Indianapolis, In. — According to the Indiana State Department of Health, there was a 52-percent increase in opioid deaths from 2015 to 2016. It’s clear our state and country are in the middle of an opioid epidemic and more must be done. This year, the Indiana General Assembly made great strides in expanding treatment options, reducing the supply of addictive medications and strengthening criminal enforcement to curb opioid deaths.As part of our continuing effort to provide more addiction treatment options for all Hoosiers, up to nine additional opioid treatment centers will be opening throughout the state. Strategically placing these programs in underserved areas will ensure every Hoosier seeking treatment is within an hour’s drive from receiving help. These new facilities will greatly improve access in specific areas of the state, such as rural communities.To monitor the supply of addictive medications in circulation, a new law requires physicians and pharmacists to check the state’s prescription monitoring system, INSPECT, before prescribing and dispensing addictive drugs. By consulting INSPECT, pharmacists and doctors will be able to determine if a patient is “doctor shopping” for multiple, simultaneous prescriptions, which could be dangerous and even deadly if combined. A similar database, NPLEx, has been instrumental in the fight against meth labs because it tracks and enforces Indiana’s cold medication purchase limits, helping prevent meth cooks from obtaining crucial meth-making ingredients.While addiction treatment and stricter prescribing guidelines are essential, we must also continue to attack the opioid epidemic through law enforcement. Drug dealers and those who illegally manufacture drugs will now be subject to a felony-level sentence enhancement if the drugs they manufactured or sold resulted in the death of the user. This puts accountability on the shoulders of the manufacturers and dealers who intentionally prey on those susceptible to or suffering from addiction in our communities.With accurate, complete data, county coroners will further investigate suspected overdose deaths and will consult INSPECT to gather more information about any potential opioid use. Additionally, the new law requires them to conduct post-mortem toxicology tests and blood screenings and forward those results to the Indiana State Department of Health. Indiana will now be better able to respond to drug overdoses by identifying geographic hotspots.By attacking this public health crisis from every angle, hopefully we can prevent addiction before it starts, keep drug dealers off our streets and get more Hoosiers into lifesaving treatment. For more information on these new laws, visit iga.in.gov. You can also contact me at [email protected] or 317-234-3827.