beliefs surrounding addiction with our Know the Factscampaign.  Using stories of hope from people living in recovery, we are talking to Hoosiers through media, billboards and other venues about the facts of addiction:  it is a disease, treatment is available and recovery is possible.

Late last year, I announced the creation of the Indiana Roundtable on Mental Health, a public-private partnership dedicated to improving mental health outcomes in Indiana. Knowing that the private sector is a major force in service delivery and sustainability, the Roundtable is co-chaired by me and former Lilly CEO John Lechleiter. The Roundtable includes a wide range of founding members from the corporate and civic community.

Our purpose is to galvanize multi-sector collaboration around mental health in Indiana and leverage public and private sector resources to reduce stigma, strengthen the delivery system for diagnosis and treatment, and improve access and affordability for those who need help. In this work, the Roundtable seeks to partner with organizations to support and amplify existing efforts in each of these priorities.

Working together, we can create a happier and healthier Indiana, now and for generations of Hoosiers to come. Building our future is never ending.

About the Author: Suzanne Crouch, in her second term as Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, chairs the Indiana Roundtable on Mental Health, the Intellectual and Development Disabilities Task Force and the Civic Education Commission. Her work in helping Hoosiers with mental health and addiction issues is devoted and personal.

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